Tag Archives: editing

Recommended Reading: The Editor’s Eye

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The Book: The Editor’s Eye by Stacy Ennis

The Take-Away: The Editor’s Eye is a great introduction to the craft of editing for authors who are writing a book and wondering how the editing process works. It also makes a compelling case for WHY having your book professionally edited is necessary to ensuring the tome’s success.

The Review: I have a reputation in my family for being ridiculously “meta,” so when I heard about this book – which provides an overview of editing a book – I knew I would love it. And in today’s changing publishing environment, it’s no longer a given that everyone involved implicitly accepts that editors are an integral part of the process.

The Editor’s Eye is aimed at first-time authors, but is studded with tips that can help more experienced writers find a good editorial team and can provide editors with new and powerful ways to explain what they do and how it adds value to a manuscript.

One of the biggest strengths of the book is that it is able to provide a reality check for those new to publishing. She provides advice that helps writers learn how to incorporate editing into the writing process from the very first draft – wait, scratch that, from the outline of the book – and devotes a chapter on how to find and work with an editor. Her guidelines, while not dictatorial or rigid, provide boundaries that can help would-be book authors know of they are on track … or not.

The Editor’s Eye is a great gift to a new author embarking on a project, an editor who wants to move into book editing (or explain what he/she does more clearly), or anyone interested in the process of how books come to life.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 24, 2013

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Photo courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski via SXC.

How To Write A Second Draft
Scott Berkun, author of Confessions of a Public Speaker and Myths of Innovation, provides a concise battle plan for how he was going to revise his forthcoming book, A Year Without Pants. It’s a great glimpse into one way to integrate line and structural edits with feedback from others. So much ink is given to producing first and final drafts, it was a real treat to see a post about the work that must be done in the middle.

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox | Write Articles, Not Blog Postings

I ordinarily wouldn’t post a story from 2007, but much of what’s been written by Nielsen, whom some would call the godfather of web usability, is still highly relevant.
In an era when content marketing is the hot trend, his reasoned assertion that quality rules over quantity is more true than ever:

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value. Think of how disappointing it feels when you’re searching for something and get directed to short postings in the middle of a debate that occurred years before, and is thus irrelevant.

He goes onto note that it’s not the fault of blogging platforms – it’s the focus on cheap, uninformed “me-too” content that degrades it to commodity status.

How Memoirists Mold The Truth

André Aciman, who teaches comparative literature at the CUNY Graduate Center, writes a dangerous and provocative essay about how memoirists create multiple versions of their past. I say “dangerous” because this piece will mess with you preconceived notions about memoir as a work of nonfiction. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about …

Writing the past is never a neutral act. Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons… provided we can live with the reasons. What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction. It’s their revenge against facts that won’t go away.

5 Tips For Transmedia Storytelling
Margaret Looney, writing on the PBS MediaShift blog, provides common sense advice for tackling a story that’s going to be deployed across multiple platforms. Each tip comes with several tantalizing examples.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 30, 2012

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Photo courtesy of SXC.

False Starts | Adam Westbrook

Was 2012 not quite what you were hoping, in terms of your creative output? Well, Westbrook, a sharp, talented UK-based multimedia journalist, has a little pep talk for anyone who’s ever started a project, only to see it falter. He lists more than half a dozen of his own false starts, and tells readers of his (recently) retired blog:

The point is, every one has false starts and stumbles. Everyone falters and fails, particularly on the way to doing important work. Although each of these were disappointing and painful at the time, I learned something important from each of them. Don’t be set back by your personal false starts. The people who make it in the end are the ones who pick themselves back up, dust themselves off and get busy again. As long as you learn something from them they haven’t been a waste of time.

The best in narrative, 2012: Storyboard’s top picks in audio, magazines, newspapers and online
The Nieman Storyboard blog, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, provides links to 34 pieces of narrative nonfiction in a variety of formats. The list provides access to a sumptuous feast to sate your end-of-the-year reading hunger, and it’s a great guide to writing/editing/producing excellent stories.

Five Things My Literary Agent Taught Me About Publishing Success

Tim Sanders of Net Minds publishing company discusses five valuable lessons his literary agent, Jan Miller, taught him. I like the point he makes about focusing on writing a strong book, rather than expecting promotional tricks to drive everything in terms of sales.

