Thursday, 26 February 2015

Twitter and the Lost Art of Editing

by E. Amato

The more social media evolves, the more I love Twitter.

As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I am toxically assaulted with the rants and raves of various people - some of whom are ranting and raving counter to the person above and below them. The Patricia Arquette thing pretty much sent me over the edge. On the one hand, the "privileged," "well-meaning," white feminists of a certain age on my stream were cheering her Oscar speech, while seemingly oblivious to the backlash her subsequent comments affected. On the other hand, the diverse, activist, artist intersectionalists in my stream were asking for her head on a platter. I'm sure there might have been a middle ground, carefully falling through the algorithmic net, because all I saw were the extremes.

Every time I am on Facebook, or even while reading a new book - say, Roxanne Gay's Bad Feminist - I have to wonder, what happened to editing? Are rant and blurt the only communication options we can embrace as a culture?

Once upon a time, I worked in publishing. Like a real publisher. Like a big one, with a whole building. On Fifth Avenue. In Manhattan.

Editors were superstars who collected superstar writers like baseball cards and had standing lunch reservations at restaurants where they could spend hours wining and dining new writers - only to work well into the night on the manuscript getting ready for production. Their assistants and their assistants' assistants poured over every line of text. Freelance editors, proofreaders, and copy editors were employed.  Cuts were made mercilously, copy was edited. Pages were covered in proofreader's marks.

Somewhere in all that, the book emerged. Pristine, unruffled, elegant and most importantly, potently communicative.

I wish I could remember who said "show me a novel over 1000 pages and I'll show you a bad book." (I generally agree, except when it comes to Neal Stephenson books and The Goldfinch.) When I take hold of a book over 400 pages, I start to wonder - is this really worth it? Or is there an excellent 200 - 300 page book hiding in this manuscript somewhere that will never truly see the light of day?

We read more than ever, yet we also misread more than ever. We have certainly lost the art of the self-edit, and very little of the text we read every day seems to have seen the eyes of a professional editor.

Enter twitter: home of the 140 characters. Yes, characters - not even letters and not words - characters. Spaces count. URLs count. Everything counts. You can distill a tweet and distill it again and it still may not make it. You can choose to do a string of tweets, but there's no guarantee someone will see them all, or realize that's what you are doing or bother to find your whole story. No. If you want to say something on twitter, you are going to have to be succinct.

Succinct. Even the sound it makes sounds like a paper cutter or a Japanese sword.

To say that I've placed all my hopes for a new generation of rock star editors and writers in Twitter is not an overstatement. Embarrassing, perhaps, but not an overstatement. Tens of thousands of people getting their point across in 140 characters or less is something of a marvel. As these little gems scroll by, like a ticker tape feed, I can feel the human race becoming smarter again, finding discipline, shirking indulgence.

It's a beautiful sound.

p.s. If you know the source of the quote I'm paraphrasing please do leave it in the comments! Google didn't help! Cheers!

Zestyverse Editor/Publisher E. Amato has woven a creative life that moves fluidly between words, stages, film, and practical activism. She was a member of the 2011 Los Angeles Slam Team and has competed at Poetry Slam Nationals and WOWps. In 2010, Zesty Pubs released her first collection, Swimming Through Amber, her Kindle book 5 in 2012, and her second poetry collection, Will Travel, in 2013. In 2007 and 2008 Down Home traveled to the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, garnering 5-star reviews consecutive years – a rare honour. She recently produced Homeless in H

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