Thursday, 4 September 2008

#4 – Don’t get too precious

Or how to make editors not detest you.

Editors have done some awful things to me over the years. There have been times where I have picked up a newspaper and groaned, picked up a magazine and got furious or clicked on a website and held my head in my hands.

The mistakes that editors make
Some of my particular favourite bungles include:
- The front cover of the magazine saying my article was about an entirely different city to the one it was actually about.
- One magazine spelling my surname in three different ways within the space of six pages.
- A 1,500 word article being chopped to 400 words and to the point where it made no sense at all.
- A series of historically inaccurate ‘facts’ being inserted into my story.
- A description of an activity being changed in order to make it easier to understand, whilst simultaneously making it sound downright irresponsible and dangerous.

Who notices bylines?
All of these annoyed me to varying degrees on the niggly to apoplectic scale, but after stomping around and whingeing to friends, I decided not to take it any further.
All of them made me look stupid, but in the greater scheme of things, they weren’t that important. The chances of anyone remembering any of them and associating them with me are very slim indeed. Frankly, people have more important things to care about, and only other writers seem to notice bylines.

Taking issue with editors
I could, of course, have taken each of these issues up with the respective editors after publication. And I would have been entirely justified in doing so. But given that none of these editors were ones that I had a suitably close relationship with at the time, getting on my high horse and pointing out their mistakes could have backfired horribly.

Drawing attention to errors
Put yourself in an editor’s shoes. You’re a very busy person, and like any human being, you come with a fairly substantial ego. Which contributor are you going to prefer to give work to – is it the one that constantly draws your attention to your own errors, or the one who gets the job done well with a bare minimum of fuss? Exactly.

Accept that editors edit
It’s far better to accept that editors edit. They may hack your prose up, they may change the slant, and they may rewrite your intro. They may also mess up from time to time.
If you feel really strongly about what they’ve done, then you can always make a mental note not to pitch anything to them again.
But otherwise, as long as they pay you, it’s best to grin and bear it. And then next time submit something more suitable so that they don’t feel the need to wield the knife.

The rewards of not being precious
As for those five bungles listed, I am now writing regularly for four of the outlets, and a couple of them are amongst my best clients. I felt angry at the time, and looked silly, but keeping my mouth shut has paid in the long run.

1 comment:

Emilie said...

Hi, i found your blog very interesting so i decided reading it from the start.

thanks for all the great advices!