Tag Archives: writing

Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 29, 2010

Photo credit: Everett Guerny, via SXC.

My Reading Notebook
Kitty Bucholtz, writing on Routines for Writers, discusses the paper notebook she uses to write one-page summaries of the novels has read, and how it relates to her fiction writing.

How Media Consumption Has Changed Since 2000
A SlideShare presentation from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Interesting statistics and information on trends in our consumption of all sorts of media.

How to Write About a Boring Topic – 5 Good Writing Tips
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen discusses ways to dig deeper into a story assignment that you’re not crazy about.

Writers: 8 Alternatives to Magazine Markets
Susan Johnston, writing on the blog Urban Muse, discusses opportunities beyond print magazines for enterprising freelancers. Covers everything from newsletters and catalogs to mobile apps and e-books.

More tips for writing fast | WordCount
Michelle Rafter discusses a couple of ways to cut corners (safely) and get drafts put together quickly without sacrificing quality.

Hire a Journalist | Duct Tape Marketing
The “Duct Tape” folks make the case that journalists, not marketers, should be the content producers in today’s business environment. Good news for unemployed reporters and editors!

Bonus links!

J-Lab | 2010 Knight-Batten Award Winners
The Knight-Batten Awards reward news and information efforts that create opportunities to involve citizens in public issues and supply opportunities for participation. Here are thumbnail sketches of the award-winning projects.

Associated Press: How to Pitch a News Story
This YouTube video, featuring editors from the AP, contains good advice for reporters or PR folks looking to interest editors in a news-oriented story.

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How to Make the Editor Your Friend, Revisited: Discussing the story assignment

Photo by Mateusz Stachowski via SXC.

It’s been a good long while since I discussed ways to make magazine editors happy. There are some simple rules of the road relating to hitting your word count , meeting deadlines and handling revisions that make writer-editor relations ever so much more congenial if you know and follow them.

One of the most crucial steps in the writing process comes at the very beginning of the writer-editor relationship. For many freelance assignments, you’ll get some sort of written direction about the story that your editor needs you to write. How you follow up after receiving that document, whether it be a memo describing the assignment or a contract with story assignment information embedded it in, can be key to understanding exactly what your editor wants and needs from you.

To make things easier, I’ve crafted a short checklist that you might want to keep by the phone or the computer while you communicate with your editor about your new assignment.

Assignment Discussion Checklist

__ The Basics: Are you clear about the story’s deadline, word length, pay rate, kill fee, the section the article is appearing in, what type of story it is (profile, etc.)?

__ The Angle: The story angle is what differentiates this assigned story from any other story you might write on this topic. Are you clear on what your editor wants? Are you free to research the topic further, and suggest angles?

__ Sources: Is the editor supplying you contact information for specific interviewees, associations or organizations that might yield appropriate sources? Do you need to clear potential sources with the editor before contacting them for an interview? To what degree should you work with publicists to set up interviews, gather research information, etc.?

__ Background information: If the editor has a set structure in mind for the piece, can he/she provide links to parallel stories, esp. in his/her publication? Does the publication have a “dossier” of information available for profile subjects? Are there previous stories in the magazine you should read for reference?

__ No-No’s: Discuss any deal-breakers for you and for the editor (i.e., missing deadline without warning, endless revisions without additional pay). For custom, corporate or institutional publications, clarify any “political” danger zones (topics that must be approached a certain way, protocol for contacting VIPs).

__ Follow-up communication: How does the editor prefer to connect with you? Does the mode of communication change if you need him/her to make an urgent decision about the story?

More story assignment tips

Want More Article Assignments? Tips for Working With Magazine Editors
Tips from Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s Quips and Tips for Successful Writers blog.

Helping Reporters Improve Stories | International Journalists Network
Tips on how to coach reporters from a story coach/editor point of view. Many of the pointers apply to maintaining happy editor-writer communication related to the assignment.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 11, 2010

Photo courtesy Dora Mitsonia via SXC.


Concerning the ‘Interview’ | Glassdoor.com Blog

Blog post that summarizes the best sections of a newly published manuscript by Mark Twain, who probably wrote it around 1890. It lampoons the journalistic interview, saying “True, he (the journalist conducting the interview) means well, but so does the cyclone.”

Change This – THE FASCINATION FACTOR

Mark Levy, the founder of Levy Innovation, a marketing strategy firm, publishes a very persuasive “manifesto” that argues that writers should focus on what compels them, and not just market trends, when writing books and book proposals.

