How do you edit?

Question: How do you edit?

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Nathaniel Rich: It looks like stacks of- of pages on my desk and spread around, and we get something like 1,000 stories sent a month to The Paris Review. And- and that’s not even counting things sent by agents and- and writers that we’re in touch with. So I- most of my job is reading stories and reading novels and trying to find excerpts occasionally that we can shape into short stories. And when we find something that we’re really excited ab- about and- and wanna publish it, then we’ll do editorial work if we feel like there’s a way to improve it beyond what we have on the page. And sometimes we don’t.

They feel very different to me. I mean, I feel like I’m using different sides of my brain, and- and I- I feel that way even when I’m editing my own writing. It feels like a very different activity. There’s a kind of hyper logical side that you- of your brain I think you use when you’re editing, and that’s whether it’s editing fiction or non-fiction. I mean, I learned early on in the job that editing fiction is- you basically apply many of the same principles that you would use editing non-fiction-- you know, issues like continuity, consistency.

It takes different forms when you’re talking about characters and stories as opposed to a, you know, linear argument of an essay- a critical essay. But it’s the same kind of issues. And with writing, I feel like it’s more of a- it’s- it’s a more creative process and it- it’s-- I try to quiet my editing side as much as possible and write a lot of nonsense on the page and then later try to edit it into something that makes sense.

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Recorded On: 3/17/2008

Rich's editorial process looks like stacks and stacks of paper.

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