What Goes Where, or the Making of Men in Love

By Jerry L. Wheeler

Men In LoveMen in Love is my sixth anthology – four for Bold Strokes and two for Lethe Press – so you’d think I’d have learned something about editing anthos by now. You’d be wrong. Oh, I have a solid grasp of the process, but each one is different. Men in Love was a terrific experience because I got to work with several writers I already admired and respected, plus I found some new writers I wasn’t aware of. I was recently interviewed about MIL by ‘Nathan Burgoine, who asked how the stories were selected and ordered, an aspect of editing anthologies no one talks about. It’s not a secret, it’s just that so few care. However, I am here to plug that information gap.

I received a total of sixty-eight stories through an open call placed on several M/M romance sites as well as the BSB website with a maximum of twenty slots. My time frame was such that I had approximately three weeks to read the stories, select the table of contents, notify authors, send contracts, edit the stories, clean everything up, and put the final document together. Plus write and edit other stuff for money.

I immediately came down with norovirus. I did so much reading in my bathroom, I took an extra home office deduction on my taxes this year.

On the first of those reads, I eliminated stories for obvious reasons—mostly for being over word count or for not fitting the call. Most came close, but….well….there was the Furry Knights of the Round Table thing and two lesbian scat stories. Two. Two people independently came up with the idea of sending me stories about poop fetishism, girls, and romance. On opposite sides of the country. Read the call, please. It’s Men in Love, not Women in Bathrooms. Of course, there was the norovirus…no, no. Wrong theme.

One observation I can make about all sixty-eight stories is that women tended to write about the beginning of the relationship whereas the male writers concentrated on the middle or end of the relationship. That’s not to say that men didn’t write about beginnings and women didn’t write about middles, nor is it to say that bias is reflected in the table of contents, but as an unprocessed group of stories, the tendency was there. I’d be interested to see if other M/M romance editors have noticed a similar split.

After multiple rereadings and a few email exchanges with authors, I narrowed the field down to eighteen stories and tentatively assigned places in the line up. I was fortunate enough to get a wide cross-section of stories, but the problem with that kind of diversity is arranging it in a way that makes sense. I wanted a chorus of well-timed, distinct voices rather than eighteen people shouting at once.

My anchor stories went at the beginning, middle, and end – two straight-up (pardon the expression) romances and a lovely, reflective piece that I always had in mind to end the anthology with. The beginning and middle had to be genre, though. From those three positions, I started making interconnections with subject matter, voice, tone, and word count until I’d found places for all eighteen stories. Then, much like making a mixtape (I’m soooo old), I read the ending of one story and the beginning of the next to make sure I liked the transition. In the end, I was only marginally unhappy with one transition—but you’ll never notice it.

And then on to the proofing and galleys and all that good stuff. The box of books arrived just the other day, and one went on my shelf immediately. I’m proud of this one and happy to have worked with everyone involved. Buy a copy today so we can do a sequel!!



4 Responses to “What Goes Where, or the Making of Men in Love”

  1. 1 'Nathan Burgoine March 29, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    Reblogged this on 'Nathan Burgoine and commented:
    A lovely interview with Jerry L. Wheeler about Men in Love.


  2. 2 jeffreyricker March 29, 2016 at 1:34 PM

    Reblogged this on Jeffrey Ricker and commented:
    Over at the Bold Strokes Books author blog, Jerry Wheeler pulls back the curtain on how editors decide what goes where in a short fiction anthology—in this case, the upcoming Men in Love, which you can preorder from Bold Strokes here. Jerry says he was only marginally unhappy with one transition between two of the stories in the anthology; he doesn’t say which, but do you think you can guess which one?


  3. 3 Devlyn April 1, 2016 at 7:19 AM

    Wow you have been busy with this anthology, I’m sure that it will all be worth it when it is released and you are able to sit back and relax. I have only just started to delve into anthologies and I was wondering how stories were selected and placed in order.


  4. 4 S.A. April 1, 2016 at 6:31 PM

    Kudos to punching through all that work on such a short deadline! And thanks for the insight into the anthology compilation process – there’s quite a bit of thought and effort that go into it, and your reflections on making the transitions between independent stories are interesting. I’ve read several anthologies, and you’re right – if the stories don’t “flow,” the reader will notice.


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