Writing is...personal freedom...writers will write...to survive as individuals.
~ Don Delillo

Friday, September 16, 2011

Powerplaying Editors and Writing Time

When I joined Suite101 almost a year ago, what prompted me to apply as a contributing writer was the fact that the site has credible and expert editors. I haven't had issues with them. I took their constructive advices positively.

Suite101 editors aren't the only editors I encountered though. Factoidz also have them. Comparatively, Constant Content have stricter editors - a reputation they are certainly proud of.  Other sites also claim to have them, but they appear to be non-existent or more accepting of what writers post on their respective accounts.

Offline, I was able to publish my first (hopefully not the last) book review. The journal editor was a good one, although not that courteous enough. She happens to be someone who does not acknowledge emails unless it's an emergency. I did my piece and was hoping for a positive feedback. However, when I saw her edited version of the article, I wasn't okay with it because the original review's cohesiveness got lost in the modified sequencing of the paragraphs. To her credit, however, she asked me first to let her know what I think about the changes. I thanked her, but also sent a revised version of what she did. Unfortunately, she told me that her changes would stay. I felt powerless after that; nonetheless, I still thanked her for what she did.

Why am I recalling this? Because I'm still seething with anger at an editor for a client of Interact Media (IM) - a site that pays on a per word basis. What's disappointing with the job orders though is that there are clients who would only pay $1-$5 for articles with 200-700 words or so. Isn't that unfair? It certainly seems many people think that writing is as easy as breathing oxygen. It is definitely not, especially when a writer is producing an original work.

Editors have the power to affect a writer's message.
Criticism goes both ways

I would have been okay with the editing if the article reads better after what she did. Alas, such is not the case. I raised an issue about this. She said the part she omitted was wordy. I vehemently disagreed. The piece was about questions that a potential client should ask before contacting an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) contractor. I cited authoritative sources like Energy Star and a customer service expert. Ms. Editor, who claims to have been doing her job for many years now, didn't think so. As a result, she deleted one section, except for a long sentence that now stands as the second paragraph.

I couldn't help but remember a seasoned and award-winning journalism professor who said that a paragraph should have more than one sentence. He also advised that long sentences should be cut into into several short ones to help make the message clear. Obviously, this tenet contradicts what that editor said, emphasizing that one long sentence can be considered as a paragraph, particularly in newspaper writing. She said there are no exact rules about the matter. I thought of not replying anymore, but I did.

This time, though, I was advised by an IM moderator that I should be careful of my comments to a client or to an editor, for I could have my account blocked or terminated. I asked, "Why is it that writers can't question editors?" Articles are a writer's product and editors are supposed to be quality controllers. In this case, however, I think the editor sacrificed my article's quality.

I'm okay with criticisms, especially when these would help me with my work and growth as a person. Not everyone likes my being critical of their editing, however. I've also edited and done proofreading work, so I do have an idea how these things go. Sadly, some editors use their power to decide what is better even if the article they revised has lost its cohesiveness. This is my gripe against that IM client/editor. 

Worse, instead of getting $11 for the piece, she reduced it to $8. The difference may be measly for some, but it goes a long way for me, enough to support my kid's school fare. I really think that I wasted the time and effort I rendered just to finish that article. It's utterly demotivating. I've resolved not to reserve articles from this particular client/editor even if she told me that she'd ask for a rewrite (if it's called for) next time she receives one of my articles. I would also only reserve jobs that can pay me more than $11 for less than 300 words, for I do spend much time in doing research and rewriting before I submit an article.

Advice to writers

When dealing with editors, remember that they have the upperhand. They can make or break us as a writer. Not everyone of these editors though is a good writer. Based on my experience, they are not always mindful of retaining a smooth flowing presentation of ideas. They are only human, of course. Yet, I hope they also remember that writers are equally human, capable of making mistakes. They should also bear in mind that an original work is not merely a fresh tapestry of words, but a product of honest labor.

Indeed, editorial standards vary from one site to another, from one editor to another. Regardless of their judgment, just continue writing. I'm sure these editors have also experienced getting criticized for their work from more powerful people.

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