Lena Dunham and the Value of an Editor

Like her or hate her, Lena Dunham has a lot of power in the entertainment industry. By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the passages in her book that have sparked sexual abuse allegations. As a writer, the question of how to define what happened in the past is secondary to a much more puzzling question: why didn’t she have a decent editor for her book?

Any decent editor would have flagged those passages and had a serious discussion about just what the author was trying to say. The self-described “rage spiral” that Lena Dunham is having a twitter fit over would have happened out of the public eye before the book was published. If the passages were kept in the book, they would have been followed by several pages explaining the ‘normalization’ ideas that have been coming up in defense of Dunham. So either the copy editor is a hack, or the publisher decided that the controversy created by leaving the author out to hang would help drive book sales.

This kind of career guidance—whether driven by incompetence or purposeful recklessness—is becoming the norm for young people in the American entertainment industry. I’ve seriously got to wonder if young stars are being set up to take the fall on purpose due to resentment or some distorted sense of greed by their agents and managers. The Jennifer Lawrence photo scandal has the same kind of signature. I wonder why her agent or manager never gave a young 20-something woman a talking to about how to maintain privacy and security of risqué personal photos—or not take them at all given her level of worldwide fame. Yet everyone seems to want to blame the young person in the spotlight rather than the industry professionals who are tasked with managing the career of the rising star and protecting them from emotional chasms or rage spirals.

So what is the value of a good editor? It’s a question that every writer needs to ask themselves when they are thinking of publishing a book. Do some research and find the level of editing that is best for your needs. If you’re publishing small you might get away with a good proofread and then some feedback from people who find your book. If you expect to get on a best sellers list, invest some money in an experienced copy editor (or three) and maybe some subject matter reviewers to avoid the kind of rage spiral Lena Dunham has been swept away into.

Better to have an existential crisis out of the public eye than all over the twitter-verse.

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