Thursday, January 8, 2009

Changez I make...no argument.


I didn't go to school to become a writer. I did it by writing a piece for a professional journal for paramedics in 1989, and it sort of took off from there. Along the way, I was guided by an editor at the magazine that taught me by simply taking my articles, and pointing out what had to be changed and why. With each succeeding article I got better and better, and learned my craft the old fashioned way; I just did it.

Of course, she could be brutal at times, and this earned her the nickname of "The Chainsaw," among the rest of us that wrote for the magazine. She could be merciless on articles when needed. I remember one particular time when I submitted a book review on a non-fiction novel about life as a NYC paramedic, and promptly tore the book to shreds in the review. Barbara called me up and said that she loved the piece, but, she couldn't print it.

"Why?" I inquired, somewhat devastated. I was so very proud of the piece, especially as it came out of a stream of consciousness, one of the first times I had ever done that while writing.

"Well, it's very good, but it borders on libel." she explained.

"Oh." I said, realizing that maybe I went just a tad too far in my criticism of that piece of shit that was passing for a "real look at the life of a NYC paramedic," an opinion I hold to this day.

So, she kept the good bits and in true chainsaw fashion, made it more palatable to the legal department at the magazine. I still felt as though I had my heart torn out, but I understood the reasons why.

So today, I came across the feline above , and thought to myself, "This was probably the kind of cat Barbara had." Yeah. Editor Kitteh.

7 comments:

The FrogBlogger said...

First time reader, love the pithy, earthy, to-the-point style. You know your art! I shall be back, and am adding your site to a new list of non-expat bloggers...

VioletSky said...

Cute Chainsaw, deadly claws.

Jay said...

That's funny! LOL!

So, you learned the hard way ... bet you remembered all those lessons well, though, huh?

Mr. Nighttime said...

FB - Why thank you so much! I am blushing. I will definitely check you out as well.

VS - I passed this along to a writer/editor friend of mine that can be just as brutal. She howled laughing and said, "You know me far too well."

Jay - Yeah, I think I did learn them well. The biggest lesson I learned was not to put yourself into the interview, unless it is something the editor wants. In other words, Your subject is THE subject, not you. How many times have you read articles where the author interjects themselves with such things as "I found him to be," or other instances where they would use the first person in the piece?

I have tried to follow that rule diligently, though I know there are instances where it is made to be broken, albeit mildly.

Zed said...

What a great way to learn how to write. I learnt how NOT to write after my first book came out. I still haven't read it myself but can see it as a book that is best read in the toilet as you don't have to read it all in one go.

Having said that, I'm now wary of writing again. I hope to be better - but I doubt I'll sell much due to the crapiness of the first book.

I have some for sale if you're interested though...

Mr. Nighttime said...

Zoe - You know, it's funny you should mention that, as I was thinking of buying a copy later in the month/beginning of next month.

Can I get them from amazon.com here in the U.S., or do I have to go to the UK site?

Inkpot said...

I love that cat's expression. I can see it editing your face in a minute! A good editor is so important. Everyone needs their work edited, even though it is hard to see that when you have written it.