Thursday, May 10, 2012

My interview on editing courses

I was interviewed for this piece a few months back. It finally made it to the site.

Editing Courses: Can Writers
Benefit Too?

Editing Courses: Can Writers Benefit Too?chillibreeze writer — AA

In an interview for The Paris Review in 1969, E B White said: “a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life. (Writers at Work, Eighth Series, Penguin, 1988)
Of course, editing courses will benefit writers too because editing and writing are like two sides of a coin. Editors are unsung heroes. An editor weeds out errors of spelling, grammar, sentence structure, style and fact. He guards against unwarranted reportorial bias, verbosity, repetition, libel and duplication. If a writer takes up editing courses, he will learn all these things and apply them while writing an article or novel. Editing courses will help a writer to learn about grammatical, spelling and style errors for a short period of time.
In the long run, most writers will not bother about the grammatical or spelling errors during their flow of writing. They will concentrate only on giving out the factual points. The bottom line is that writers need editors to clean up their copies, even if they had completed editing courses.
To start a business, we need to invest in the form of money, labor and infrastructure. Similarly, continuous reading habit is the investment for a writer to improve his language skills and widen his knowledge. That doesn’t mean that editors don’t spend time on reading. In fact, most editors spent a lot of time in reading various topics. But nothing can teach you like experience can. Editors hone their skills by editing copies of various beats for years together. They will have knowledge about various issues. On the contrary, most writers or reporters will focus only on a particular beat and they will have knowledge about that beat alone. Of course, there are exceptional cases.
Unfortunately, we don’t have many institutions in our country that offer courses for editing alone. They may exist in virtual world. Major institutions that offer journalism courses conduct both editing and writing classes. These institutions teach intricacies of writing and editing a copy. They teach feature and creative writing as well. In newspaper industry, it is believed that a person who has experience in ‘desk’ has more chance to become a good reporter than the one who jumped straight into reporting. Copy of the person who has worked in desk is more often found with less errors than the copies of those who don’t have knowledge about the functions of the desk. During his stint in the desk, he edits raw copies from reporters and gains knowledge about the style of the newspaper, magazine or any other publication. It also helps him to stick to the business of word count. Here, an experts gives her views about editing and writing.
Eisha Sarkar, a visiting professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at M S University of Baroda, Vadodara, Gujarat.
1. Editing Courses: Can Writers Benefit Too? Why?
Of course, writers benefit from editing courses - they help you streamline your thoughts, and give them a proper form on paper. Many people write well but the reason they don't get published is because their stuff doesn't connect with an audience at large. This is something that editing can certainly help.
2. Can you teach creative writing?
Creative writing needs talent and imagination. You can't 'teach' these things, technically speaking. But you certainly can work on what you have.
3. Top 5 things that a good writing course should have?
A. Flexibility to allow the writer creative freedom
B. Good language training courses
C. Feedback/evaluation mechanisms
D. Good reference material
E. Interaction with established writers, publishers, editors
4. Does technology benefit writers and editors to improve their writing and editing skills?
You still need to know the language well enough to click on word suggestions that would go with the style of writing. It depends on the technology - software that prompts you with text suggestions (in which case you would have to know the language well enough to make the right choices) or transcription software, which may be excellent for American English but simply doesn't work in India or design software, which make editing a more interesting process because you work with text and layouts at the same time. In any of the cases, you still have to use your brain to get the desired output.
5. Which is best for a fresher who has completed journalism course to begin his career with - reporting or desk?
I'd say desk. It gives you an idea of what you need for a story and what kind of sources you should be looking out for. And, of course, you will not give a 1500-word story for a 300-word space if you've worked on the desk before you take up a reporting task.


Vidya said...

A good informative interview.

Ramesh Narendrarai Desai said...

I agree. Editing does help in writing. i say this on the basis of personal experience. similarly, desk before reporting is the right sequence for becoming a good reporter.