Small museums provide great sources for writers « The Writing Loft

John J. Gillmore discusses the joys of tapping small, specialized museums for research projects related to articles or books.

Enhance Your Travels by Keeping an Illustrated Journal | BootsnAll Travel Articles

Cynthia Morris provides a quick list of reasons to improve your experience of your trip and the memories of it afterward by using journals to record words and images related to your travels. The post is also a good argument for why anyone, traveling or not, might want to keep this type of journal.

Live a Writer’s Life with your Kids

Guest post on Imagination Soup blog by Jennifer Cervantes, author of Tortilla Sun, on ways to engage your children in writing-type activities with you.

Nieman Reports | News-Focused Game Playing: Is It a Good Way to Engage People in an Issue?

Nora Paul and Kathleen A. Hansen, winners of a Knight News Center grant to explore new ways to help readers/viewers engage with complex news stories, discuss their pilot project that had audiences play online games and engage in other activities to better understand an issue in the news.

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From the archives: A Writer’s Guide to Twitter

I did a series last year on how to use the microblogging social media platform Twitter as a writing coach, and realized the other day that this 3-part series fit right in with my continuing “A Writer’s Guide” series. (You can visit the posts I did recently on blogging and podcasting for writers.)

Here are links to each post in the Twitter series, with a quick explanation of what you’ll find there.

Part 1: Learn from Twitter poetry
Why (and how) nonfiction writers can learn about how to write with brevity and meaning by studying the Twitter version of haiku poetry, Twiku.

Part 2: The art of the retweet
A discussion of what content gets shared on Twitter via a “retweet” and what that says about how to write compelling stories.

Part 3: Digesting bite-sized research
How journalists are using Twitter to crowdsource ideas, find sources and track trends.

Here are a few new links about Twitter as it relates to writing …

Is J-school relevant? (#wjchat)
Multimedia journalism educator Mindy McAdams, on her Teaching Online Journalism blog, summarizes a recent Twitter chat she moderated. The chat was organized by WebJournalist.org and discussed the relevance of journalism education in today’s media landscape.

How To Live Tweet A Conference
Mark Stelzner, writing on the Inflexion Advisors blog, offers a compact post full of tips on the right way to live-tweet conference proceedings on Twitter.

From Telegraph to Twitter: The Language of the Short Form
Roy Peter Clark gets into microblogging and writes about it on the Poynter Online – Writing Tools blog.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for June 23, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

300 Words
300 Words is a project developed by Erik Proulx and Hugh MacLeod which is designed to put some peer pressure on writers to keep writing. Inspired by Hugh’s “daily quota,” it is a space is for anyone who wants to make a modest commitment to writing 300 words per day.

The Five Unwritten Rules of Guest Posting on Blogs – Danny Brown
Danny Brown, a social media marketer, gives tips for writing a guest post for someone else’s blog that helps your brand and your cause.

5 Ways Traditional Journalists are Embracing Social Media
Lauren Dugan, writing on the Social Times blog, discusses the ways in which web-savvy journalists are using social media to create better content.

What All Content Creators Need to Learn From Roger Ebert | Copyblogger
Mark Dykeman discusses what Roger Ebert’s journey, in which his voice has been silenced by cancer surgery that took the lower part of his jaw, but his writing is more prolific than ever, can teach writers and other content creators.

Create an online newsroom that reporters will love
Jessica Levco, writing on Ragan’s PR Daily, shares 10 tips for publicists from Pete Codella, CEO of Codella Marketing, that relate to building an effective newsroom for a company. Every one of them I can relate to–they make journalists happy!

The rise of page view journalism means companies must generate their own media
By Tom Foremski, writing on the Every Company Is A Media Company blog, discusses the rather distressing consequences of media companies assigning stories on the basis of the page rank they are expected to generate, and how smaller companies (and story sources) can combat this.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for June 6, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

Is J-school relevant? (#wjchat)

Multimedia journalism educator Mindy McAdams, on her Teaching Online Journalism blog, summarizes a recent Twitter chat she moderated. The chat was organized by WebJournalist.org and discussed the relevance of journalism education in today’s media landscape, what would replace j-school (internships, etc.) and what j-schools might teach to help students compete in today’s vastly changed journalism world. She also links to a full transcript of the chat, which is awesome and info-packed!

