When Edits Go Too Far

I have heard the grumbling from writers for years about articles they have written being edited over to the point of non-recognition, but until recently have not had such an experience. Now I understand the dilemma of an article being given to an overly enthusiastic person to clean up. Simply stated, I am at a loss for words!

Over the years I have submitted articles that when approved have been published just as they were submitted. Let’s just say, I have been extremely spoiled and never knew how lucky I really was. Recently I submitted an article to a site that put you on notice that some editing would be done. I figured there might be a change to the title (which I humbly admit I am horrible about coming up with decent titles). Maybe the piece would be shortened to fit in with the other pieces they would be publishing. You know, I figured basic editing. What I ended up with was a title that was so long I was beside myself. I had written a title that was 6 words long and straight to the point. The title that was published was a very awkward and rambling 12 word long title. It was just a mess. Then I read the story and found my voice was lost. The sentences were so uncomfortably written that I sometimes had to reread a sentence to make sure I understood what was being conveyed. This was a major site that got a lot of eyeballs from important people on it. I just couldn’t understand how my article became so completely botched.

I had been so excited to have this article published. There would be no money involved, but an incredible opportunity to have some important people possibly take notice of what I wrote. Yet, it wasn’t my article anymore. My voice was gone, my sentiments no longer made sense and some of the story was no longer accurate. I was too embarrassed to shout out to the world to take a look at what I had written. I was thoroughly crushed.

So, here became my great debate. How much was I willing to give up for the notice of others? Was my ego playing tricks on me or was what I was reading so bad that I refused to have my name associated with it? I know writers can be temperamental about their words. They don’t want their artistic creations touched or the value of their piece to lose its sparkle. But, I was open to change. I was curious to see how someone would polish up my words and really make my article stand out. I was sincerely open to the editing of my work. But this? Was I dealing with an editor who was new and trying to prove they could write a better story? Did they realize that portions of what they wrote weren’t even how things had occurred or how I felt? Whose article was I looking at in the end? It was such a skeletal version of what I had submitted. It read like a poor rough draft.

So after a lot of soul-searching and an understanding that things like this do happen and will guaranteed, happen again, I have made a decision. I will try once more to submit to this site. The opportunity to get noticed for the moment outweigh the horror of a bad edit. The caveat is that if I get a second botched version of my submission, I will cut the cord and move on to a different platform. I am willing to chalk an incident up to poor luck of the draw and an editor who took a little too much free reign, but I don’t want several articles out there with my name on it that I am embarrassed to mention to anyone.

I am curious how many of you have been in this situation. What are your thoughts on how you would handle what I have experienced? What have you done when your article no longer looked like it was something you wrote? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear what the writing community things about this topic.

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com
Wendy McCance

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6 thoughts on “When Edits Go Too Far

  1. This is common in songwriting too, except we have to make the edits ourselves. It’s really easy to become burnt out when they approach you a 12th time and have yet more edits that you absolutely hate. It’s especially common when working in a group. I wrote about this in one of my own posts: Two songwriters were working on a song for Whitney Houston when her producer started making enormous changes to it. They hated the changes and considered taking the song back. However, they let him do it and it became “How Will I Know,” which was huge for their careers and led to them writing more songs for her. So it becomes a thin line of how much will you tolerate for how much reward? Such an interesting topic!

    • Thanks so much Joanne. It’s great to hear from you! It’s been a long time since I have connected with anyone on the blog and it’s wonderful to hear from old friends. 🙂

  2. Wendy, you and I are writers. What we do is something of an artform. I, too, have been “edited” and I know the sense of betrayal that is felt when someone rewrites your work to the point of incomprehension. Suppose some art dealer, before displaying it to the public, had taken the original painting “American Gothic” and changed the couple’s expressions to happy smiles and replaced the pitchfork with a big bouquet of daffodils? It would change the entire mood of the painting. It would be unthinkable.

    I have been reading your work for many years now and I know it to be of fine quality. You do not need to be “edited,” and should not have to put up with this insult. May I suggest that you adopt a policy that I implemented a number of years ago. Do not submit anything without the caveat that, while understanding that editing is a standard part of any publication process, all final copy must be approved by you before publishing.

    • Kay, it’s wonderful to hear from you. I have to say I admire what you are doing so much and your words mean quite a bit to me. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts. I have never had a situation like this occur. To be perfectly honest, between wanting to be published on this site and not trusting my writing ability in the last year or two (cancer treatment makes you foggy and sometimes my writing doesn’t feel as sharp anymore), I agreed to be edited sight unseen.

      I am still in disbelief as to how far the editing went or how bad it was. I did submit one more story with fingers crossed that I just had an bad editor. I am hoping I don’t see this article mangled as well. If so, I am done with the site. It just makes me a little sad because I have thought about this platform for so long and thought it would be a good choice to expand my work on.

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