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View Full Version : Is it the ideas, the writing or both?


FataMorgana
11-27-2010, 02:35 AM
..

scarletpeaches
11-27-2010, 02:37 AM
He said I would not believe how bad some famous writers are and that it is the editors like him who do their writing for them. He mentioned the name of a bestseller author as an example.This is quite possibly the funniest thing I've heard all day.

Lemme ask you this: if your friend is such a genius, why aren't they writing books instead of editing them? Show us all how it's done?

MacAllister
11-27-2010, 02:53 AM
Yep. Your friend is mostly full of it.

brainstorm77
11-27-2010, 02:56 AM
What editor has time to rewrite a book?:roll:

amyashley
11-27-2010, 03:00 AM
What bestselling author is going to someone who does "editing on the side" for help?


That's why I chose this career path. I have no actual talent, but a very active imagination, so I thought it was a brilliant plan.

Jamesaritchie
11-27-2010, 03:02 AM
I have a question for the editors.

An acquaintance of mine - who doesn't know that I write - told me that he does editing on the side. He said I would not believe how bad some famous writers are and that it is the editors like him who do their writing for them. He mentioned the name of a bestseller author as an example.

When I was surprised, he said those people have very good ideas, but can't write, and good ideas are what really count.

Honestly, I think he must be exaggerating and I thought I would ask an expert to find out if there is any truth to this?

Second question: is there such a thing as an idea market? Can you sell good ideas or do you have to write the book yourself? I know that you can in the film industry.

Thanks.

Your friend is either a liar or a fool. He's not only exaggerating, he doesn't have the first clue what he's talking about. He's a dunce.

And, no, there is no such thing as an idea market. If you could sell ideas for a penny a million, you'd still be charging far too much. Ideas are worthless. There is no such thing as a good idea, and no such thing as a bad idea. All that matters is how well the idea is executed. Any writer already has enough ideas to last five lifetimes. The hard part, the part that takes talent and skill and discipline, is turning those ideas into good books.

leahzero
11-27-2010, 03:10 AM
And, no, there is no such thing as an idea market. If you could sell ideas for a penny a million, you'd still be charging far too much. Ideas are worthless. There is no such thing as a good idea, and no such thing as a bad idea. All that matters is how well the idea is executed. Any writer already has enough ideas to last five lifetimes. The hard part, the part that takes talent and skill and discipline, is turning those ideas into good books.

I don't often agree with Mr. Ritchie, but this is raw truth right here. Well-said, James.

Sydneyd
11-28-2010, 03:02 AM
You know, I have read in a lot of Author's Thanks where they say, thanks to the editor for making my book readable..or something to that effect. I wonder if they are just being humble.....

Valangus
11-28-2010, 03:13 AM
Yeah the part where he says "good ideas are what really count" is just plain bull.

But I don't think the problem is that he's a blowhard or a liar, I think he's overestimating the actual amount of change goes into a good polish. A good editing experience from a fresh set of eyes and a knowledgeable editor can make a HUGE difference to your work, but that doesn't mean the actual change is nearly as HUGE. I think your friend mistook that for thinking that the original author couldn't write when it's just the way the editing process works, honing something raw but fundamentally sound into something that shines. It sounds like he hasn't done much writing himself @_@

mscelina
11-28-2010, 03:26 AM
:ROFL:

Let me put it to you this way. If the writing is that bad, it never makes it to the editor's desk. I have writers I've worked with for years, and if they send me a crappy manuscript, I reject it. I certainly don't rewrite the book for them.

Susan Littlefield
11-28-2010, 07:34 AM
I swear he said that. I didn't make it up :)

Thanks everybody.

Your friend is lying and does not know what he's talking about.

James is right on about there being no idea market out there. All ideas are reusable, recyclable, and used a million times over. It's all about the spin.

frimble3
11-28-2010, 11:42 AM
Well, he might just be trying to make his job seem more interesting. He doesn't know that the OP writes, or has access to editors, and people who know them. It's not like he was trying to sell his editing services to an unsuspecting writer. He's just trying impress. : )

RobJ
11-28-2010, 02:38 PM
It does sound like a sweeping generalisation that borders on the nonsensical, but I'm sure there are cases. The only one I'm familiar with, because I guess these things aren't generally made publically available, is the work of Raymond Carver, one of the most respected short story writers of the 20th century. His collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, was heavily edited by Gordon Lish, and the difference made by Lish was massive. I believe the collection has recently been published in its original form as Beginners. I used to have a link to a web page that showed the degree of editing performed by Lish on one of the stories, but can't find it right now. Worth hunting for though.

