Over Editing and The Creative Process

Editors are often great at what they do and they are an essential cog in the editorial machinery, but sometimes editors are not so great. Sometimes editors become micro-managers. Sometimes editors over edit, again and again, without justifiable cause, because a writer said something in a way, they themselves, would not have said it. Over editing puts artistic diversity at risk and is one of the greatest detriments to a productive editorial process.

Over editing makes writers wary of submitting their work for publication, it makes writers lose confidence in their artistic abilities (stylistic and technical) and it stifles the diversification of distinct voices that speak to the multitude and variance of the modern human experience. Media outlets employ multiple writers for the sake of having multiple voices that appeal to widely disparate demographics. If all those diverse voices are channelled through one outlet, an editor who over edits work, then the voices coming out on the other end lose their authenticity. They become voices that sound too similar, saying things that are all the same. A unified voice is not the same thing as an identical voice.

I doubt there is a writer out there who hasn’t come across at least one editor who over edits. I do work as an editor. I myself, have fallen into the trap of over editing. It’s easy to become carried away. One of the best skills you can hone is to detach yourself from another writer’s work. To look at it objectively and pinpoint problem areas, that is a skill that helps everyone. Re-writing for the pure sake of style smothers artistic expression and creates hostility  in an environment that should be creatively productive.

Would you paint over another artist’s canvas?

Imagine if I was a painter and the curator of the gallery who displayed my work came along and said, ‘You know, I think this colour would have been better here, and if I were you I would have used a different brush stroke there… can you just move for a second.” Then, in the blink of an eye she’d whipped out a brush and palette and smothered a unique and irreplaceable utterance of my soul in fresh globs of angry pigment, obscuring the reality of my voice.

How would you react to that? With resentment? Anger? I would. I do. I boil inside when my work is over edited. I hammer at my keyboard and send scathing private messages to my Facebook gal pals about how I hate her hate her hate her (or him). I scribble nasty comments on my pages, envision stabbing said editor in the eyes with my vicious pen. After my initial rage burns away I’m left feeling empty, with a single unanswerable question hanging in my mind.

Why?

Why was your sentence, your new sentence, which spoke my ideas in the most unfamiliar of words, so much better than mine? It wasn’t grammar, I know my grammar was fine, if not impeccable. It was that my voice and your voice didn’t mesh. When you read my words, you only heard how your words would say it. You ruffled your feathers because I express differently than you. Then, you took your mighty pen and scribbled all over my text, inserting yourself—your voice—into my story. And, when I ask, when I am direct, the answer is always the same: I don’t see what you’re talking about, it looks fine to me.

Working with an editor should be about polishing, improving and clarifying your writing. It should be a mutually positive experience. It should not leave your writers feeling neurotic and emotional. It shouldn’t be disheartening and disempowering. The worst feeling in the world is receiving an email from an editor who has a history of over editing your work. Before you even open it you know whatever it says will be negative, know whatever you’re about to read printed on the page will be written with a voice that’s unrecognizable.

Grammar. It’s important. A sentence can’t possibly convey an idea accurately to a reader if it isn’t constructed properly. If a sentence is poorly constructed, the meaning can become twisted or the sentence can be construed in multiple ways, depending on how it’s read. Editing for grammar, that’s good. Verbosity. It’s, well, verbose. Words, for the sake of words; sometimes writers get carried away with language. Editing to make a work more concise, that’s good. Cohesion. Connecting paragraphs and ideas in the best order is important. Editing for smoother movement through a text, that’s good. The inverted pyramid. The subject and the most important bits first, because modern readers have a tendency to lose focus. Reorganization can have great benefits to a text.

Editing to rip apart a writer’s works, to extract their specific and purposeful choice of words, and insert your own words, your own voice, to make yourself more comfortable, that’s wrong. That’s bad. Your writer’s experience is unique, he or she brought something to their article or story that you could never have imbibed in it, and when you start meddling with their language and their imagery you impede the transmission of their intended message to it’s intended audience.

This is not a hate on editors. Editors are good. Editors make our writing better. Editors can be a guiding force that push their writers to greater heights. However, we should remain vigilant against over editing. Writers are artists too and there is nothing that protects our work from a micro-managing editor, except the singular choice to withdraw our story, or article, from publication. That’s not enough.

p.s. do you like my nod to Iain Banks?

I’d Like To Order A World Without A Side of Ads, please

Wherever you go, whatever you look at (books, TV, movies, magazines, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) advertisements have so insidiously integrated themselves into media that as our eyes flick at speed across the screen (or page) we absorb, and acknowledge, commercial messages almost as instantaneously as we move on to the next blurb of text waiting to be read. There is a world out there that doesn’t feed its users more advertising content than editorial content, but it lies under the surface of mainstream media. You simply have to exercise a little effort to find it. Recently I came across a brand new women’s magazine called Lucia Journal. Lucia is all about providing a millennial audience with millennial content, without millennial consumerism. Uhm yes, I’ll take a saucy magazine please, and hold the ads.

