Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And Some Prima Donnas Are Writers

Writers can get a little defensive about their work. This is normal. Editors expect some form of resistance during the dreaded revision process, and as long as the writer is willing to cooperate and consider, and explain why they disagree with certain edits in reasonable, logical and not-crazy ways, they are usually willing to let a writer turn down some of their suggestions.

You could be one of those writers that editors are happy to work with, and therefore end up with a stronger finished product at the end of revisions. Or, you could be this guy:


I am mightily pissed off. I have addressed this to Owen, Amanda and Ben because I don’t know who i am supposed to be pissed off with (i’m assuming owen, but i filed to amanda and ben so it’s only fair), and also to Tony, who wasn’t here – if he had been I’m guessing it wouldn’t have happened.

I don’t really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. Owen, we discussed your turning three of my long sentences into six short ones in a single piece, and how that wasn’t going to happen anymore, so I’m really hoping it wasn’t you that f**ed up my review on saturday.

It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh.”

It appeared as: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh.”

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking “I’ll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate c**t and i know best”.

Well, you f**ing don’t.

This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.

1) ‘Nosh’, as I’m sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German ‘naschen’. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, ‘nosh’, means simply ‘food’. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the ‘a’. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, ‘nosh’ means “a session of eating” – in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of ’scoff’. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn’t mean? I don’t know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of f**k up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it’s easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

Click here to read the rest of the rant (yes, he keeps going) - via Emails From Crazy People


Kim Smith said...

OMG. This was too strange (and funny, in a Shannon Wallace sort of way) -- thanks for sharing!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've worked with Prima Donnas; thankfully, they are few and far between. This kind of attitude is something mature writers have to get over fast. Being so sensitive does nobody any good.

I say that, yet I can still remember crying my eyes out after my first critique. I deserved the harsh words, but they were very painful nonetheless. Lucky for me I learned to let go of my ego, at least long enough to edit.