Lost Remote | How to be a good PR person – or PR client

Steve Safran reminds flacks and their clients to “remember what we write about” and asserts that providing signal, not noise, to online and traditional journalists will result in influence that will carry a company’s or individual’s story much farther.

How To Live Tweet A Conference

Mark Stelzner, writing on the Inflexion Advisors blog, offers a compact post full of tips on the right way to live-tweet conference proceedings on Twitter.

Journalists to Follow

Very nice two-part list (this is part 1) from the Society of Professional Journalists’ publication, Quill. What’s especially nice is that they include a Q+A with each person about the future of journalism. (Here is part 2, if you are interested.)

73 Ways to Become a Better Writer | Copyblogger

Mary Jaksch, Chief Editor of Write to Done blog, shares dozens of suggestions for improving your writing, as shared by WTD blog readers.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for May 13, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

Top 10 blogs for freelance writers | WordCount
Michelle Rafter shares her favorite blogs for those who write nonfiction. The links include blogs focusing on business journalism, professional blogging tips, even one devoted to the cable series “Mad Men.”

Are You Meant to Be a Writer? | Fuel Your Writing
Susannah Freeman poses this intriguing question to blog readers and the responses (including Freeman’s take on the matter) make for interesting and inspiring reading.

How You Reduce External Distractions to Sit Down and Write?
Joanna, author of Confident Writing blog, posed this question on Facebook and Twitter, and she shares the responses she got from other writers about how to focus and get writing assignments done.

eBook Review: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Passive Income
Susan Johnston, writing on Urban Muse Blog, reviews Thursday Bram’s book about how to turn how to generate additional revenue streams through entrepreneurial writing projects, including e-books, niche websites, classes, newsletters, and other products (web-based and offline).

Web Writing: Who Sets the Standards? | FreelanceSwitch
Kristen Fischer discusses the potential for stylebook clashes between the Associated Press style guide, which is used by most journalists working on the web, and the soon-to-be released online style guide, “The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World.”

Online journalism and the promises of new technology, PART 1: The revolution that never happened | Online Journalism Blog
Steen Steenson introduces a 3-part series about online journalism and how the Internet has impacted the practice of journalism. Steen asks “Why … is online journalism still mostly all about producing written text to a mass audience? Why is use of multimedia, hypertext and interactivity still so rare?”

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A Writer’s Guide to Blogging


It seems a little silly to call blogs new media, since they’ve existed since the late 1990s. Still, they are a new way for writers to engage with an audience and have been viewed with suspicion by mainstream journalists for far too long.

Blogs represented the vanguard of the social web, a place in which unfiltered (or lightly filtered) give and take between writers and readers — not to mention the informational cross-pollination that hyperlinking adds to the mix — has reshaped the expectations of the people formerly known as the audience. Ignoring blogging as a writer is possible in 2010, but it doesn’t seem very smart.

If you’ve never considered blogging before, there are a number of ways in which it could enhance your writing career.

  • A blog provides a readily available sample of your writing style, tone, range, etc.
  • Blogging can encourage daily writing and stretching oneself to create fresh content.
  • Blogging can provide useful feedback from potential readers for test marketing your story ideas.
  • Blogs are a good way to claim your expertise within a specified niche and connect with others who share that interest.
  • Creating a popular blog can help you build “platform” for a book or film project.

There are entire sites dedicated to how to write well for blogs. I happen to like ProBlogger and Skelliwag. Here are a few tips for nonfiction writers who are ready to take the plunge into blogging.

Tips for creating a must-read blog

1. Start reading blogs if you don’t already. I can’t stress this enough. I have been amazed, when discussing blogging with folks in the corporate world, how many of them are all ready to fire up a blog without having ever read one in their life. While Web 2.0 technology has made the barrier to entry for tools like blogs non-existent, it doesn’t ensure that you will produce content anyone wants to read.

In this post, I include links to some good writing blogs. Visit some of them and see if you like them. Leave a comment on a post if it moves you. Once you’ve got 5-10 blogs you want to read regularly, pick an aggregation service, such as My Yahoo, or Google Reader, that will bring RSS feeds from the blogs to you. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to keep up with your favorite bloggers this way.

For further instruction in how to set up a blog aggregator system:

Creating a passion dashboard | Creative Liberty

When you care to aggregate the very best | Guy Kawasaki

2. Claim your niche. Even if you’re planning on writing a free-wheeling blog about your personal literary adventures, recognize that your posts will have a personality and tone that differentiates them from everyone else’s blog. I often liken writing a blog to writing a column in a newspaper or magazine–people rarely read columns just because they want to know “about cars,” or “about” humorist Dave Barry’s improbable life. They’ve connected to the specific type of content delivered, the style and column’s offerings over time.