 

Have you read a magazine without advertisements? Watched a movie without product placements? If you have, how often does this happen? Once a day, once a month, maybe more like once a year or even less infrequently. For some of us it’s never. Especially if you enjoy pop culture. What if you could have your women’s magazine, without unnaturally beautiful models selling glossy products? We are so socially saturated with commercials and advertisements that they have become akin to the white noise of life — a constant humming of capitalism in the background. Our over-taxed brains, at least brains that function as they are meant to, are capable of filtering out the burden of contemporary stimuli. And so, the abundance of PR hoopla fades into the periphery of our day, rarely acknowledged but constantly and consistently present. It is like a shadow, not quite imperceptible and never far from hand; a digitized haze of information overlaying everything. No longer is it a right to live in a world without commercial bombardment or information overload. It is the right of successful high-profile companies to shovel information down your throat at every turn. That this is the reality of our modern world, is a “fact” so easily accepted we don’t even realize we ourselves are the ones who allow it to perpetuate.  Advertising is a simple and straightforward way to subsidize, or even eliminate, the cost of the cultural media we are so hungry to consume. It is sensible, and it is like drowning in sound you think you barely hear or sinking under the weight images you think you barely see.

and coffee is empty. but pages are full. a good morning. #handwrite #kickstarter #kickstartlucia #givevoicetoyourheart

A post shared by Lucia Journal (@luciajournal) on

 

We can choose to live differently. We can support cultural media that eschews commercialism, that strives to be inclusive and body positive, and speaks with a strong, clear and witty voice. We can partake in a media revolution by backing publications like Lucia, that turn to Kickstarter and crowd sourcing to launch themselves, even if its a struggle, even if it’s much harder than allowing advertising to infiltrate their pages. But, really, what is the difference between a magazine that costs you $6 and one that costs you $12? Aside from the equivalent of your over-priced soy latte, the difference is a series of moments without white noise buzzing in your ear.

Online Media Is Reviving The Writing Industry

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Bustle.com is an amazing example of the success emergent online media has been experiencing over the past couple years. There was a time when journalism was seen as a dying industry and we were counting the days until writers were considered completely unemployable, but that’s no longer the case. Editorial media is experiencing wildfire growth. What I personally find great about websites like Bustle, or The Indie Chicks, or Bitch Media, or Jezebel, etc. is these websites are the very antithesis of aggregate content (cough huff post cough); every single article is original and it’s got a pure, authentic, upbeat conversational tone. At it’s heart, it’s one big conversation about our mutual experiences as an intensely connected culture. I mean we’ve never been more connected as a people than we are today. Where am I going with this. Oh, I am super delighted to have written three articles for Bustle this month!

Hysterectomies.

Bad-ass pregnant women.

Vagina purses

Owls In A Bar: But Where Has All The Alcohol Gone!

If you’re British or are lucky enough to be travelling in Britain this month do not miss your chance to visit with owls. Of course, you’ll have to compete for a limited selection of tickets (less than 120 per night), you might have to fly solo and you definitely won’t be getting drunk.

You’ve probably heard talk of it; they’re calling it The Owl Pop Up and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to party with owls. But, it’s turning into just another reason to get animal rights activists up in arms.

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A group of owl loving Brits, who just want to have a couple drinks with their favourite feathery companions, have unknowingly incited a rage. Owls in a bar? Gasp! This is surely a recipe for doom. Animal rights protesters have been raising a ruckus about the event, even going so far as to harass the The Owl Barn Centre, the charity originally designated to receive the proceeds. Due to the harassment the charity has withdrawn and organizers had to find a new organization to donate to. Credit: Tumblr

“The Barn Owl Centre was overwhelmed by the media attention and skeptics, which prompted them to withdraw their support for the event and not accept donations,” wrote Seb Lyall in a press release about the kerfuffle.

Facebook was abuzz with the news last week that a lottery might win you a chance to get drunk with owls. Apparently there are a lot of people out there who are affectionate for the nocturnal fowl. On the other hand, maybe there are just a lot of people affectionate about drinking. But, I guess what they say is true: publicity is a double-edged sword.

This is an innocent event fundraising for owl sanctuaries we’re talking about here. Do activists really think the organizers didn’t put any forethought into their soiree? People who would dare force an owl into a London nightclub must not be capable of taking the most stringent precautions to make it safe for owls to partake in a rare chance to party. Precautions like not bringing in wild owls fresh from the English countryside.

Yes, these owls are in fact professionals who are accustomed to public events and each comes equipped with its very own falconer.

No, they aren’t delivering your mail for minimum wage or taking a lethal curse directly from the wand of Lord Voldemort. They’re just hitting the town for a couple socials at a spacious Soho lounge from March 19-25.

Credit: IMGUR

But still, shame on you owl lovers. Shame on you.

Imagine the debauchery that might unfold after patrons have met their stringent 2-alcholic cocktail limit. Next thing you know those plastered wankers would be trampling birds left and right. It’s a sit-down event of course.

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Despite the actions of the righteous, the party goes on. Organizers have responded to concerns by eliminating alcohol from the equation and are offering smoothies instead.

“We believe that 64,000 people (and +125,000 tickets applied for) have registered for the event because they love owls and not because of the alcohol,” wrote Lyall. This is an “event that invites people to relax, enjoy smoothies and learn about owls in a unique setting,” the release continues.

Lyall must be right because Anne the Owl’s tweetwall (the owl in question) has been inundated with supportive Londoners who “reallyyyyyyyy want to go to the Owl Pup Up”.

Credit: evanna11.tumblr.com