Thursday, May 25, 2006

How I hate it when editors are right.

When I was a kid, I used to sneak-watch Lou Grant at 10pm on Friday nights. This was an odd show -- the only hour-long drama that I know of that was, essentially, a spinoff from a sitcom. Lou Grant, of course, was the curmudgeonly boss of Mary Tyler Moore on her eponymous show; on his eponymous show, he ran the newsroom of a daily paper in LA. (His boss, Mrs. Pynchon, was played by Nancy Marchand, aka the evil Livia Soprano.)

The cutest darn cast member on Lou Grant was Billie, a young, curly-haired feminist reporter who pretty much embodied everything I'd want to be at the time, except that I never saw her do the bus-stop. In one scene, she stands by as her editor, a crusty old guy named Charlie, pencils in his edits on a piece. "What are you doing? You're chopping it up! You're taking out the best part! You're ... making it better," she says, first complaining, finally admitting defeat. It was a fine lesson for a young writer, and one I've put to good use in the intervening years; I rarely object to edits when I respect my editor.

So when I started a piece for a first-time-for-me magazine, and my editor (whom I knew from elsewhere) required a list of my experts before I even started interviewing, I was fine with it. Then, when I submitted my rough draft and was told my experts all stunk on ice, I got horribly irritated and put the project on the back burner for waaay too long (sorry, editor-who-I-hope-will-never-read-this). I finally sought out experts more in line with this magazine's requirements, interviewed them last week, and am finally putting their quotes into the piece, which was mostly OK structure-wise.

Oh gosh. Oh god damn. Oh, Billie! These new experts are sooo much more on the money. I was being horribly, stupidly lazy with my first round of experts, doing the usual search on Amazon for recent books on the subject, then calling the publishers' PR departments for contact. A recent book does not an expert make, especially when that expert doesn't have a graduate degree or clinical/research experience. My revise is going to be about fifty times better than the original, all because my editor was RIGHT: my old experts stunk on ice.

Lesson learned. Note to self: quit being a lazy little fruit-pie.

2 comments:

Ed's Girl #3 said...

The last time I asked someone to utilize my services in exchange for money it was as a camp counselor. It lasted for three summers. I didn't count internships. I also worked as a secretary for four years of college (I started when I was a 17-year-old college freshman). It came out a tad misleading in the quest to be self-depricating.

Ed's Girl #3 said...

The last time I asked someone to use my services in exchange for money it was as a camp counselor. I didn't count internships. I also worked as a secretary for four years of college (I started as a 17-year-old college freshman). I guess it came out a tad misleading in the quest to be self-depricating.