If you’ve been reading blogs for a little while before starting your blog, you’ll probably get a good idea where you fit within the section of the blog-o-sphere in which you want to become known. If not, ask yourself what you want to write about, then narrow it several times by subtopics, demographic groups (old hippies vs. Generation Y professionals), or your skill level or role in relation to the blog topic (passionate hobbyist, skilled teacher, detached documentarian).

3. Let your hair down… The best blogs read like a conversation. The blogger talks to readers like he would to his friends or colleagues, and commenters reply in the same spirit. The conversation can be serious, technical or even contentious, but it doesn’t become pedantic or bureaucratic.

Corporate blogs have to work hard to achieve this sort of authentic dialogue; if you are able to connect with other bloggers and blog readers (through linking or commenting on other blogs  or other methods), you, as a solo blogger, may have an easier time expressing yourself with your authentic voice. And as a writer, being able to express in a style that is clear and genuine should always be your goal.

4. …But have some boundaries. Mostly, use common sense. What would you think if your post was printed in a magazine or newspaper?

Privacy is one of social web’s biggest battlegrounds. Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg reportedly doesn’t think much of privacy. And we’ve all met contacts on social media who commit other over-sharing faux pas. But even if you’re legitimately revealing intimate details in the service of a post that showcases your writing abilities, keep in mind that the reader won’t have the same investment in the minutae of your life as you do. (But identity thieves might!)

More quick tips for successful blogging

  • Plan ahead. I make a blog post calendar every month. I often deviate from the posts I say I’m going to write, but it does make me think through my content and research posts ahead of time.
  • Break a long post into a series of posts. I’m not really following my own wisdom in this post, but if your post is more than 1000 words, consider parceling it out over 2 or 3 posts.
  • Understand, but don’t abuse, visit-boosting strategies. You should put your best posts on sharing sites like Digg and StumbleUpon. It’s OK, while you’re reading the blogs of others, to link to relevant posts on your own blog in your comments to them. However, if your entire life online looks to a third party as if all you do is seek blog visits, it will turn people off.

Bonus links on blogging

Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2009 | Copyblogger

Here are 10 great blogs to visit for information on writing and blogging.

Nonfiction Tweets: 70+ Authors to Follow on Twitter

Many of these tweeting authors also have excellent blogs.

How to Decide What Blogs to Read (4 Steps) | American Express OPEN Forum
Author Rohit Bhargava gives four great tips for figuring out whose blogs to follow — and how.

10 Pathways to Inspired Writing | Copyblogger
Power blogger Matthew Cheuvront offers 10 somewhat surprising tips on how to perk up your blog posts. He makes such heretical suggestions as reading actual (paper) books and listening to entire music albums from beginning to end!

How to Keep Your Readers Coming Back to Your Blog | Social Media Examiner
How to use the CODA (Content, Outreach, Design and Action) system to improve one’s business blog.

9 Ways People Respond to Your Content Online
Great post on the Lateral Action blog that sketches out how people respond to material online, and how to truly engage them with your stuff.

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A Writer’s Guide to Podcasting

Photo courtesy of SXC.

With this post, I’m starting a new series introducing readers to new media tools and venues they may not be familiar with. For the most part, I’ll stick with things that I’m familiar with, but a few of them may require me to learn along with you!

Podcasting is something that I’ve become a lot more familiar with in the past year. I suggested and organized a podcasting series at my day job, and I was offered the chance to co-produce a podcast series with a fellow blogger, Dee Wilcox of Creative Perch.

Why do a podcast?
It already takes quite a bit of work to be a good nonfiction writer, why bother diving into podcasting, too? Here are several compelling reasons, some practical, some philosophical:

  • If you want to work in the future, you will need to understand how a story can be presented across a variety of media–from print to audio to video to social media. Newspaper journalists are learning this one the hard way. Traditional journalism skills now form the core of a writer or reporter’s education–not the whole thing. Podcasting can be done on the cheap and is an easy way to demonstrate you know multimedia.
  • Podcasting improves your presentation skills. The days when you could depend on your portfolio to speak for itself are over. Journalists, particularly print journalists, are not renowned for their self-promotion skills or for their ability to connect with a live audience. Monica O’Brien, writing on her Social Pollination blog, makes the case that producing a podcast that you star in on-air can help you become a more spell-binding presenter:

“Don’t get me wrong, I can get through a presentation with a little practice and a powerpoint.  Most people can, but most also have plenty of room for improvement in their presentations … After some thought, I have concluded that the best way for someone to improve their presentation skills is through new media outlets, specifically a podcast or vodcast.