A book must “work”.  Promotion just gives it a chance to work – (Jan) learned this working with all of her authors over time.  Her point is that books must connect deeply with readers, so the reader tells all of his friends to buy the book. While you sleep, your book is working, promting itself via its quality. Without word-of-mouth or BIG media, books languish in obscurity. Marketing and promotion places the book into enough hands for the resulting word-of-mouth to make a big difference.  To write a book that works: Write what you know and then show us who you are.  Be generous, helpful and provocative.

Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]

Darren Rowse, creator of ProBlogger, offers his opinion on the blogging-for-money question, based upon his experience and those of the people with whom he interacts and works as the owner of a blog about blogging professionally. I found the post very matter-of-fact and grounding. Here’s a sample of what he has to say, in this case about whether there is a single formula to follow to make a living as a blogger.

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money. In my experience there is no formula. Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently. The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

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Beyond Comma Patrol: 10 Ways Editors Can Supercharge Your Communications

Photo by Nicole_N courtesy of SXC.

I’ve known for most of my career as an editor that there was a whole lot more to what I was doing than copyediting. Yes, knowing how to copyedit is one of the basics for my profession – like knowing basic principles of balance and proportion if you are a visual artist, or having basic arithmetical skills if you are an accountant.

Yet being a crackerjack copyeditor doesn’t ensure that a journalist will be a good managing editor or editor-in-chief. Editors bring far more to the table than just checking your copy for stylistic consistency, grammatical correctness or compliance with generally accepted rules of punctuation. Here’s a handy list of 10 ways that an editor can improve your writing, whether you’re writing a 200-word report or a 100,000-word book.

1) Content curation – “Curation” has become a buzzword in the past few years, but editors have been evaluating, selecting and arranging content to appeal to their audiences for a long time. As the Internet spews skyrocketing amounts of information at us, an editor’s ability to filter and screen content and present the best/most appropriate materials will become increasingly valuable.

2) Content aggregation – Curation of content focuses on the selection of individual items; aggregation of content focuses on grouping materials together in meaningful ways. Before there were RSS feeds, there were wire editors, piecing together national or international news sections by aggregating content in a way that allowed readers to keep up on developments and remain well-informed citizens. I call my personal approach to aggregation “getting the mix right.” Whether it’s a collection of sports briefs or an entire podcast or magazine issue, my editorial focus is on grouping content in a way that forms a coherent whole.

3) Story organization – Some stories have an obvious structure – chronological, say, or a bulleted list (“5 Ways to Fresher Breath”). For those that don’t, an editor can help you dump out your reporting notebook and research files and build a structure that will help the reader pay attention to the story, not the way it is being told.

4) Story-crafting – When I discovered the story coaching method of editing, I had a major epiphany about what value editors brought to the writing process itself. Practitioners of story coaching, such as Don Murray, Jack Hart, Jacqui Banaszynski and Roy Peter Clark, actively collaborate with the writer, both before and after the story has been filed, to shape the story for maximum impact and readability. This skill, along with #3, are two prerequisites that will ensure content that is worthy of having “comma patrol” performed to provide a final polish.

5) Project management – No small amount of a managing editor’s job is being a traffic manager for a communications deliverable. He or she must ride herd over a small stable of writers, shape and polish the story, AND hand it off to design on time, all while remembering how the content in this issue fits with that of 3 issues down the road, and checking to make sure page folios are right and ads do not contain coupons or other offers that are expired. It’s possible to be an editor and be disorganized, but I am not sure it’s possible to be a good editor without a sense of how to move content through the system quickly and efficiently.

6) UX/usability expert – Not just for web geeks, the concept of UX or the user experience is something editors concern themselves with constantly. We are the reader’s primary advocate. If we can’t make sense of a passage or an idea, how will they?

7) Moderator/listener  – I am not convinced that journalists can be objective, but editors are charged with listening to all sides with an open mind. This assignment makes them good at orchestrating interactions between those who hold divergent perspectives, and also tends to make them good at listening for subtle things, such as that which is NOT being voiced during any given debate.

8) Creative consultant/innovator – Editors spend much of their day working within well-defined parameters, such as budget and the format of their publication. They are constantly challenged to make something novel and engaging out within a defined template. This require an ability to innovate and find a way to pour new wine into old wine skins and make it all hold together.

