This week I’ve had my first brush with the writer’s moral dilemma. Namely, to stand on principle and refuse to change our work, or to accommodate editor’s requirements in the interests of publication.
Those of you who have been following this journey know that my strategy as a writer is to accumulate artistic credentials by publishing stories in literary magazines. As I explore the caves and grottoes of the literary labyrinth, slaying dragons and accumulating treasure, the plan is that these magic credentials will deflect the cold thrust of rejection from literary agents and publishers.
I resubmitted a story to an editor who had enjoyed it but felt that though it had a beginning and a middle, it lacked an end. Fair comment. I wrote an ending. He got back the next day to say the ending still did not provide the resolution he wanted.
Now comes the dilemma. I had crafted the ending, with some thought, to leave the reader unsure about which of two supplied explanations was the truth, and had stopped the tale just short of clear indication of what came next. That’s me. I like ambiguity. The world is full of things we don’t fully understand, and I have no problem with that. But I understand why it might be a problem for others. So, should I take the ending one step further on to resolve the ambiguity, making it, in my opinion at least, a weaker story? Or should I stand on my artistic dignity and dicker?
It took me only five minutes to decide. Artistic dignity is for those who already have a reputation. I changed the story. After all, I still have the earlier version. Did I sell my soul, or am I one step closer to being able to afford integrity?