Sunday, November 14, 2010

Whose story is it?

Lately I've been thinking about the issue of revision. As writers, we all get our words turned around, omitted, or tampered with by editors.  Often the changes are for the best, but sometimes maybe we're not so sure.

My question is this:  If an article, story or novel is edited quite a bit, does it still rightfully belong to the person who created it to begin with?  Do you still want your name on it?

What do you think?


  1. Interesting question... I think it depends on what the changes were.

  2. Hi, Kathy! Boy, that's tough. I don't know if there's just one answer. For me personally, I'd be disappointed if the changes affected the basic premise of my novel. That's my baby, it should carry through. But if edits have served to enhance the story, make the premise stronger, wider, better, then I think it's okay. Still mine.

    Awesome question!

  3. I've been on both sides of the fence as a writer and editor, but what really makes me mad are typos. Once an editor put a headline on my story that made no sense what so ever. Also once a whole section of my story was cut out accidently and it screwed up the whole story.

  4. As the author, I insist that my editors use Tracking so that I can approve of every change made to my words. To me, that makes the edited story mine too.

    When I'm the editor, I'll do whatever it takes to improve a story. Once in a great blue moon, that could even be a bit of ghostwriting. I feel pride in that, but I don't feel any ownership of the finished product.

    I wrote a story for a newspaper in Thailand that ended with an image I truly loved, a monk with a gas-powered weedeater. The seeming incongruity that's really not, the past and the present, the spiritual and the material, so much I really don't feel I should have to spell out like this. The newspaper editor changed it to a monk with a girlfriend. I ended the column for that, ashamed to see my name on such garbage.

    In an editorial capacity, I worked with an author on a brilliant novel. After he died, I saw that the book was published, royalties to his widow. Ten years later, a different publisher has convinced me to call myself a co-author on the new version, the junior partner to Gerd Balke's status as primary author. There was a lot of soul searching in that.

    Any manuscript SHOULD have a source of ideas and a unique writing voice. That's your author. If it has none of that, it's probably a Hollywood movie script. :-)

  5. If I write a comment that's twice as long as the original blog post, is it still your blog post? Hee hee.