Sunday, March 1, 2009

When writers suck, blogs suffer

I haven't been able to post this week because production on the April issue of the magazine I work for started in earnest. What that means is that my boss is sending me all the articles that have been turned in by the freelance writers for this issue, and I have to edit them for grammar and content. If an article is too long, I have to figure out how to shorten it. If it doesn't have enough information that we think is important, I fill it in. And, frequently, I end up rewriting something because what we get just sucks and it's too late to send it back to the author.

And the strange fact is that I like the bad pieces; I like fixing them and pulling out the bits that work and rearranging the parts, adding new content, and creating something better. When I get an email from my boss that says, "I don't know what she was thinking...", I know I've got a fixer-upper and I get all giddy.

Our articles always have what are called "sidebars," text that is related to the article, but is presented as a list or a chart. The author of the article is generally in charge of the sidebars, though they sometimes get lazy and give us ones that we have to reject. Last night I was going through a sidebar that was essentially a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers, and web addresses of local businesses that provide the service discussed in the article. One business had two phone numbers and no address, just the word "address" in parentheses. I had no way of knowing whether the author had left that parenthetical word with the intention of filling it in later and it was overlooked, or if my boss had done something before handing it off to me. But in any case, the listing needed an address, so I looked the business up online and found that it isn't local at all, and the phone numbers on the website did not match the local numbers the writer had included. So I emailed the writer to ask why the address had been omitted and why the local numbers for a business that is actually in another state.

Her response? "Leave it exactly the way I wrote it." We went back and forth a few times, with her continually insisting that I not change anything and refusing to explain why the address was missing, until I finally cut off the conversation, and she suddenly decided that I could learn the precious secret.

Just in case any of you out there are or have aspirations to be a freelance writer, let me offer you a few words of advice. When your editor asks you to clarify something, DO NOT REFUSE TO ANSWER AND DEMAND THAT YOUR PRECIOUS BABY BE PRINTED UNTOUCHED BY FILTHY EDITORIAL HANDS. Because if you do, it will not endear you to your editor. Your editor will in fact pledge to totally fuck with everything you write from then on. Your sentences will end up rearranged and rewritten so that the first letter of every word spells I SUCK AND HAVE NO TALENT AND NEED MY EDITOR TO DO MY THINKING FOR ME over and over and over.

So, you know. Keep that in mind.

In quilting news - I picked up a Moda jelly roll and a charm pack and set to work on another quilt from my jelly roll patterns book. I love it so far and it's making me feel all springy, even as we are getting 10 inches of snow dumped on us tonight:


Cathy said...

My writing skills have always been poor. In college I always hated the red correction pen.

I love the fabric.

MichelleB said...

Well, GEEZ! I wanted to know the secret. You sure left me hanging. LOL

Love that fabric - it's similar to the Fresh Squeezed from last year that I did a jelly roll quilt with. What pattern are you using?

Linda said...

I wanna know the secret as well! What a blinkety blankety author! I absolutely love your fabrics. What a way to feel spring. Good for you.
Lurking Linda

Anonymous said...

Love the fabric. Makes me want to get busy again. Maybe I will later.

floribunda said...

Love your post! Now we know who NOT to mess with...
but do spill the dirty secrets, please?

KateKwiltz said...

Advice noted.

That fabric is DELICIOUS! I'd go buy some, but I'm on a fabric I have to enjoy it vicariously. So make something fabulous!