xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Two lies we tell ourselves about writing

Ken Wheaton, writing at The Word O' Wheaton, has some fun with a jeremiad from Leon Wieseltier on the way the wicked Internet has destroyed writing.

The wickedness that Mr. Wheaton finds lurking online is not precisely the evil specified in Mr. Wieseltier’s elegant whinge, but the lack of restraint that results when there are no limits on space and no editors:
Mr. Wheaton identifies “the need for actual editors. And I’m not talking about proofreaders or copyeditors (who are also needed). I’m talking about people who challenge creators on their own bullshit, men and women who take a good hunk of whatever and make it better, make it be what it’s supposed to be. There are two types of writers. Those who don’t think they need editors — and those who actually want their stuff read by normal human beings. And even the writers who understand the need for editors will sometimes chafe at being edited. …

"Here's the thing about editors, though. Editors are expensive AND they hold up the process. And lots of people have fooled themselves into thinking that with all the glories of digital technology, we can skimp on the editing. But you can see from novels to long-winded pieces like this to three-hour movies — that there aren't as many sharp-minded people sitting there with a red pen and/or an exacto knife. The corporations figure that once something has a title and the raw material, they can just toss it out for the consumer.

Advertisement

"Have you found yourself skipping over entire sections of a book because it just started to drag? Did you think maybe three, three-hour movies for a movie based on The Hobbit was a bit much? Want to see the worst-case scenario of what happens when good editors are nowhere to be found? Go watch The Phantom Menace."

At my desk at the paragraph factory not long ago, it fell to me to trim eighty-nine lines from an article that had already been posted online to fit it to the printed page. No sweat. The article was so numbingly repetitious—if three different sources all said the same thing, then it was in the article three times—that I could have cut it further without damaging the substance 

The technology is not harming writing; it is the lies we tell ourselves about the technology that do us in: that allowing writers to go on at whatever length and without the discipline of editing is liberating. No, it's just cheap, and that's why we do it that way now.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement