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The blog of m/m author Jaime Samms. 

On Writing Integrity and Acceptable Compromise

Jaime Samms

Before I get into this post, and it's a long one, I want to first make my position very clear. This is not a post about slamming publishers. They have the right to publish whatever they want to publish, just as I have the right to write whatever I write, right? Left.

SO this isn't about the publisher, this is about me, and my desisions and choices, as a writer and as a human being, because more and more, I realize what I write is inextricably bound to what I believe to be right as a person.

If you feel the need to comment, and I do sincerely value people's thoughts and opinions, and encourage comment and discussion, be aware I will not tolerate flaming or slamming of publishers in general, or of any specifically.

So on to the point of the post. Today, I saw a post requesting submissions for a print anthology that I thought I might have the perfect, nearly finished story for. As there was no indication on the post who was publishing the anthology, I thought it would be prudent to ask, before I submitted anything, just to make sure my story would be suitable. Turns out, it was a good thing I asked.

The editor of the publication was prompt and polite to my inquiry, and even sent me a copy of the publisher's guidelines. In the guidelines was the following:

What we will NOT accept:

... We do not publish "alternate lifestyle" books;
no matter how "G" rated the author may feel they are. There are plenty of
publishers for such material. We aren't one of them.

That pretty much lets me out.

Which is fine. As I said, to each his own. But it got me thinking. The editor I spoke with, who, from the email exchange I had, seems like a decent kind of guy, did a bit of homework. He must have googled me, because I didn't supply any links to my website, or blogs, but he found out and asked about things I didn't mention in my first email. That's fine. The information is readily available on any of my blogs or my website, and I wouldn't put it there if I didn't expect people to find it. It was a pleasant surprise to find out we had a few things in common, and that he was interested enough in what he found to suggest that if I wanted to remove the allusions to the relationship between my characters, they would be happy to look at the story and consider it. Cool. But.

Always, there is a but.

I have to give this serious thought. The story's integrity would not, in the least, be compromised if I changed a few pronouns. There is nothing even remotely explicit. The two characters are rarely even in the same scenes together. Their love story is alluded to in comments and glimpses of the past. So, in theory, I could easily change the story to allude to a relationship between a man and a woman, or a friendship between two men.

But why should I? Just because it wouldn't compromise the story's integrity, would it compromise mine? Is it just a matter of changing a story to fit the market, or is it something deeper? I didn't ask the reasons behind why they don't publish GLBT stories. That's their choice, and everyone has the right to make those choices. It isn't my place to try and change anyone's mind, just to make up my own and live by it.

So I wonder if I am giving in to something more pervasive if I compromise my writing to fit this particular market. I suppose the issue is closer to my heart because I am a member of a community that grows tired of double standards. It isn't just that I write GLBT stories, but I identify with the label, as much as I try not to apply labels to anyone, including myself. The fact remains, I am part of a minority, I do identify with what I write in a very personal way, and it does matter to me that I not compromise, even in this small thing, because it is so easy to say 'just this once' and slide down that slope.

I'm not trying to change the world with my writing or my opinions, but I don't want anyone else to try and change my life with their opinions, either. I can't say that's what this publisher is trying to do, and I would never accuse them of it. I'm just trying to understand why this issue has struck such a cord with me when there are any number of plot and characterization suggestions editors and beta readers have made to me over the years that I haven't hesitated in taking. Why does this one matter so much?

Authors, what issues come out in your writing that bring out the stubborn in you when someone suggests you change it? Readers, do you choose books to read because they reflect something in your life that you identify with? Tell me what you think.