So I can believe that there are cases. I've no idea how widespread it might be, though. But I would distance myself from claims that he's lying, as some have suggested.

Edit: Here's a link, it's up at the New Yorker web site:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/2007/12/24/071224on_onlineonly_carver?currentPage=all

Jamesaritchie
11-28-2010, 07:15 PM
You know, I have read in a lot of Author's Thanks where they say, thanks to the editor for making my book readable..or something to that effect. I wonder if they are just being humble.....

No, the writers are not being humble. A good editor does help greatly, but he helps by offering suggestions, not by doing any of the writing. Editors edit, writers write, and when an editor makes a suggestion, it's always up to the writer to make the changes.

An editor who rewrites is bad editor. You friend just doesn't get it. A good editor is one who has good ideas, and those ideas can make the book better. Sometimes a lot better. But the writer is the one with the writing talent to execute those ideas.

scarletpeaches
11-28-2010, 07:18 PM
I thank my editor in the acknowledgements for my next book. Not because she rewrote any of it, but the poor woman had to put up with my ellipsis addiction. She brought things to my attention, then left it to me to correct things. I think she's been patient and good-humoured in the way she's brought my bad habits to light, which is why I said 'thank you'.

Jamesaritchie
11-28-2010, 07:19 PM
It does sound like a sweeping generalisation that borders on the nonsensical, but I'm sure there are cases. The only one I'm familiar with, because I guess these things aren't generally made publically available, is the work of Raymond Carver, one of the most respected short story writers of the 20th century. His collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, was heavily edited by Gordon Lish, and the difference made by Lish was massive. I believe the collection has recently been published in its original form as Beginners. I used to have a link to a web page that showed the degree of editing performed by Lish on one of the stories, but can't find it right now. Worth hunting for though.

So I can believe that there are cases. I've no idea how widespread it might be, though. But I would distance myself from claims that he's lying, as some have suggested.

Edit: Here's a link, it's up at the New Yorker web site:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/2007/12/24/071224on_onlineonly_carver?currentPage=all


Editing is not writing. Editing is most cutting. Lish cut the bejeeebers out of Carver's stories, and I really wish he'd left most of them alone.

Barbara R.
11-28-2010, 07:20 PM
I have a question for the editors.

An acquaintance of mine - who doesn't know that I write - told me that he does editing on the side. He said I would not believe how bad some famous writers are and that it is the editors like him who do their writing for them. He mentioned the name of a bestseller author as an example.

When I was surprised, he said those people have very good ideas, but can't write, and good ideas are what really count.

Honestly, I think he must be exaggerating and I thought I would ask an expert to find out if there is any truth to this?

Second question: is there such a thing as an idea market? Can you sell good ideas or do you have to write the book yourself? I know that you can in the film industry.

Thanks.

Funny. How well do you know this person? Ridiculous, grandiose claims are typical of psychopaths, which isn't to say that others don't make them.

There is no such thing as an idea market, btw, because ideas are a dime a dozen; they're also not copyrightable. It's the execution that counts, not the bright idea.

Ken
11-28-2010, 07:49 PM
I have a question for the editors.

An acquaintance of mine - who doesn't know that I write - told me that he does editing on the side. He said I would not believe how bad some famous writers are and that it is the editors like him who do their writing for them. He mentioned the name of a bestseller author as an example.

When I was surprised, he said those people have very good ideas, but can't write, and good ideas are what really count.

Honestly, I think he must be exaggerating and I thought I would ask an expert to find out if there is any truth to this?

Second question: is there such a thing as an idea market? Can you sell good ideas or do you have to write the book yourself? I know that you can in the film industry.

Thanks.

... back in Hemingway's time editors took more active roles. These days they just don't have the time for that. Even one misspelled word in a manuscript is enough to get an editor yelling, "Idiot!"

RobJ
11-28-2010, 07:52 PM
Editing is not writing. Editing is most cutting.
Lish clearly did far more than cut, though he did plenty of that.

