Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Editing for My Life



It's difficult to page through a manuscript that has been vetted perhaps five times and see that a copy-editor can point out missing words, incorrect verbs, and even one instance of further where farther is the proper word.

Nevertheless, it is frustrating to see an editor prefer proper grammar and syntax over descriptive, colorful language.

Five brief examples ...

  1. I sometimes like things phrased a certain way. When I write "and walk never again" it has a different meaning to me (more absolute) than the edited "and never walk again."
  2. I prefer "unimagined" to "unimaginable" for the same reason.
  3. I would prefer to leave " ... the man who burned to bed his wife." Rather than edit it to " ... the man who burned to take his wife to bed." It matches my voice.
  4. Both the struck phrases ... "reaches out from self-absorption" and "contriving a fantasy" are representative of the way I think and speak. I realize they are not straightforward syntax, but they illustrate my mindset.
  5. Leave the word "bastard" in the name description. "Invacare" is an ugly word. It needs an ugly description.

Another foible involves differences in culture.
  • Do not change "community" to "town." In sparsely populated farming areas, the "community" takes the name of the town.

On the other hand, it was interesting to see a trained copy-editor employ the word just in a colloquial sense. I dislike just. I never fail to point out it is almost always a useless word in most contexts.
  • I do not like and attempt not to use the word "just" as a modifier. A silly quirk, I know. Please change your edit to "It does not matter; it only means that I had bacterial ... "
It's an interesting process, both humbling and frustrating. If nothing else it teaches a writer to focus, to listen, to pull away when someone attempts to alter the tone of his music.

3 comments:

sc morgan said...

There must be intense flashes of anger, which (might?) are slowly replaced with a philosophical acceptance of a process that must be done so the masses may read.

My writing heart goes out to you; I cannot even begin to imagine how it feels.

You get my Five Blue Pencils award for true bravery.

Carter said...

I think your phrases are better than hers--no question. And your voice is your voice. Does she have a rationale for these changes? Most don't involve grammar, they are simply ways of expressing yourself. Can you argue, fight, scream like hell? Want me to write her a nasty letter?:-) She can't write as well as you do.

Hang in.

Ruth D~ said...

Having experienced this revision revamp on a vastly smaller scale, you have my sympathies. You have a unique, poetic voice, one that deserves its way. I can hear the reviewers now: "Presley brings poetry to Polio." That is, if the editor doesn't prose-ify it.