November 1st, 2016 / 11:22 am
It is mean week, so I will do my small part.
I’ve written, at length, about how much I enjoy editing and reading submissions and working with writers. I enjoy blogging, scrounging for money, thinking up new ideas, and fixing what’s broken. I don’t even mind correspondence with angry writers because there’s an amusement factor there that is priceless and if I’m going to share my opinion on a submission I damn well better be open to hearing how a writer feels about that opinion.
I do not, however, love everything about being an editor and I thought it would be fun (therapeutic) to expose the seamy underbelly of editing. That was unnecessarily dramatic. There isn’t so much an underbelly and if there were, it would probably be pale and hairy rather than seamy though it could be said that for something to be seamy it is also pale and hairy. There are some tasks that make me want to throw a tantrum but they need to be done so I just suck it up and do it. All editors do. The “I” here does not imply any specialness or uniqueness on my part. Most of these odious tasks involve the logistical maintenance of the magazine, duties I split with my co-editor. The suffering is definitely shared and while suffering is a bit of an exaggeration given what we’re talking about here, some aspects of editing are infinitely less pleasant than others.
One part of me—the part editing The Broken Plate and about to teach about copy-editing—is paranoid. Many magazines feel less (or no) errors are related to the quality of the publication.
Some feel like a typo in a book is a human gesture, a beautiful mole, unsymmetrical ears, the smudge in the painting, the flaw that makes the thing.
How much is on the editor, the writer?
How closely do you look at your galleys (if you get them)?
Do you have a technique to catch errors? The writer, too near, as the worst diagnostic?
War story? One time a magazine had my word “years” changed to “ears.” That smarted a bit. Years, ears…
(image by Mr. Eggers)