Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Rewriting - ugh!

Rewriting is horrible. Sometimes an editor doesn't brief the writer clearly, other times the writer doesn't read the brief properly, other times the piece just doesn't work as originally planned.

Whatever the reason, it is horrible, but sometimes rewriting has to be done. And I think there are two golden rules for the humble writer as s/he sits there gloomily contemplating a few hours of extra work.

1. Be Nice

Don't criticise the editor, even if they have made loads of mistakes. No need to be a doormat - in fact, being a doormat is a VERY bad idea. But just remember that however difficult the editor is, they're usually not being awful just for the sake of it.

Editors are trying to create a good magazine to a deadline. They often have a higher-up editor or a publisher or someone else putting pressure on them. They're human. They want to work with people that do the job without fuss. And they have the power to hire or fire you.

2. Do Check

Find out what's required now. If you're not sure what you did wrong - double check and be sure you understand this time round. Make sure your copy is in on time, and that it is as good as you can make it. If you don't have time to do all this, then make time.

Which all sounds very good and very professional, and it is. But I have to add that occasionally - just occasionally - difficult editors ARE just too awful.

Just Too Awful

Perhaps the worst I ever had was a man who was new in the job and so anxious about it that he wanted no less than six rewrites of a long, long story. I was sorry for him, but my sympathy wore ever thinner each time he changed his mind at the sight of the latest rewrite.

The story in the end was a mess, because in the end I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and nor did he. It was published, and I wasn't happy with it. I don't know if he was, but I didn't work for him again.

But then, I didn't need to., hehehe! That's the joy of being part time.


  1. You are lucky to get a reply. Everyone i have been trying to contact lately does not answert their phone or email. its like the marie celeste!

  2. It's not just in travel writing that you get difficult bosses. It is much worse to be trapped with one every day of your working life. One of the advantages of being freelance which Ihave not seen expressed a great deal is that you do not have to work with unplesant or difficult people if you don't want to.. Don't you need an alternative source of income if you are freelance, though? it is hard enough to get a regular job.

  3. As an editor, I found your comment interesting. And I am sympathetic to both sides of the equation, for while I edit hidden europe, I also write a lot of material myself, both for hidden europe magazine of course but also for other media.

    You could always push the task slightly back towards the editor, of course. Very nicely, very gently, with a few flattering words about her or his wealth of experience, etc. Some of the best pieces I have helped usher into print have been genuine joint efforts, where I have worked very closely with an author who was perhaps a little too close to the topic to really address the challenge in a dispassionate manner.

    Authors' egos are often bound up in their words (and that often no bad thing), but editors are there to edit, and sometimes they just need to be prodded to do their job.

    Nicky Gardner


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