9) Historian – A good editor makes assignments and revises copy with a keen appreciation for the background of whatever topic he or she is working with. Most issues do not spring into existence with no frame of reference. Editors must understand that frame, and make it visible to the audience.

10) Contextualizer – closely related to #9, this role has the editor make visible all the elements, current and historical, that shape a given story. Readers who understand the full context of an issue will be far less easily swayed by sound bites and polemics.

Another view of what editors do: Who am I this time? Roles editors play

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Recommended Reading: “Help! For Writers”

The Book: “Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions To The Problems Every Writer Faces,” by Roy Peter Clark.

The Takeaway: This is a great book for nonfiction writers who are looking for specific strategies to combat common writing problems, such as organizing their material, selecting fresh, imaginative language to use in their stories, or how to complete a draft of their work.

The Review: Too many books about writing try to be all things to all people, when they really aren’t capable of the task. The author will cover everything from how to interview celebrities to how to hire a copy editor, lavishing many pages on his or her areas of expertise, while giving everything else a cursory glance. The result is often a lopsided, unsatisfying book.

Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, deftly avoids this trap in “Help! For Writers,” while still managing to cover vexations from across the entire writing process. His secret weapon is his approach – instead of presenting writers with his “master plan” for how to write and expecting them to fit themselves into his paradigm, he organizes his material, as the subtitle suggests, by addressing specific “trouble spots” that are frequently found on the writing journey, such as “my work habits are so disorganized” or “I can’t stop procrastinating.” (He also wins points with me for phrasing the trouble spots in language that clearly has come directly from the mouths of actual writers!)

The beauty of training this lens on the writing process is that it avoids one-size-fits-all solutions and makes the book useful to a broad spectrum of writers. For example, when responding to the problem “I hate writing assignments and other people’s ideas,” Clark suggests the following strategies:

  • Learn to turn an assignment into your story.
  • Treat assignments as story topics rather than story ideas.
  • Make it your own.
  • Send up a flare to express dissatisfaction with an assignment or to suggest something better.
  • Take what you think is a bad assignment and brainstorm with other writers to turn it into something special.
  • Use your favorite search engine to discover surprising connections.
  • If a story assignment points left, don’t be afraid to turn right.

“Help! For Writers” will be very useful to those looking for those looking for tips and tools to move them out of a writing bog caused by an issue that they can articulate and define. Newbie as well as experienced writers will be able to relate to the problems Clark addresses and benefit from his proposed solutions. It’s also a book that will continue to be useful to writers as they advance in their careers, as the situations that Clark pinpoints are ones that can challenge all writers, regardless of their experience level or professional status.

Learn more about the book

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Write this Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 24, 2012

Photo courtesy of SXC. 

Improving your writing by resting | Jeff Goins
Carol Tice, guest posting on Jeff Goins’ blog, presents a convincing case for taking one day off (and she means *completely* off) from writing and engaging via electronic devices each week.

Five Ways That Consistency Matters | Intelligent Editing
Geoff Hart explains why stylistic consistency matters, especially in the case of numbers (two vs. 2), capitalization, and word choice. I love his explanation about capitalization, since my pet peeve as an editor is inappropriate capitalization …

“In Western languages, capitalization indicates the start of a sentence or the presence of a proper noun. Changing from a capitalized form to a lowercase form triggers the reflex to ask whether the author has switched from discussing a named entity to a generic category. Each such hesitation slows reading, impedes comprehension, and increases the risk of an interpretation error.”

This post might come across to some as a little overly technical, but it’s good stuff for writers and the copy editors who serve them.

10 Must-Haves For Your Mobile Reporting Kit
Elana Zak, posting on the 10,000 Words blog, provides a nice summary of the tools that a 21st Century reporter needs to do his or her job. Some are obvious (mobile phone, business cards, a case to carry your gear) but some are not obvious to those who haven’t been out in the field since the rise of the smartphone (extra memory cards, a USB microphone). And her suggestion to bring a mini first-aid kit is just good common sense!

26 Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts | Social Media Examiner
Social media consultant Debbie Hemley takes readers from A to Z with good advice about writing blog posts that get read and shared. I’ve been blogging since 2007 and I learned a ton! Some of my favorite sections are Categories, Descriptions, Original vs. Curated Content, and Valuable Content.