“The learning curve is steep, but worth the investment; in my observation you can make huge improvements on your presentation skills within 3 to 4 ‘casts.  How?  Well, obviously the practice helps, but there’s something that sets a podcast/vodcast apart from just doing lots of speeches – instant feedback … That’s what a podcast or vodcast allows for, which is why your presentation skills will improve more after a few ’casts than after an entire semester of Required Speech Class 101.”

  • Podcasting allows you to test market your ideas and stories. Britt Bravo, presenting at the February 2009 San Francisco Writers Conference, asserts that podcasting and blogging are ideal vehicles for gathering valuable marketing information about which topics and angles are popular among core members of their audience. In a book publishing environment where authors are expected to build their own “platform” before their book comes out, knowing who likes your work and will return again and again to it is crucial. Who knows? If they like it that much, they might even pay for it.
  • Podcasting forces you to write for the ear! Books that focus on the writer’s craft constantly discuss the need to read your work aloud. Poets, I’ve found, often make crackerjack reporters because they understand rhythm and meter in writing and use it to good effect in their writing. When you produce a podcast, all you have is the spoken word–yours and those of your interviewees–to carry your story along. (You can also use “wild” sound to tell a story, but that’s another post.) My first attempts at interviewing in a podcast required MASSIVE editing of my remarks afterwards–my sources did OK, but I realized that I tend to ask 3 questions at once, instead of one tightly focused one. In an e-interview, this might work, but when replayed out loud, it’s chaos! Later, when I was recording an intro for a podcast interview, I realized that the 1 paragraph “frame” I had created for my program, while it looked good on paper, was impossible for me to record without falling all over myself. Many rewrites and “takes” later, I had a simpler, less tongue-twisting version. Podcasting will make you a more ruthless editor of your own work–for the simple reason that you will have to listen to it over and over and over!
  • It’s possible to make money podcasting. You won’t necessarily be able to retire to your dream mansion, but plenty of people have made money directly or indirectly from their podcasts. Mashable had a great post late last year about 9 business models for podcasting and provided real-life examples for each. In an era when entrepreneurial journalism is on the rise, being able to figure out how to monetize the content you’re producing is a very good skill to have.

Getting started

OK, so you’d like to try to produce a podcast. One of the advantages writers have over many other podcasters is that we’re comfortable with interviews and many of us have a feel for how to organize content, either on the fly or via post-interview editing. You’ll want to lean on those skills heavily as you plan your first podcast.

Laying out the process step-by-step is beyond the scope of this post, but here are a few resources that can help you get there.

How to Create Your Own Podcast – A Step-by-Step Tutorial
About.com Guide Corey Deitz walks would-be podcasters through the basics of podcasting in detail.

How to Create Your Own Podcast With No Technical Knowledge
Deitz calls this guide, updated late last year, “Podcasting for Dumb Dumbs.” But it really just strips out the technical know-how and shows you some easy ways to focus on content and let web-based vendors help you record and produce your show.

Editing for Story
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer of the Speaking of Faith radio show, discusses the art of editing audio to tell true stories on the SOF Observed blog.

CBC Dispatches (Part 2): composing with sound
Second installment of a 2-part series on the Nieman Storyboard blog about the art of radio documentary storytelling. Wonderful tips and examples to help the reader understand how to make the most of the audio medium.

CDC – Podcast Best Practices
Ideas for effective podcasting from the Centers for Disease Control. Who would have thought a government agency would have such good advice on new media?

Podcasting Toolbox: 70+ Podcasting Tools and Resources
This Mashable.com’s guide is fairly old (2007) but so comprehensive it’s worth checking out.

10 Podcasts for Writers Worth Listening To
Dustin Wax of the Writer’s Technology Companion outlines 10 podcasts that either feature writers or are of use to writers who plan to podcast.

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From the archives: Who Am I This Time? Roles Editors Play

Photo courtesy of Jef Bettens via SXC.

(Note: This is a reprint of one of the first posts I produced for Write Livelihood. I reread it the other day and realized how much I still agree with this essay and how much of it still holds true for me. Enjoy!)

