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Got any interesting editor/writer stories to share?


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#1 mwsinclair

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:20 PM

Working with an editor is commonplace in the nonfiction world -- particularly in journalism. But sometimes relatively inexperienced writers don't know how to receive edits, whether they aren't prepared for constructive criticism or they feel the editor simply doesn't understand what is being attempted.

Does anyone have any interesting constructive experiences they can share here? It doesn't have to be nonfiction, though I think that a lot of writers here will have those experiences first.

#2 Leigh Teale

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:42 PM

Ha! I was the editor. The big bad editor with her lucky red pen, out to crush the dreams of aspiring writers. I don't really have any constructive stories, though. I had only been at it two years when I had to leave the field.

I will say that editors are only there to help. If you've set out to be a reporter or a non-fiction writer or a paranormal romance scribe, then that's what your editor will grade you on. I would have reporters turning in stories that were way more feature than news. When their precious twelve-inch epic got cut down to four, they just couldn't understand. I was the bad guy. I wasn't trying to be callous when I told one reporter in particular that she was not in the profession of novelization, and if she wanted to be then there was a time and a place. Unfortunately, she didn't take it that way and I had to find myself a new reporter.

With that in mind, I'd love to see the stories other people have and compare them to the things I've said in the past. I'm editing my first full manuscript now, so I'm sure the tables are about to turn.

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#3 mwsinclair

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:57 PM

Thanks, Leigh. I think that's a valid example. I think it often happens in nonfiction (especially if a writer's been trained on the "new" journalism or even the "new, new" journalism) and thinks nearly every article needs that angle in it.

I'm looking forward to seeing more examples too.

I had an experience this summer in which the assigning editor left in the midst of my writing of the profile, and when the editor's boss got back to me, she informed me the expectations had been changed. I was asked to nearly double the word count on the piece (more money, which is always nice), and to minimize some of what I'd written. My only issue in that situation is that the changed assignment hadn't been passed along; I have no problems rewriting things. I'm sure there are much worse stories that can be shared.

I'm not looking for names, mind you. Just hoping to find ways in which writers can learn about the value of communication with editors, and as you said, the help they provide in order to improve a manuscript.

#4 Jean Oram

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 12:18 PM

I wrote for the university paper and the edit process was this: hand in my story. Read the paper and see something (at times) completely different appear. Often much better and concise. There was no "process" other than my editor changing my stories to fit her stylist preferences. Which I guess worked.

Currently I am in a strange situation. I have a magazine article that was tentatively accepted. They said they had to run it by the main editor for final approval and had asked for some references on some claims I made before that meeting. Did it. Done. Have no heard back AT ALL. I've followed up three times. So now I am wondering if I should phone or just move on with my story. It's been like... 2 months.

As an editor (and as a beta reader and critique partner if we are going to be completely honest) it is tricky. How much will the writer you have never met understand what you are saying? How much should you explain? How will they take the request/suggestion for edits? You can get everything from professions of love (I love you too, Nick) to writers ready to (probably) slap you across the face. Writing is subjective. Editing is subjective.

As for edits my agent has asked for--he rocks. He is always spot on and I would change anything he requested. Probably. :wink:

Oh, and one thing I should add is that the editor is probably in each and every case be OPEN to discussion.

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#5 mwsinclair

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 03:45 PM

A little surprising that you haven't heard back in that time frame on the article. Depending on the evergreen aspect of the story, that could be fine. Most print magazines plan months ahead, and depending on how much they rely on advertising, they might not know how many pages to budget for, so it's possible for a piece to get pushed for months. But that's print. If it's a Web-based publication, that sounds a bit odd.

#6 Amy Trueblood

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 06:06 PM

So I must chime in here and tip my hat to Jean Oram. She was an extraordinary copy editor for my short story for THE FALL anthology.

I've worked with editors before, and they all have been cut from the same cloth: hardcore, brutally honest and overly temperamental.

Jean was the first editor I'd worked with who was direct about the changes needed, while still making the process extraordinarily fun.

I hope this is the start of a new streak for me - kind editors with verve, and an infectious joy for the work they do.
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#7 alessag

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 08:17 PM

I've worked on both sides of the editorial desk.

The last editor I worked for had formerly been an award winning writer at the Washignton Post and she intimidated the you-know-what out of me. She was no-nonsense and direct. Oh, and if I called in 5 minutes late for a phone conference, I had better have an excellent reason. What I learned from the experience is that this woman was entirely overworked and underpaid by the paper, so it was best to not take her shortness as anything personal.

I also learned that she wanted/needed me to stand up for what I knew to be right. For example, she made a change to one sentence I had written but it wound up creating a factual error regarding the research it referenced. I took a chance and called her directly, since I had already tried correcting her revision once through the email manuscript. At first, she was a bit short with me until I asked her to let me explain why I was making an issue out of this particular sentence. It was a transformational moment, as I think she gained respect for me as a writer for not backing down.
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#8 Jean Oram

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Posted 24 September 2012 - 08:40 PM

Atg5 you just MADE MY DAY!! :wub: :wub: :wub: :wub: I love your story and the ending...--folks, when this book comes out buy it! You will love atg5's ending as much as I do! It kicks some serious butt. And I am so glad the editing process was fun! Yay!

