StreetWrites Workshop for Writing Out of the Margins

Questions of Control

Your life may be less frustrating if you work out your answers to these questions before you start publishing and promoting your work:

  1. How much control do you like to have over what you've written, after you've written it?

  2. If someone publishes your work, do you allow some changes, as in grammar, spelling or layout?

  3. Do you allow your work to be excerpted, smaller sections used, if there isn't room for the whole thing?

  4. If someone reprints your work without asking you, are you pleased or outraged?

  5. What other issues are important to you in how and when your work is published?

Editors and Reality

There is a reason that sending something to another person for them to consider publishing is called "submission." There is a quality of humility to it. You are asking them to pay you for your writing. That means they are your customer, and the customer is always right. You are asking them to include your writing in their publication—the publication they have created, which is run according to their own standards.

In the best of all possible worlds, you will find editors who agree exactly with your own literary standards, and you will live happily together forever. The next best thing—or, in my opinion, the very best thing—is to find an editor who will demand higher literary standards than you have yet learned, and force you to grow in your craft.

But it's an imperfect universe. You will be asked to make compromises: "We can use part of this, but we can't print it all." "Have mercy; if we let you keep that word in, the publisher's elderly mother will have a heart atack and die." You will be thrilled that your tender love lyric is being published, and open the magazine to find it sandwiched between a Marlboro ad and an article on constipation. The exquisitely subtle implications of your line breaks will be destroyed by an insensitive copywriter.

The only way you will ever exert complete control over how your own writing is printed is to print it yourself. And then ... the printer gremlins will muck up something.

Reality and the Internet

In whatever form you publish, whatever copyright protection you invoke, it is still possible for someone to copy your work and circulate it without your knowledge. It is far easier to do this, far more widely, if you publish on the Internet.

If you want to maintain copyright to your work, you must defend the copyright: you must not allow anyone to use your work without payment or permission. Once you allow free use of your work, you can't later say, "That's mine and you can't use it."

If you plan someday to sell your work to a publisher, you want to protect your copyright, because that is part of the value that most publishers will want to buy. Why should they pay you for the right to print something that ypu have given everybody else the right to print for free?

Or you may have other plans. I plan to publish my writing exercises, my poems and stories, etc. someday in book form; but I plan to publish them myself, and I believe that the convenience and added value of the books will make them worth buying even to people who can access most of the individual contents on the Net. In the meantime, all that I ask of people who use what I have originated is that they give me credit, and a link whenever possible.

Your own approach is your choice. But thinking it out ahead of time can save you frustration down the road.


Write On!
Anitra L. Freeman

      All contents and images are created and copyrighted by Anitra Freeman, except quotes from published material, which is attributed to the author and used only for educational purposes. Others may use this material, on request, for personal or educational purposes where no fee is charged, with credit to the author and a link wherever possible.

StreetWrites Workshop Exercises