I never set out to be an editor. When I pledged myself to the writer’s life (at age 13, flushed with enthusiasm after reading the fictional exploits of S.E. Hinton’s character Ponyboy Curtis in the young adult novel “The Outsiders”), I had the opinion that the role of editor pretty much boiled down to being a copy editor, the leader of the hazardous “comma patrol” that must be run through most stories before they are published.
This opinion was further burnished in college when I got a B+ in a copy editing course. I actually did pretty well in everything except headline-writing, at which I failed miserably because it required that I master the now-archaic skill of producing titles that fit with in a specified “count,” but the course put a bad taste in my mouth for editing. I decided I really was a writer, and should focus my energies on marketing my prose-crafting skills to the world.
That would have been lovely, except for the fact that the world I encountered after j-school graduation seemed to need editors a lot more acutely than it needed writers. Or if they needed writers, they needed authors who could re-write the prose of executives, line managers, degreed professionals, or volunteer retirees.
Despite working at several jobs with the title “editor,” it wasn’t until 2005 that I realized how much of an editor I was, or had become. I attended a conference hosted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s College and University Editor group, and heard Jacqui Banaszynski describe the story coaching method she used with her writers at the Seattle Times.
Story coach. There was an editorial metaphor I could get behind. I suddenly realized that my view of myself as primarily a proofreader and fact-checker for my publication’s writers had been very, very incomplete.
After my editorial epiphany, I started collecting metaphors for the sort of editing I’ve done, primarily as a managing editor for magazines and other print publications. (I’ve also done quite a bit of multimedia production, but that’s another topic for another day.) Beyond having a good command of language and grammar and style, as a good copy editor does, a managing or assignment editor is also a(n)…
Project Manger. For publications that run more than about 16 pages, and have advertisements, having one person who plans the entire issue’s content, and can monitor its journey from idea to completed draft, is essential. Someone has to be there to work out the kinks in workflow (and even to recognize there is such a thing as workflow!).
Traffic Cop. Knowing where the missing story is for next issue is one thing; having the wherewithal to go find out what’s wrong and how to get if fixed is another. Editors have to advocate for what’s best for their publication—from the quality of the articles to how they are presented in the design to their impact on readers.
Architect. Editors have to be conversant in structure, both on the level of an individual story and the structure of an entire issue of a periodical. They have to be able to help writers construct articles that will withstand reader inspection, and they have to be able to design a space where an entire of “community” of articles can live and play together in a manner appealing to outside visitors (= readers).
Mom. As an editor, I am a professional hand-holder and on occasion, a butt-wiper. I make sure stories have everything they need to thrive, and help clean up the messes that are made along the way. I have to care about my stories and my publication more than almost anyone else on staff. I can never foist responsibility for their development on anyone else.
8th grade English teacher. Ahh, middle school English—in my time, 8th grade was the year everyone drilled on sentence diagramming and the parts of speech. Editors have to care about proper language use—not primarily because we’re the guardians of civilized syntax, but because poorly constructed sentences distract from good thinking and consistency in writing helps the story shine through.
Coach. As I said earlier, this was the metaphor that resonated most deeply for me. I’m thinking of a life coach or voice coach for my parallels, not Vince Lombardi. My job is to help the story—and the writer—be all that he, she or it can be. It’s a collaborative relationship which, if done correctly, provides benefits for everyone.
And while we’re on the subject of roles, there are a few roles I’d rather not be cast in as an editor.
A Sadist. I don’t send stories back for revision to shame or humiliate writers. If you want that sort of relationship with an editor, please find a professional dominant and work out your issues.
A Writer’s Enemy. If the story fails, I fail, too. Period. My aim is to support my writers so that they can provide deliverables that do the job assigned in as few drafts as possible.
A Frustrated, Mediocre Writer. I didn’t become an editor because I couldn’t write. Quite the contrary — and the more I learn about editing, the better able I am to apply it to my own writing. In my mind, an editor who “can’t” write is suspect as an editor.
Miss Priss. I have had some contributors, often less-experienced writers, seem to fear my opinion of their writing, as if I existed as an editor to lacerate their initial efforts at writing. I don’t take joy in marking up poorly written copy (see the I-am-not-an-editorial-sadist statement above); what I enjoy is the challenge of making it better. What I find is that more experienced, confident writers feel the least defensive around editors; they tend to be the most realistic about their writing ability, and trust and appreciate the benefits they receive from collaborating with an editor.

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