Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ashley Sterne Too Long!

Today I had a trying day at work.  Fortunately, I have just found refreshment with this comic sketch by Ashley Sterne.  The sketch was published in The Journal (Adelaide, SA) on 17 July 1920.


[By Ashley Sterne]

In my opinion it was a very good story; and I ought to know because I wrote it. It had a "strong love interest” — my hero had already committed bigamy and was contemplating committing trigonometry with my heroine, who was engaged to four gentlemen simultaneously. You couldn't have a much stronger love interest than that. The plot, too, had "plenty of incident." On the very first page there was a panic on the Stock Exchange and a water-spout; on the second there was an eruption of Vesuvius and an epidemic of mumps; while on the following pages there was a gas explosion, a blizzard, a railway accident, a runaway steamroller, and a chess tournament. I don't suppose there ever was a story which had quite so much incident in it.

*          *         *

So I showed it to an editor. He liked my story; he liked my handwriting; he liked the paper it was written on; he liked the ink I used; he liked the strong love interest; he fairly gloated over the wealth of incident. But it was too long. If I would cut out a couple of thousand words. . .  Accordingly I took my story away and cut out the hero's second wife, one of the heroine's fiances, the waterspout, and then carried it back. Meantime the editor had died. They turned me over to the new editor. He, too. liked my story and the paper and the ink, and the remains of the love interest, and the incidents. But it was too long. If I would cut out a couple of thousand words. . .   So I went home and cut out the hero's first wife, took away another fiance from the heroine, and did away with the blizzard, and several of the mumps. Then I took it back to the editor's office. It was closed. The magazine had "shut down." Served them right. If the editor had only taken my story when he had the chance that magazine might have lived happily ever afterwards.

*         *         *

There was no help for it but to take it to another editor. I did. He liked my story almost better than the other editors did. There was only one thing against it — it was a trifle too long, and he was already late for his third lunch. Would I therefore cut out a few words, say a couple of thousand? Then he would be delighted to accept it. Once again I set to work, and made the hero a widower, and gave the heroine no fiances at all. I also took out the eruption of Vesuvius, and the chess tournament. Then I took it back. The editor was still alive and the magazine had not "shut down." Yet my story never got taken. No. The magazine had "changed its policy."' It had ceased to be a magazine of fiction, and had become an organ for propaganda on bimetallism. In vain I offered to make my hero an unmitigated bimetallist and introduce an "incident" on Wall Street where frantic stockbrokers bid six dollars for an English sovereign. They said the idea expressed the true spirit of bimetallism, but it wasn't exactly propaganda. I found another editor hiding behind his desk. He had heard me trying to find him. However, he read my story, and liked it even better than all the other editors put together. He wanted to take it and read it to the proprietors then and there, only — “

"I know," I said. "It's too long. I’ll take out a couple of thousand words — “

"Exactly," he said. "Then it will do capitally."

I took out two thousand words. I dispensed with the hero and heroine entirely, and cut out all the remaining incidents. And then — well, there really wasn't enough story left to take back to the editor. I didn't feel I ought to bother him with only eleven words.

But they appeared in print all the same.

All that was left of my story was published last Christmas, and had a tremendous circulation. People actually struggled with one another to get hold of it. It made its appearance as a motto in a Christmas cracker.

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