Want to Make Money Online? Here’s What Sells | Online Journalism Review
Online journalism expert Robert Niles discusses five alternatives to paywalls for web content that can generate revenue for journalists. They include advertising, e-books, videos, merchandise and events.

“Write What You Know” Does Not Mean What You Think It Does | Fuel Your Writing
Icy Sedgwick discusses the old saw to write (fiction, especially) from your own experience, and helps readers go beyond the literal implications. Here’s a sample of her advice:

“Don’t take (the directive to write what you know) so literally – I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t have to go to Middle Earth, and JK Rowling never went to Hogwarts! The fundamental fact is that what you know is humanity, and how the world works, and human nature is fundamentally the same. While we all have different drives, desire, fears and goals, we have the same basic needs. The setting is just window dressing … characters need to be believable, even if they aren’t based in our reality.”

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 4, 2011

Photo courtesy of SXC.

Why New Media Literacy Is Vital for Quality Journalism

Josh Catone, writing on Mashable, discusses the continuing (and increasing) importance of critical thinking skills for journalists and everyone else who gets their news from social media, blogs, online websites, etc. Lots of good examples peppered through out the piece.

Here’s a sample of what Catone has to say about how to define media literacy:

In today’s media-saturated world, the concept of literacy is again changing. According to Pinkard, kids in school today may not be considered literate in the future if they don’t fundamentally understand new forms of media — things like blogs, Twitter and streaming video. To be truly literate, though, you also need to be able to think critically about media, discern fact from fiction, news from opinion, trusted from untrustworthy. These issues have always been thorny, but the explosion of self-publishing has only made media literacy more vital to the preservation of our democratic society.

Conventional Wisdom and What It Says About Journalism | Adam Westbrook

Westbrook, a UK journalist who launched his portfolio career as an independent entrepreneur-journalist in the depths of the 2009 global recession, makes an assertion that conventional wisdom is rarely the protective influence many journalists assume it must be.

He writes,

Conventional wisdom is dangerous because it stops us doing the things we know we really want to. It stops people who ought to do great things, stretch their abilities on ambitious work and ultimately shape the future of journalism and publishing.

Why I Write With My iPhone

Lifehack contributor Chris Smith discusses why he prefers doing his daily writing work on his iPhone (vs. the iPad) and offers links to a few apps that make writing on that most popular of smartphones easier.

How journalism professors can use screencasts as an effective & efficient teaching tool

Journalism educator Katy Culver shares in a brief post on Poynter.org how she uses screencast technology to help students retain copy editing tenets through “narrated” quiz answer keys, record video software tutorials, and provide feedback on video and slideshow submissions from students.

Amazon Rewrites the Rules of Book Publishing | NYTimes.com

Amazon.com taught readers they don’t need bookstores – now it is teaching writers they may not need publishing houses. Amazon published 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form, representing a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program. An important article for everyone who wants to write books and have readers buy them!!!

How to Write What People Actually Want to Read | Write To Done

Mary Jaksch, chief editor of Write To Done, provides a quick, easy-to-understand tutorial for using a keyword search tool to determine the best topics to include in a blog, story, etc., based upon readers’ search queries.

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Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for August 8, 2011

Photo courtesy SXC.

The book is not dead, it’s just shape-shifting | The Observer

Robert McCrum gives an upbeat assessment of recent changes in technology surrounding the book and asserts that, “As in every previous IT revolution, there will be (already is) a creative dividend.”

College Students Miss the Journalistic Potential of Social Media | PBS Media Shift

Devin Harner reports on a curious phenomenon he has witnessed when asking current journalism students to present original reporting on a blog and then market it through social media channels: they don’t see it as “real journalism.” He explores why this might  be so.

Here’s a sample quote:

“If students can’t see that there’s journalism lurking in the everyday things they do with information, especially now that technology has made such things constant, instant and ubiquitous, then we truly do have reason to worry about the future of journalism — particularly if the original digital divide is still a factor.”

HOW TO: Find and Land Freelance Work

Mashable’s Josh Catone interviews 3 freelance professionals to provide targeted advice on how to land work. His best (of 5) tips? Network, network, network; be precise; show passion. (Oh, and following a potential client’s application instructions never hurts either.)

