Writeups are sensitive pieces of our psyche. A writeup-ectomy feels bad to most people. Even if we know they're lame and make no sense, we love all the children we beget. So, it makes some sense to explain what would motivate me to offer help to someone or delete someone's write up as a Content Editor at my new home in E2.
To you who have reached this page in the hope of finding out one of the universe's fundamental truths I offer:
My ice cold Antarctic penguin FNG beaker iceadz condition-one-party hangover theory of editing. Maybe something you wrote disappeared because of it. See if you think so.
Consistency: I can only decide upon what I see. I can't see everything. I'm not always at E2 and when I am, wu's come faster than I can read. When I read your very special writeup it becomes subject to my judgment. Other editors have other ways to judge things. The nature of E2 is that there is no one editorial theory among editors, in the same way there is no absolute standard for writeup submission. Anyone may submit anything. Though anything may not live long on everything.
If you were making a submission to a periodical, you'd choose to send your work to an editor whom you feel would be the most sympathetic to your subject and writing style. At E2 you can't choose to whom your article is submitted. It's submitted to everyone, and so, it's at the whimsy of the fates. While this may seem somehow unfair, it is the only true thing to understand about submission to E2. I mean that because you know that's the way things are around here, there should be no complaints when its true nature affects you. And truth be known, your writeup will be subject to any and all content editors. While people do communicate around here, it is only a loose aggregation of people trying to keep to some rudimentary standards. So you will have to create a writeup that satisfies everyone at some basic level, because any one editor can delete a writeup after someone else has cooled it. My advice to all is this: save a copy of all your writeups on your own private hard drive. You never know. A rewrite and a different editorial slant may give it a longer lifespan.
Rants: There are rants and there are cogent arguments. There are rants and there is art. In general, I think I should delete a rant from anyone who has not been here longer than me (which should be easy, because I've only been here 1.5 months at this writing).
To me, a rant is any writeup which starts off with, "I think," has a lot of, "it seems to me's," and, "I wish"es in the middle, and ends with "So that's why X should be Y." A rant is frequently peppered with strong adjectives and adverbs that help describe the writer's personal dislike for something or someone.
Rants are frequently submitted by people who believe they can argue like Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Rush Limbaugh, Geraldo Rivera, or any of the AM radio or cable TV talk jocks. While they imitate the emotion and sometimes the venom of the pros, an amateur rant lacks the foundation upon which to base its argument. A rant becomes an argument when concrete, objective, verifiable data are provided. Arguments are based on actual events, actual people, and or actual options. All of these things can and are referenced in an argument, and thus make an argument the possible basis for learning. When no data or references are provided the rant simply becomes whining. I feel it's my job to remove whining from the database.
A rant can also be art. There are many fine examples of this in the E2 database. The authors of these rants knew what they were doing when they created the writeup. Their prior work, contributing factual writeups, poetry, or fiction, has proven they have a command of their art. Thus, the E2 community accepts their contribution as art, in the same way that Picasso would be accepted if he drew a cartoon for the Sunday comics. If you would like your writeup to be accepted in the same way as some of the artists here, you will have to earn your bullshit as they have.
One line, one sentence, or two sentence writeups: If you can only think to write something that looks like a dictionary entry, how much do you really know about your subject? Question why you want to add something so shallow to the database. There are occasionally short definitions that are useful because they serve as a place holder for obscure information that may be added later. But those wu's are rare. Generally, I'm inclined to delete every one or two line write up I come across for reasons you'll see below.
Obscure local data: This is where I must be subjective. If you writeup that you go to a university where the body of the founder is kept in mummified form and brought out once per year on the anniversary of his death to attend a party in his honor: that's just plain cool. If you've carved your girlfriend's initials on a wooden rowboat in Central Park and you writeup a poem or short story about it, that's art. If the third song your second garage band wrote was Fuck you, you fucking fuckers and you writeup five lines saying so, that's stupid (Unless you're Frank Zappa.)
Stuff that's just not wrote right:If you're struggling to make a point and someone can read your writeup to the end and not have the slightest idea what meaning you want to implant in someone's brain, you have probably failed in your quest for writing fame. While none of us is Hemingway or Anna Quindlen (unless she's here under an assumed name) there is no reason to write unless you're trying to push a feeling or idea into someone. The worst reaction is no reaction.
If people violently dislike or like your writing, you have succeeded. That's why some writeups with tremendously negative reputation may be some of the best art we have. Unless something was so poorly executed everybody knew it and downvoted it, I'd not be looking for large negative reputation numbers to decide whether or not something should be removed, but rather, writeups which simply haven't been voted on at all. Only well-constructed writeups raise strong emotions. These should stay.
Bad grammar and misspelling: You know what? Everyone screws up punctuation and spelling sometimes. I personally wouldn't delete a writeup for these sorts of mistakes, but would urge the author to fix them. Maybe this is because I'm frequently guilty of such errors.
Does the author care? Here's another subjective assessment I will tend to make, and I suggest most people will make it unconsciously if they're not aware of doing it by intent. A writeup which appears flippant or hacked doesn't deserved to be read. If the author did not put enough care into the work to make it worth someone's valuable heartbeats to read, then it doesn't deserve to live. This is one reason why E2 doesn't value one-line writups. The people who work here care a lot about this place. They put a lot of work into it. While nobody expects you to work as hard as the founders of this venerable virtual institution, or even as little as lunatics like me, if you don't act like you care about what you do, I won't care about your work either. Guaranteed. Life is way too short for shit.
Advice I'm happy to give
While I don't make my living writing, as some do, I have sold short fiction and am currently under contract to provide a novel for publication in either spring of 2003 or 2004. I am represented by an agent. I have some rudimentary contacts in the literary world, but as I'm sure none of you have heard of me, my credentials may suffer for lack of credibility.
With that disclaimer I am perfectly willing to discuss with people the steps one might go through to make submissions for publication. To get an agent (advice: don't). To sell a novel idea (advice: schmooze an editor). I'm happy to commiserate with anyone who wants to compare stacks of rejection slips. (I have more than you, no matter who you are.)
Just like you, if you're submitting your work anywhere, whether it be to node on E2 or to the editors at The New Yorker, rejection is a part of my life and it never gets easier. Ever. Being here makes being a writer easier. I'm very happy to be here with people who love the written word, and who love the people who love to write.
So my last piece of advice is this:
You're writers, goddamnit.
Never stop. For any reason. Ever.
With reverence and apologies to our brothers and sisters who bear arms and watch over us.
This is my scratch pad.
There are many like it, but this one is MINE.
My scratch pad is my best friend. It is my life.
I must master it as I must master my life.
My scratch pad without me is useless. Without my scratch pad, I am useless.
In my scratch pad, I must write the truth I bear inside me.
I must write better than John Steinbeck.
I must write better than Anna Quindlen.
I must write what is born in my heart, lest I make myself a derivative hack. I will...
My scratch pad and I know that what counts in life is not our feeble excuses,
how loud the bombast, nor how cool people think we are.
We know it is writing what is real that counts. We will create honorably...
My scratch pad is human, even as I, because it is my life.
Thus, I will learn it as a brother.
I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its codes, and its bugs.
I will ever guard it against the ravages of critics and fools.
I will keep my scratch pad open and ready, even as I am open and ready.
We will become part of each other. We will...
Before God I swear this creed.
My scratch pad and I are the defenders of my creation.
We are the masters of our imagination.
We are the saviors of our souls.
So be it, until there is no more dreck, but art.