Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What editors want? -- writing tip

From the email:

Question from a former student: We contracted for 2000 words, but I did a lot of research on that article, so I included all the information, thinking I'd let the editor pick and choose. She sent it right back saying she wanted only 2,000 words and for me to cut it down. I thought that was her job. What do editors want, anyway?

Answer: By sending more information, without realizing it, you doubled her work and asked her spend time doing something she shouldn't have to do. She doesn't get paid to make decisions for you. She gets paid for filling up space in the magazine with prose. The prose all has to fit within a certain framework. If the story or article is too big for the "hole", then she's in big trouble and has lots of extra work to do while many other duties wait.

Making work for an editor is a sure way to get on their "no" list which will last as long as that editor has that job, and will follow her to all her later assignments at other magazines. Just the mention of your name will bring a wince.

So if they ask for 2000 words, send them 2000, not 2001. Don't try to impress them by showing all the information you gathered (a GOOD thing, sure, shows you were thorough, I do understand why you did it), but just choose the most important and go from there.

Speaking as a sometime editor, here’s MY list in order of importance:
1. Good clean mistake-free copy that arrives well before deadline.
2. Coherent and organized prose that is never confusing to the reader.
3. Authors who will listen to what the editor is saying about the assignment and will produce the desired results the editor has asked for without going off on a tangent of their own.
4. Authors who will pay attention to length requirements. Three thousand words means “three thousand Words, or LESS”. It doesn’t mean 3001 words. Shorter lengths are easy to make longer.
5. Stories or information that readers will enjoy, or that will benefit them in some way.
6. Authors who don’t take unnecessary time. Who ask just enough questions to know what’s wanted then go away and produce it without talking about their grandchildren, dogs or in-growing toenails.
7. Authors who don’t telephone or send twenty e-mails a day wanting to know when their book, or story, or article, will be finished and/or published.
8. Authors who listen to suggestions and produce results without whining.
9. Clear, concise, informative prose without repetition or padding.
10. Artistry with words.

No comments:

Post a Comment