Editing Principle 03: A Little Gristle Is Good

A short story writer once claimed her all-time favorite rejection letter was one in which the magazine editor had scrawled "THIS IS SH-T" in brown marker across the top. Expletive written in brown marker is not particularly elegant editing but it's memorable. It is not mealy-mouthed. It shows confidence. It sticks in the head. It sinks under the skin. It's also in extremely bad taste. Then again, most artists who move the culture forward are at some point, if not along several points, accused of bad taste.

Artful work always contains something "off." But you have to know what you're doing. "Off" certainly doesn't have to mean coarse. It also cannot be a tone or style one puts on like a jacket. It usually comes, simply and straightforwardly, from one's idiosyncratic thought patterns.

All this to say: a good editor will help you express your inner strangeness, without hobbling your ability to reach an audience that doesn’t think the way you think.