The audio version of this post appears below. Just click on “play”.
If you’ve read any of my stuff and you have anything north of an 8th grade education, then you’ve noticed I wield a lot of power over my editors. My grammar ain’t so good at times, my sentence structure occasionally makes one think I just go around creating my own languages and my punctuation reflects exactly how I talk. In fact, one of the reasons I got such a late start to writing is my fear of editors. I’ve always seen editors as judges, which is completely ridiculous. The writer/editor relationship is one of the most important aspects of a successful writing career.
However, and to me this is a big however – my feeling is that I prefer my editors to be more involved in the story aspect of the business. I like a lot of input and I use quite a bit of what I get. Of course, the egotist in me does kick in and I do my share of overriding, but if my stuff is any good at all, it’s hugely because of the input of my proofreaders and editors. I am a perfectionist in terms of spelling ( I was enraged when I found the e-published version of my book 5 Tales had a small spelling error) and the flow of the story, but if there is an errant comma somewhere it’s usually because I want the sentence to read in a cadence that reflects how I would tell the story orally.
It’s also the way I want to read other people’s work. I want to know what it is they are thinking, not their editors. I can tell when something has lost its original message even if it’s ever so slightly and that just pisses me off. I’ll forgive a misplaced gerund if the main message comes through loud and clear. I think things need to be cohesive and flow, of course. For instance Gertrude Stein’s work, which I’ve mentioned before makes me want to commit seppuku. Her editors must have had to smoke a lot of opium before trying to make sense of that rubble.
Hunter S. Thompson is easily one of my favorite personalities ever. I don’t really enjoy reading his stuff but I do love reading about him and I think that’s a tragedy. We all know the good doctor thrived and worked hard to keep his reputation as a drug addled genius – so hard, that many believe he’d lost the ability to write decades before his death. There are scads of accounts told by his editors at Rolling Stone including Jann Wenner, about how hard they worked editing Hunter’s stuff. It’s legendary. I would love to see the originals of all Hunter’s work – I bet I would like that a lot more than the edited versions floating around out there. Hunter was a genius for sure, you can tell just from his quotes, but like Hunter’s love of the booze and drugs, I want my Hunter un-watered down and straight up.
Self publishing in my humble opinion has helped to bring some really good writing to the table that if it were to be heavily edited by some big publisher would lose it’s panache. It has also brought some real shit into the picture, some of which is just unreadable, but the savvy reader has always known how to separate the wheat from the chafe. I write for the readers to tell what I hope are entertaining stories I have somehow harnessed from the chaos in my head. Obviously, I don’t wish to appear a literary idiot, but I also don’t want the content or tone of my work changed. I want my work to come out the literary birth canal exactly as I envisioned.
As you can probably tell – I don’t send these posts to the editors! (who probably will never speak to me again)
Jason, My first exposure to HST RIP was “The Curse of Lono”. Have you read that? On reefer? mescaline? peyote? He just needs to be properly framed. Regards, Gary
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” HST RIP
“Open your minds; your minds will be the book.” Dr. Joseph Greco SCSU
I feel as if HST was always leashed in a way. I noticed that almost without fail all of his editors referred to agonizing restructuring of lead in sentences and providing “connective tissue” between paragraphs in order to make the flow better. I don’t think that’s a bad thing with most writers, but Hunter was different, very different than anyone I’ve ever read. I’m sure we lost a lot of Hunter’s brilliance to way too sharp of a the red pen.
JB, I totally agree with your take on editing. Working many years as a copy editor for various publishing companies, I kept in mind that the way the words are written, arranged in a sentence and even the spelling is sometimes a part of the story! However my fellow colleagues did not always agree, and would go “by the book”! So to speak. My pet peeve in all of this is the literary license given to some authors that write with such horrible grammatical skills…like ending every sentence with a preposition just to prove a point and to dumbly down the characters of the book to portray life style, degree of education and residential geographical location of the characters. I found some writer needed massive editing and some did not, and too much editing is not a good thing!!! And sometimes can actually change the style of the writer and the uniqueness of the story! Editing should never change the “accent” the of text!
When I wrote my first book, I sent it out to a couple of friends to help me edit. After that, I went through it myself using their suggestions (sometimes). Now I’m finishing up on the last edit using my mom’s edits. It’s great to use my mom’s edits because she is a great technical editor, however, she’s not the best when it comes to story. I don’t always use her suggestions and that’s okay. My stories are better for it. I guess my point is that editors are needed, but occasionally, it’s best to just ignore them. Only you know what you are really trying to say.
Could not agree more! I use two trusted friends for the first run through and then I hire someone for the technical stuff. But, I am brutal when it comes to perfection. Imagine my chagrin when two months after my first e-book was published I found a spelling error. How four people could have missed it is beyond me. The Gates of Hell opened up and my family scattered to the far recesses of the house until it blew over.
I think I would have the same reaction. I hate spelling errors. Were you able to fix it?
No. Because I use a distributor, even if I got the book designer to go in and disassemble and re-assemble, it would be a nightmare and cost a fortune to correct and re-distribute to all the retailers. Nice, huh? Thankfully, the print version won’t be out until the first of the year so I’m able to correct it there. I don’t think I could handle it being there in print!
Yeah, that sucks. But at least the print will be okay.
Lesson learned though – apparently going over your draft 150 or so times isn’t enough!