Lish cut the bejeeebers out of Carver's stories, and I really wish he'd left most of them alone.
I don't.

Anne Lyle
11-28-2010, 11:07 PM
An acquaintance of mine - who doesn't know that I write - told me that he does editing on the side. He said I would not believe how bad some famous writers are and that it is the editors like him who do their writing for them. He mentioned the name of a bestseller author as an example.

I think your friend is exaggerating at best - but what the previous replies don't take into account is that there are several different kinds of "editor":

1. Acquisitions editor. This is the person we writers think of as The Editor, the person who chooses our manuscript and sees it through to publication. This kind of editor will suggest changes but expect the writer to do the actual work.

2. Production editor (what I used to do in my pre-internet days). The person who organises the typesetting, proof-reading and printing of the book. Not so exciting as #1, but much easier to get a job in!

3. Copy editor. Often a freelancer, this person checks the manuscript for factual errors and inconsistencies (e.g. a character's eye colour changing mid-book).

4. Proofreader. Usually a freelancer, checks for spelling and punctuation errors, etc. Not called an editor by anyone in the trade, but overlaps with #3 so I include the role for completeness.

Some writers will hire a professional proofreader or copyeditor before submitting a manuscript to ensure that their work meets the standards that acquisition editors expect. If your friend does this, he may well see some horrendous prose - but I doubt that "famous authors" make much use of part-timers...

Jamesaritchie
11-29-2010, 01:05 AM
I think your friend is exaggerating at best - but what the previous replies don't take into account is that there are several different kinds of "editor":

1. Acquisitions editor. This is the person we writers think of as The Editor, the person who chooses our manuscript and sees it through to publication. This kind of editor will suggest changes but expect the writer to do the actual work.

2. Production editor (what I used to do in my pre-internet days). The person who organises the typesetting, proof-reading and printing of the book. Not so exciting as #1, but much easier to get a job in!

3. Copy editor. Often a freelancer, this person checks the manuscript for factual errors and inconsistencies (e.g. a character's eye colour changing mid-book).

4. Proofreader. Usually a freelancer, checks for spelling and punctuation errors, etc. Not called an editor by anyone in the trade, but overlaps with #3 so I include the role for completeness.

Some writers will hire a professional proofreader or copyeditor before submitting a manuscript to ensure that their work meets the standards that acquisition editors expect. If your friend does this, he may well see some horrendous prose - but I doubt that "famous authors" make much use of part-timers...

I've had fourteen novels published by mid to large publishers, and I've worked as an editor. I did take all types of editors into account.

Unfortunately, many new writers do hire "editors" to read and edit a manuscript before submitting it. Said "editors" almost always screw up more than they fix, and as an editor, I HATE it when a writer mentions in a query letter that he's done thins. It's a complete waste of time, the percentage of manuscripts that sell after such editing is actually lower than that of manuscripts that are not "edited", and it's just another way for writers to lose money.

And while they do exist, I've never had a freelance copy editor at a publisher.

Production editor is interesting. I've dealt with production editors in Hollywood, but while a similar position exists at some of the publishers I've sold to and work for, it doesn't exist at all at the others. They simply use a "typesetter" who, along with the copy editor, has all the responsibilities of what would be a production editor somewhere else, even though type hasn't been set in many years.

But at most of the publishers I've sold to, only two editors do all the work, the acquisition editor, and the copy editor.

But none of these editors is allowed to rewrite anything in my books. Sadly, some editor think they can write, and can screw up a good book fast. Fortunately, the writer can always change what the editor changed, and can STET everything, if need be.

Torgo
11-29-2010, 05:02 PM
Funny. How well do you know this person? Ridiculous, grandiose claims are typical of psychopaths, which isn't to say that others don't make them.

This person is deluded but that might be going a bit far...

Barbara R.
11-29-2010, 05:36 PM
This person is deluded but that might be going a bit far...

True, but better go too far than not far enough, don't you think?

Actually I have psychopaths on the brain----been researching. It's like when you're pregnant, all you notice are other pregnant women...well, not you personally.

Lovely bit of doggerel on your website, btw.

Torgo
11-29-2010, 05:47 PM
Oh, thanks! I like a bit of doggerel.

