So as you may know, I am part of a dedicated team at The Eloquent Orifice, an online literary journal publishing a variety of works, ranging from critical essays to creative works. And it’s that time of the year again when we put out an open call for submissions, in preparation for the upcoming issue!
I strongly encourage you to submit your work! All submissions are reviewed, and we provide writers with feedback about their submission. So what have you got to lose, right? 😉
After all, as Sartre puts it, we all write to be read; our work does not, and cannot, exist without being read.
Being a good writer in a particular genre, on a particular medium, does not necessarily mean that we’re able to transpose that same writing ability and apply it to different media.
To put it in no-nonsense terms… different media require different styles of writing!
While writing an academic/research paper more often than not requires rather long prose (to accommodate all that research and explanations!), writing on digital media platforms require snappy sentences to catch the reader’s attention.
It’s pretty much the epitome of hook, line and sinker.
Digital media aims to get the reader’s attention as quickly, and as best, as possible. And then digital media steps up to reel in the reader with quality content. And the rest, as they’ll know it, is history.
So I recently had a conversation with another writer friend of mine, and we went into a rant-like discussion about what writers really need from editors. Because trust me, though the two have to work very closely with each other, there’s a lot—a lot—of tension, especially when it comes to creative differences.
So I’ve come up with a short list that editors can keep in mind when working with writers:
1. Do not be their overly demanding boss.
Okay, so I think this is fairly self-explanatory.
Don’t order them about, no matter how tempting it is to put on your stern voice and start issuing tasks or arbitrarily demanding certain changes.
Everyone has their own style and preference, and own perspective on things. It’s great to share your own thoughts and feedback, but it’s not okay to override the writer’s style.
Instead, be their creative collaborator. Establish a common understanding (goal: to produce an awesome piece of work!) in order to have a fruitful creative discussion—what are the objectives of the product, who are the target audience, what are the limitations?
Work with them.
2. Do not think you know better than they do.
If in doubt, always query!
The problem that writers (and other editors alike—you have no idea how many times, as both an editor and a writer, I’ve had editors make changes to the manuscript just because, without any real cause besides stylistic differences, resulting in substantial rewriting that changed the entire tone of the manuscript) often face is of editors changing their work without clarifying, or checking with the writer about what the writer really means.
Just because we’ve had a mental block and can’t see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there in plain sight.
Moral of the story: don’t arbitrarily (this is my new favourite word in this post) change anything and everything. Check with the writer!
3. Do not be their ghostwriter.
Now, I’m speaking from my experiences as both an editor and a writer. What a writer needs is someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to help make their work do what it wants to do, someone to be a creative collaborator.
What a competent writer does not need is for someone to do the writing for them!
The writing should be done by the writer, and the editing, the editor.
The editor should in no situation take upon themselves the responsibility of writing. While some may argue that substantive/developmental editing would include lots of rewriting, my humble professional opinion is that this is Mistreatment of the Editor and Infantilisation of the Writer. Developing the content of the work should include a collaborative process, reviewing the manuscript and working with the writer to fix problem areas.
Rewriting the work should be left to the writer. The writer has been hired for this exact purpose—to write! Extensive rewriting takes the editor away from what their main task is—editing.
While substantial editing is unavoidable in some cases (in an ideal world, substantial editing would be dead!), rewriting a piece of work should always be a no-no.
As we have all experienced, spell check doesn’t catch every mistake either, as multiple news agencies pressed for time have proved:
So while modern-day technology with the red and green squiggly lines certainly help catch some glaring errors, they don’t pick up on nearly enough. And that’s why we have editors.
Technology is advanced. Technology certainly does make our lives easier. But technology doesn’t understand the nuances and idiosyncrasies of human language.
Instead, it takes the very human eye, and of course, the human brain too, to pick up on things that a machine can’t—things like sarcasm, slang, and sometimes even just downright straightforward grammar!
And if you need more reasons why, here’s a great list-icle from Lifehack about the weird errors found in documents relying only on spell check!
So the next time someone tells you editors are just… useless grammar nazis… (that took a lot out of me, just to type that urgh!) send them here!
Till the next post! 😉 And remember folks, the human eye is better!
If you guys were wondering (I may just be overly excited) — here’s where I’m currently doing my Masters degree (in Publishing and Communications, if you were wondering)…
The beautiful University of Melbourne.
A few days before the semester began, I decided to wander around on campus, just to get a feel of the school and indulge in that tingly feeling that I’m going to be a student again! feeling. I know, I’m a real nerd.
I arrived on campus, slightly flustered at being slightly lost — but whatever Omg, I’m never ever going to find my way on campus, ever (I’m quite hopeless at finding my way) panicky feelings I felt completely melted away at being surrounded by, and finding myself a part of, breathtaking buildings with old architecture imbued with so much history.
It was a magical moment for me.
I immediately sent a photo to my dad and brother saying, “I feel like I’m in Hogwarts!”. To which my dad promptly replied, “What’s Hogwarts??”, and my brother promptly “LOL”ed at.
There — this is the beautiful place where I’m pursuing my 11-year-old dream (of being in Hogwarts, of course. — No, but really, I meant the whole postgrad study thing at the University of Melbourne, specifically. I know, enthusiastic obsession since I was 16 years old.) at.
Recently I’ve been thinking more and more about what it means to be an editor in today’s spell-check/self-published world. Are editors (copyeditors, developmental editors, commissioning editors) no longer in any demand, since (with minimal technological know-how, i.e. knowing how to simply press the F7 key on your keyboard when in Microsoft Word) almost anyone can “edit” and proofread their work, and literally anyone can publish their own work on their own.
So are editors still needed then?
This has been on my mind for quite some time, and especially so since friends on Facebook seem to keep sharing articles and posts on how many of us will lose our jobs to computers/droids in time to come (hi, Computer, if you’re sentient enough to understand this, I [receive] you in peace. I promise not to jerk you around.). And it got me thinking — are editors dispensable?
Obviously I have very strong opinions about what I, as an editor, do and can do that helps not only writers, but also corporations or, really, any body that publishes anything. But what do you think? Would an editor be essential? Or can a computer do the job of an editor? Or will we move into an age where published works no longer need any sort of developing at the manuscript stage — because people should just be able to publish any(and every)thing?
I’ll probably ramble on about what being an editor means to me in the next post… But till then, let me know what you think!