Saturday, 30 January 2010

A Fact of Life - Joan Lennon

It's a fact of life, but not one of the fun ones ... Yes, it's editing, and I'm up to my red-rimmed eyeballs in it just now. I checked out earlier posts on this subject, and came across Katherine Langrish's words (Monday 8 December 2008 - Why Did You Pack All This Stuff?) -

"I take my first glance at the scrawled blue loops, crossings-out and comments with indignation positively foaming through my veins. I lose my cool. My inner teenager runs riot. I phone a friend. I pour out my woes. I am bitter, furious, misunderstood."

This is an utterly accurate description of the way it feels to me. And I react like this every flipping time, as anyone living within any sort of earshot will affirm. So I'm wondering, is it completely unnecessary? Or is this peevish surge of temper exactly what I need? Maybe the exercise of rewriting on the basis of somebody else's comments is the kind of adversarial activity that requires the adrenalin to be high and the eyes beady?

I'm beginning to think it does, at least for me.

The 3 categories of editorial change are:
1. it makes it better
2. it makes it different, but not really any better or worse
3. it makes it worse.

I think what I try to do is say yes to the 1s, yes to as many of the 2s as I can bear, and be absolute clarity itself in fighting my corner for the 3s. And maybe I need to be thoroughly hyped up to do this.

What do you think? Is this knee-jerk reaction an expression of childishness, or an essential primeval battle cry? I hope most of you will think it's the latter. Otherwise, I may come to your house and throw an enormous wobbly on your front step ...

The photo is from a blog called The Cloud Factory - thanks!
Joan Lennon's website


4 comments:

Anna Bowles said...

When I'm editing I inevitably perpetrate the occasional number 3 on the author. Then when they come back to me about it I can sense the indrawn breath, and the psyching up to fight their corner about this vital issue... and I tend to go 'Hm, yeah, you were right, change it back.' Which leaves the author relieved but with a lot of wasted passion.

Katherine Langrish said...

Joan, I love the idea of it being a primeval battle cry. That will definitely help me next time! Editing is always going to be like this, and I like your three outcomes. I did a flow-chart on this subject once... the convoluted paths towards the best outcomes...

Brian Keaney said...

'Is this knee-jerk reaction an expression of childishness, or an essential primeval battle cry? I hope most of you will think it's the latter.'

I think it's the former. I should know: I've given in to it plenty of times.

James Mayhew said...

Definitely hang onto your integrity. But I find it depends on how an editor presents any changes. If there are polite "suggestions" tentatively put forward to consider, then even No 3s can be easily dealt with without too much angst. But to have your text rewritten and presented as a done deal (even if it's full of No 1s) is horrible. It takes your work away from you completely. That I do not like - maybe I'm just a silly old egotist!