EATS, SHOOTS, LEAVES, AND OTHER APOLOGIES TO LYNN TRUSS

 

Don’t fear the red ink

Having put the final touches to the 3rd Loose Muse Anthology of New Writing by Women, in order to be ready for the launch on Thursday 4th April, I started thinking about the knotty editorial process.  It’s another corker of a collection, with contributions from 40 writers, 17 of whom have not contributed before, and coming from all over London and the UK, as well as a sprinkling of internationals for good measure.  Looking at the final product gives me a warm glow of satisfaction, as I truly believe it is another volume stuffed with high quality work displaying a very great deal of imagination and creativity.

 

But although pulling together something as terrific as this is immensely gratifying, anyone who says its easy and that the editing process is a piece of cake is bonkers!  It’s really hard work because you have to encourage the writer to produce stronger, better material without making them lose confidence in themselves as creators.  It’s certainly not a task that is always appreciated by writers who are submitting work for publication.  Nobody should be telling a writer what/how to write, they cry with an angry flash of the eyes.  Yeah….well, that’s fine if each word is a pearl written with the pen of perfection using the ink of inspiration.  Sadly, however, that’s not always the case.  You wouldn’t believe the time it took me to sort out the punctuation, grammar, spelling and presentation of some of the submissions we included in the anthology.  It really tested my patience, as well as making it take twice as long to get the first draft ready for the printer and looking good.

 

A good editor isn’t there to massage a writer’s ego, but to help them, among other things, to move away from bad habits, sloppy presentation, lazy formatting, grammar and punctuation, dull images and vocabulary, and encouraging the production of leaner, tighter and more original work.  However well a writer actually writes, sloppy presentation and rubbish punctuation does a writer no favours.  They’re the most basic skills that any writer should have regardless of genre.  And if you can’t be bothered to get these things right, why should any publisher take you seriously or want to publish whatever you’re producing?  A professional attitude to writing can only make you a better professional.

 

Yes, of course you can argue with your editor and debate with them content, vocabulary and so on of a particular piece…you can re-jig your poems or stories, paint the whole the purple and cover it in strawberry yoghurt if you want to.  But ultimately if you want to be published, you have to take on board that your editor is trying to help you, even if you don’t necessary agree with what they are saying.

 

I’m really lucky.  My editor Nii Parkes, who runs Flipped Eye/Waterways, is excellent at his job, and we have a very good relationship.  But he’s totally ruthless when it comes to the editing process.  And however painful this process has been for me in the three collections of mine he’s published to date – and sometimes it really did feel as if I he’d asked me to chop up my children to make them fit into a different shaped crib – in the end he helped me grow as a writer, enabling me to understand more about line-breaks, presentation, vocabulary and content, and many other things.  All of this has made me become more professional about this writing lark, as well as appreciating what a tough and thankless job editing actually is.

 

Check out the results of all this professionalism.  The 3rd Loose Muse Anthology was launched on Thursday 4th April, at Cotton’s.

It was a free event, Cotton’s is a great venue selling terrific Caribbean food, and the night was full of fabulous poems, stories and plays.  How much cooler do you want a night to be that doesn’t involve sex with Johnny Depp!

Love

 

Agnes

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Comments

  1. I both long for and dread that particular moment. It would be fantastic to be in a situation where an editor is reviewing my work, but it would also be quite scary, I think!

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