Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sub-standard

I have this habit of going over stories I've sent into the mag and seeing ways of improving them. I tweak and resend. I did this recently and received an email from my editor. He said, "Here's a bit of advice: Let it go. When you re-send stories I've usually already subbed them and I just have to re-do the whole thing."

I've bitten my tongue forever in the past. Sub-editing is a strange craft and a lot of editors aren't quite as good at it as they like to think they are. Subbing is not about changing the text to suit yourself. Subbing is about getting things right - facts and tone and the voice of the thing. Let the piece have its own voice. And make sure the facts are right.

I've seen some really weird shit come out in my stories and I'm generally not too much of a princess about it. The part in this story, in the Bill Hicks piece that says something about weak semen? Totally not my words. A staff writer was obviously told to Penthouse-it-up a little and he added that bit. I thought it was an odd thing to do but what the hell. And that was all he added so again, what the hell. Whatever.

But when editors change things and make them worse I fucking hate it. Happens all the time when you're writing humour - a joke will go over their head and they change the words so it makes some sense to them and it totally fucks up the joke. If I were a more important writer I would demand final proofing rights.

But in reply to the piece of advice about letting it go, I wrote back saying, "Yeah well, you might want to take a look at the tag line I sent you compared to the one that went to print after you subbed it. One was accurate, the other was not. I'll be sending the next review to you shortly. Have your way with it. I'll have my fingers crossed."

It's amusing to think of bitchy stuff like that, I just don't know about the wisdom of sending it.

But send it I did because what the hell. Whatever.

4 comments:

Kathryn said...

It's so crap that they change your stuff. It's a bit like a slap in the face and I can see how that would be frustrating. However, you still get your writing (most of it) in print and that's really great. :)

quick said...

It's only crap when they take the sting out of a good joke without realising what they've done. I really hate that a lot.

And I'm not perfect and sometimes the sub-editor has picked up something I've gotten wrong, so it's no big deal, really. When I was subbing the work of others I just used to check with the good contributors to make sure I was changing things for the better. I think the story should retain integrity to the original voice, not have personality washed out of it.

And yeah, I'm pretty lucky. I talk to some really interesting people and turn those conversations into stories... this is a good thing, a fun thing. It's not something I ever really thought I'd be doing.

Been asked if I want to go along to one of those group media things with Keanu Reeves. I probably should do it. Could be a laugh.

Kathryn said...

Um. Excuse me. Did you just say you're going to a media thing with KEANU REEVES? Pictures. Loads of 'em. And please don't tell him that I heart him because that would be embarassing but I totally do. Would be more than a laugh, I'm sure.

quick said...

Not sure if this one is going ahead. I've said I'll do it but someone who hearts Keanu more than I do might have grabbed it.

I don't really get the point of doing these group interview things. I mean, I can see why the star would prefer them, but from the hacks' point of view, what's the point?

Maybe I'll go along and just slag off everyone's willingness to be cattle because American publicity twats think that's the way it should be.