Adam
11-29-2010, 07:03 PM
Well, he might just be trying to make his job seem more interesting. He doesn't know that the OP writes, or has access to editors, and people who know them. It's not like he was trying to sell his editing services to an unsuspecting writer. He's just trying impress. : )

This sounds like it. :)

whimsical rabbit
11-30-2010, 02:07 AM
:Soapbox:

Actually, it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have writing groups where one person has great ideas, another is good at writing it down, a third is good at editing, another at critiquing, etc.

It sure works in the film industry. Nobody would expect one person to finish a movie by himself, but writers have to be good at everything. :(


Nope, not really. I wouldn't agree with your analogy.

Trust me when I tell you that it takes a lot of painstaking effort to write a good solid script, and that it can take years for a writer to perfect his writing skills in his genre before he's accepted by an agent.

Difference is of course that a movie does not consist solely of textual, but also aural and visual dimensions, and yes, people with different skills work on it.

But the foundation of a film is a good script, and it's still the scriptwriter that does the job. Especially if you're writing specs, or you're a writer on assignment. There are cases where studios hire a team of scriptwriters, or they just buy the script from the writer and then hire a bunch of their people to redraft it (sometimes it works, sometimes they just massacre it but anyway), but outside such cases, it's still one man's job, and it's equally difficult (married to a repped scriptwriter :D).

whimsical rabbit
12-01-2010, 02:24 AM
I see what you mean.

I have to say, a good script can be made into a great film. A bad script will rarely make it. Perhaps film stars, SFX and some good editing will make it visually impressive (mind you, I'm not saying that SFX is a substitute for quality. There are GREAT SFX films out there), but if the script is bad, there's usually no salvation.

It seems to me that you have confidence in your ideas but you feel unsure when it comes to the execution. Trust me when I say, this is the case for every writer, new or experienced, when they sit in front of their first empty blank page. Perhaps your editor acquaintance scared you. Don't let him. Spend time visualising your idea (just like a movie), and then try to convey as much of what you see, hear and feel on paper (just like in a novel). Perhaps your first draft will end up nothing like you thought it would be. You'll feel rubbish. You'll feel like quitting it all, and getting into some sort of irrelevant industry. Then you'll get over it. You'll sit down and write a second draft. And a third. And a fourth. Until you get it right. It's already in your head-- and if it isn't, just spend time with it. Daydream. Let yourself sink into it. And keep your mind open.

Hard work and dedication will get you there. That's a fact. That's something all published authors in this forum and beyond will tell you.

And don't let people scare you.

Torgo
12-01-2010, 09:44 PM
We wrote a book in-house recently using a method used by people like Working Partners (http://www.workingpartnersltd.co.uk/site/) or Hothouse Fiction (http://www.hothousefiction.com/home.html). Essentially, we got four editors together and thought of a broad outline for a novel. Then we wrote a synopsis. Then we wrote a synopsis for each chapter. Then we wrote a really detailed synopsis for each chapter, about a third of the length of the chapter itself. Finally we sent out these really detailed outlines to a writer we commissioned on a flat fee and got her to expand it to novel length. At each stage we were adding in more and more detail, but the structure was there right from the start, so we always knew what had to be achieved at any given point. It worked out pretty well.

I will concede that it doesn't tend to produce Great Works of Literature, but you can get very solid series fiction out of it. I don't know if this is very helpful though because the circumstances under which you'd do this are basically 'you are a publisher and you would like cheap plentiful series fiction that you have total control over'. If it sounds like a way you would like to work, I suggest you might like to be an editor or a ghost-writer (who often tend to be freelance editors); either way the direction you have to come at it from is from inside a publishing house.

Cyia
12-02-2010, 11:51 PM
Just an example. One of my favourite movies is Starman with Jeff Bridges. But when I read the script I almost didn't recognize it, it was so different from the end product.


Ha!

Read the original Pirates of the Caribbean script. Disney should be kissing Johnny Depp's feet for what he did with Captain Jack. Without his ad-libs, all those recycled Cutthroat Island props would have been a lot more fitting to the finished product.

Sage
12-03-2010, 12:04 AM
Take it from someone who has gotten A LOT of "This is a great concept/premise/idea, but..." rejections, they don't buy books based on ideas.