Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What We Talk About When We Talk About Editing


Could an editor be behind the distinctively minimalist style of Raymond Carver? The New York Times explores the long story behind the short stories.

11 comments:

J. Kevin Tumlinson said...

This has nothing to do with your current post, but I wanted to say that I've officially read every single entry of your blog. You'll probably see me around a lot from this point forward (run while you can).

Thanks for helping me be a better (bitter?) copywriter!

Violet said...

I, for one, would love to see the "before" and "after" versions of his stories. Think how much a would-be short story writer could learn from them!

E.K. Hornbeck said...

Bill, wouldn't it be short-story writer? ;)

ErinBrenner said...

Editors constantly struggle with how much to edit a piece. Are our changes making the piece into something we would write or are they making the piece the best it can be? Are we changing the author's voice, perhaps replacing it with our own, or developing it?

It seems clear that Lish was instrumental in shaping Carver's work. Did he help Carver develop his style, or did he shape the stories into something he favored that was not at all Carver's style? The answer may be as subjective as whether something is art or not.

As editors, though, we have a responsibility to always ask whether our changes are necessary or are just our preferences or biases.

The said...

I felt dirty today. One of my writers gave me a story about a man who lives in a cave (hey, this is the Yukon, things like that happen). It needed a much lighter touch than she gave it and, so, I injected a lot of wry observations and humour. It turned into the kind of story I would write when in a good mood. My saving grace is that I sent it back to her for her comments.

Bill said...

OK, "The" of the Yukon, I think I need you to "edit" the increasingly dull book I'm trying to write.

The said...

Sure, but first you have to help me with the headline for this story. The name of the subject is "Caveman Bill" and he is well-read (he even has a computer with Internet in his cave). Should the headline be, "The Very Model of the Modern Mindful Caveman" or "The Very Model of the Modern Mindful Caveman Bill"? Do you see the problem? The second one has the proper number of syllables ... but it doesn't flow as nicely as what G&S wrote ... not that, you know, I'm comparing myself to ... well ...

Bill said...

The first seems obviously superior to me, but maybe there's a Third Way? Is "mindful" really mandatory, or could you play with other alternatives to get the syllables and meter right?

The said...

I was trying to wedge in one more m-word (mindful-major) to make the connection. But, yes, more thought is needed here. I Googled the first few words and saw others have used "sadomasocist" and "middle manager". Those roll off the tongue ... so I can do it, too. Right?

Bill said...

Any number of ways to go, of course, but I might ditch the "modern" and say the very model of a caveman intellectual.

The said...

Perfect. It rolls off the tongue. I don't really have to help you with that book thingy, do I?