The Jargon of the Novel, Computed | New York Times

Ben Zimmer reports on the work of the Corpus of Contemporary American English, or COCA, which brings together 425 million words of text from the past two decades, with samples drawn from fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, academic texts and transcripts of spoken English. The compiler of COCA, Mark Davies at Brigham Young University, has designed a freely available online interface that can respond to queries about how contemporary language is used.

7 Apps For Writing On Your iPhone | Lifehack

Chris Smith presents 7 iPhone applications that can facilitate quicker and more efficient writing from one’s mobile device. Apps described cover plain-text editors, outlining and mind-mapping, and journaling functions.

Teaching Creative Writing with Programming

Intriguing short post by Klint Finley of ReadWriteWeb, discussing a presentation by Adam Parrish at OSCon 2011. Parrish teaches Reading and Writing Electronic Text at New York University as part of the Interactive Telecommunications Program. Although the title emphasizes teaching creative writing through programming, the reverse is also true: the course teaches programming through experimental writing.

Parrish’s course doesn’t deal with artificial intelligence, or attempts at creating narratives or creating interactive hypertext. It covers, for lack of a better term, procedural poetry. Typically, a student takes a starting set of text, writes a Python program to modify that text and then interprets the results.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for June 5, 2011

Photo courtesy SXC.

Everything You’ve Been Force-fed About Blogging Is Wrong

Karol Gajda, travel/lifestyle blogger at Ridiculously Extraordinary, discusses a recent discussion he had with other bloggers about what formulas for success really work, and he comes up with the conclusion that few pre-packaged directions work for everyone, but experimentation among success models can help identify what really resonates with the key audience for a blog.

13 Alternative Ways to Consume Your News

Jennifer Van Grove, writing on Mashable.com, has compiled an interesting roundup of apps and sites designed to facilitate news consumption. Includes everything from StumbleUpon and beyond-the-bookmark sites Instapaper and Read It Later to social news apps News.me, Zite, and Smartr. Anyone writing nonfiction for traditional print media will want to review this list for ideas on how to shape stories for an increasingly online/mobile audience.

Everyone Has a Story « The Artist’s Road

Patrick Ross, writing in the first few days after the U.S. military raid in Pakistan that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, crafts a beautiful post that emphasizes that the man who pulled the trigger to kill Bin Laden, like the Navy SEAL team of which he is a member, has a story, one which he is eager to hear. The post and the comments that follow are a valentine to the power of story to humanize events with heavy historical importance.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your iPhone As A Reporting Tool | 10,000 Words

Lauren Rabaino provides several great tips for using your iPhone as a serious reporting tool. Most of them apply equally well to almost any smartphone. Some of my favorites: organize your apps, buy an audio adapter, use solid objects as a stabilizer for video.

Reading for Detail: Proofing Tips from our Editors | Beyond PR

The PR Newswire Editorial team frequently catches obvious mistakes in press releases submitted for distribution over the wire  – missing quotation marks, the website that doesn’t end in .com (or .org, etc.).   They also read every release carefully, double checking minute details. In March 2011 alone they found more than 12,000 mistakes. Here are some examples of mistakes that can reflect poorly on an organization – and some tips for fixing them before you hit “send.”

Susan Orlean Explains How Twitter Affects Her Long-Form Writing | PBS Media Shift

An interesting short post by Simon Owens relating how Orlean, who’s written many popular fiction and nonfiction books, has used Twitter to receive feedback, promote her work, connect with writers and editors and stay in touch between projects.

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Listen up: my podcast on writing careers today

Photo courtesy SXC.

I don’t often talk specifics about my day job, but earlier in the year, ASU Magazine, where I work as managing editor, published the winners from its first-ever writing contest. That experience could easily be a post in and of itself (or may worm its way into my memoirs) but one of the more interesting off-shoots of the experience was that I produced a podcast that featured interviews with two of the judges for the contest: novelist Jewell Parker Rhodes and journalism educator Dan Gillmor.

The podcast, which is part of the ASU Alumni Association’s official iTunes channel, The Alumni Experience, focuses on what fiction and nonfiction writers need to know in order to thrive in today’s rapidly changing media marketplace. Both Gillmor and Rhodes were a delight to interview, and no matter what genre you write in, you will learn something.

To access the podcast:

Visit The Alumni Experience page via  iTunes or the ASU Alumni Association’s podcast page. At both sites, you will want to select the podcast entitled “ASU experts discuss writing careers today.”

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