from Pantperthog to Knockando

Friday, July 06, 2007

Writers and editors

The next issue of the magazine is pretty much done from a writing point of view. Now it’s in for editing – a hugely important part of the process. I used to hate having copy I’d written neatened up by an editor, but over time you kind of get immune to it. And recently I’ve been reflecting on how it’s very useful to have someone cast a critical eye over what you write and make sure it’s tidied up.

It’s easy to spot the moment when a writer, or other creative, stops listening to the editor and begins to believe his or her own hype. Here are a few examples…

Example #1 JK Rowling
I risk the ire of Clare for daring to comment on the great JK, but truth to tell her books were better when they were edited to a readable length. But after ‘the Prisoner of Azkaban’, Rowling went stratospheric and no editor was going to tell her ‘look, love, you’ve got to cut this down a bit.’ Cue ‘Goblet of Fire’, which seemed to go on and on and had one of the most ridiculously unlikely twists at the end involving a character who was actually someone else in disguise.

Then the films came out and Harry Potter was suddenly accessible to the majority non-reading population. And JK Rowling decided at this point that she could write epics.

But she can’t.

At least, not if ‘Order of the Phoenix’ is anything to go by. A good editor would have cut about a third to a half of the 500+ pages, got rid of the side stories which added nothing to the basic tale, and produced a good book as a result. Instead all the lickle kiddies had to wade through pages of turgid filler to get to the good stuff. It was so bad I haven’t read book 6 and won’t be reading book 7 either.

Example #2 Oasis
Oasis’ first album remains one of the pinnacles of British rock. It’s got everything – soaring, powerful guitar riffs, Liam’s rock and roll snarl, clever lyrics, all wrapped up in a bundle of decent songs.

But then the Britpop bubble expanded, with Oasis at the centre. I didn’t personally like their second album as much, although it did contain the still-hummable Wonderwall, and one or two other classics. But they were more into slagging off their rivals, saying offensive things in NME, partying and sacking drummers by this point. With nobody around to rein them in, because they were Oasis and weren’t going to be told what to do by anyone, they were able to set their artistic sides free. And what have they done since? Absolutely naff all.

Example #3 George Lucas
Let’s not get into the ‘how did the prequels go so wrong’ discussion here. But let’s ask the question, why does George Lucas feel the need to go back and rework his original films? Not only did he stick a load of stupid animals into the Mos Eisley scenes for cheap laughs in Star Wars, he completely cheesed up the end of Jedi, and hashed up Sy Snootles’ best musical number ever with an annoying new character called Yuzzum.

Then to add insult to injury, in the special edition DVD set he replaced Jeremy Bulloch’s voice in Empire Strikes Back with the antipodean twang of the guy who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones.

But of course, Lucas is never one to miss a marketing trick. So, just when you thought you’d bought your last set of Star Wars DVDs, he releases a new set which contain the original versions as well as the ‘remastered’ (insert your own suitable description here) versions. Then he has the cheek to say "I don’t know why anyone would want to watch the original versions…" Because they’re better, George, that’s why. Now why don’t you go and get funky with the original cut of Howard the Duck or Willow.

Example #4 Peter Jackson
You take Lord of the Rings’, one of the most loved books ever written in the English Language. You manage to turn it into three films, which amazingly please the die-hard fans of the book and your average cinema-goer. Now the world is your oyster. You could do pretty much anything you want to.

You go and re-make King Kong…

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At 10/7/07 12:13, Blogger clare isabella said...

No flaming from me...I actually completely agree about the great JK.
Which is why I am actually looking forward to film 5 having hated films 1-3 and mildly disliked film 4. Book 5 will be the one to benefit most from being cut down to film length. The book was horribly long and repetitive.

But I still maintain that you should read book 6; it is far superior. And I am highly cynical about you being able to resist finishing off the series once the book 7 hype escalates!

At 15/7/07 16:36, Blogger |Orient bird said...

Haven't I always said that JK would be better if she cut out the first 300 hundred pages of the books, where absolutely NOTHING at all happens?!


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