Friday, January 9, 2009

On writing and editing

I'm both a writer and an editor, and I like to think I do both well--but not at the same time. When I'm writing, I get too close to the work to see the things that should be changed. When I'm editing, I tend to stick mostly to proofing, minor changes and gentle suggestions for improvement rather than doing major re-writes (unless, of course, I'm specifically directed by a client to tear it apart).

I suppose this is common among people who wear more than one freelancing hat, but it is a limitation I wish I could overcome. Becoming more ruthless with the red pen on somebody else's work is probably going to be an easier hurdle than gaining sufficient detachment from my own work to edit it thoroughly. Any suggestions?

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

5 comments:

Lori said...

Well, I learned the separation when I worked my butt off as a magazine editor who wrote most of the copy. I had to edit myself. When you're staring at an inch of space and six inches of leftover copy, you learn mighty fast!

The tough part is knowing how the client will take it. If it's an internally generated piece, slice and dice away! If it's something the client wrote personally, there is some tact necessary.

My process - I go over the text in a first pass, fixing what leaps out. Then I go back over it and really look at how this stuff all relates. And I'm ruthless. They pay for my diligence whether they end up liking it or not. :))

Funny story - I was actually fired by a client because I did my job correctly (this being right after he'd accused me of not knowing how to edit - long story). Yep, first he questioned my ability to edit, then he complained when I cut and fixed with fervor.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Gawd, I know...as an editor, one is both loved and hated, feared and desired...

I am the same thing: editor, writer. I was a writer first--the editing came as a surprise - I had no idea I'd be good at it. SURPISE! laugh...

It has helped me in my own writing, but there are still "blocks" at times -when I am too close to the work to see. I think. Maybe. I don't know.

I'm No Help!

writtenexpressions said...

Lori, thanks for the words of wisdom. Kathryn, thanks for at least admitting to being in the same boat!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Writer/editor here too. I think the best way to work on your own stuff is to get some distance from it. After you go back to it, the problem areas leap out at you and/or you're not so timid about cutting away your "babies." Keeping an outtakes file helps too, where you can store every cut word in case you want it back later or to use it in something different. As for the clients, maybe ask them if they want you to use pencil, a pink pen or a real editor's blood red grease pencil, and do a trial run on the first page to get their reaction. :)

Jessica said...

Whoa, great pic. That cat totally looks like she would fix my face. LOL