Matt. It is a print magazine and the article is evergreen. Well, a later in the year kind of article, so yeah there is no rush on it. And I know the magazine and another one just merged so they can do some domination of Canada stuff. And they were having email issues--but I think we worked that angle so it was all cool... so??? I don't know. I think I may check their website and then call and do a friendly, "Hey, whatzuuuuuup?"

Alessa cool. It's important to stand up when we know a mistake is going to be made. Kudos and a good lesson for all of us too. Thanks!

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#9 mwsinclair

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 02:12 PM

Alessa, I love that you mentioned that! Those types of conversations should happen more often, because editors might try to fix something for the sake of brevity and inadvertently introduce a factual error. It happens far more often than editors would like to admit, and a conversation like yours with your editor tends to place you above other writers because you not only read what they changed but spoke truth to power to get it "re-fixed." Well done!

And ATG, thanks for your kudos to Jean. She's been doing a great job, and I'm proud to be able to publish your story!

#10 Jean Oram

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 03:10 PM

And ATG, thanks for your kudos to Jean. She's been doing a great job...


Thanks. :smile:

I love connecting with and helping other AQCers outside this forum as well. You can find me all over the place!

If you are looking for more about writing, you may find my blog helpful, as well as my Twitter feed:

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#11 alessag

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 05:17 PM

... Those types of conversations should happen more often, because editors might try to fix something for the sake of brevity and inadvertently introduce a factual error ... and a conversation like yours with your editor tends to place you above other writers because you not only read what they changed but spoke truth to power to get it "re-fixed."


mws - Thank you for your very kind words. I was honestly scared that making that phone call was going to blow any future assignments with that monthly, but it turned out well - until they went bankrupt.
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#12 mwsinclair

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 07:20 PM

Yeah, that's not too helpful. But keep an eye on the editor's future. I sometimes create google alerts to track where are working now. Professional reporter reasons. I realize that can seem stalkerish.

#13 Jean Oram

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 08:00 PM

Matt's a stalker! :wink: (Says she with Google Alerts on some of her competition--and no, nobody from here.)

I love connecting with and helping other AQCers outside this forum as well. You can find me all over the place!

If you are looking for more about writing, you may find my blog helpful, as well as my Twitter feed:

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If you are a parent, you might be interested in my ideas on growing happy, healthy kids who'll thrive in this ever changing world (includes crafts, activities, games, articles, and fun!):
*Twitter *Blog *Pinterest *Facebook

 

I write stuff (www.jeanoram.com)

 


#14 alessag

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Posted 25 September 2012 - 08:17 PM

Good advice, mws, but this lady has probably retired at this point. She's rather accomplished, on the older side, and likes to travel the world. We're connected via LinkedIn, so I can still reach her, if need be.

As for googling and stalking... I spent a couple of hours yesterday trying to track down links to old articles I'd written 10 years ago. Doing a whole bunch of permutations of my name, publication names, and article titles came up with some interesting hits I didn't know about. I also discovered someone with my exact name (which is a bit unusual) and kind of giggled at the likelihood of mistaken identity from here on out. She's a 20-something in college.
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#15 mwsinclair

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 08:44 AM

Yeah, I have google alerts on my name (using both Matt and Matthew) and find a conservative English guy talk an awful lot. I find that rather interesting, since I'm pretty much diametrically opposed to him (i.e., not conservative and of clear Irish ancestry)

#16 Jean Oram

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 10:05 AM

The Goggle alert on my name is awesome at finding my blog posts on my blog but that is about it. :humph:

I love connecting with and helping other AQCers outside this forum as well. You can find me all over the place!

If you are looking for more about writing, you may find my blog helpful, as well as my Twitter feed:

*The Helpful Writer *Twitter

If you are a parent, you might be interested in my ideas on growing happy, healthy kids who'll thrive in this ever changing world (includes crafts, activities, games, articles, and fun!):
*Twitter *Blog *Pinterest *Facebook

 

I write stuff (www.jeanoram.com)

 


#17 mwsinclair

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 11:15 AM

It helps me see when my freelance stuff goes live. The editors don't always do that.

#18 Jean Oram

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 04:06 PM

Good call.

I love connecting with and helping other AQCers outside this forum as well. You can find me all over the place!

If you are looking for more about writing, you may find my blog helpful, as well as my Twitter feed:

*The Helpful Writer *Twitter

If you are a parent, you might be interested in my ideas on growing happy, healthy kids who'll thrive in this ever changing world (includes crafts, activities, games, articles, and fun!):
*Twitter *Blog *Pinterest *Facebook

 

I write stuff (www.jeanoram.com)

 





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