Sunday, November 27, 2011

Needs rewriting

Found online: Virginia had only one run that gained more than five yards Saturday, and it came on a reverse by true freshman wideout Darius Jennings, who picked up 12 yards.

Let's trim this down to a tighter sentence:
Virginia had only one run that gained more than five yards Saturday, a 12-yarder on a reverse by freshman wideout Darius Jennings.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I like it

From a wire story: Then there's Tim Tebow, the person. Popular and polarizing, more like a politician than NFL player. Galvanizes backers and backbiters alike. People love him or loathe him.

The "love him or loathe him" line is old, but I like the "backers and backbiters alike" line.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Editorial groups and more

Editorial groups: If you're a writer, editor or general freelancer, you might check out my Freelance Writers and Editors group on Yahoo.

Columns for novelists: If you're a novelist, you might check out my columns for Savvy Authors. The links are on my web site.

Links: On my web site, I have links to some of my stories online.


Blogs:
If you have an editing or writing blog (or if you have a particular entry you're proud of), let me hear about it. It doesn't even have to be a writing or editing blog. I just like good writing. Thanks.

More later.

J-SCHOOL: Editors' choices

Years ago, a woman called the local newspaper and complained where we ran a story. She wanted to know who made the decision, and I told her it was probably the big editor. "Who does he think he is?" she asked. "He's the boss," I said. "It's his job to decide."

Actually, it wasn't always his job. Most copy editors make story placement decisions at one time or another. I did. In fact, I enjoy the choices part of journalism -- Where do we put this story? Should it go out front or inside? Should this story run at all?

We usually make the right choice, but sometimes good journalists get confused or lazy. 

In 1990, I had just finished covering a race at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham and settled down in a motel room to watch the TV sports news. They announced that Hank Gathers, the great All-American basketball player, had died, and I thought, "I know what will lead our sports section tomorrow." Amazingly, we ran that story in the lead of the sports briefs package. It was a matter of convenience, and, frankly, we blew it.

We did the same thing when a hockey goalie was in a car wreck and was effectively brain dead. It wasn't my decision; this was a great hockey player, and the story was bigger than the treatment we gave it. In both cases, there was second-guessing the next day at the budget meeting.

I think it was 1993 when Alan Kulwicki died. I was working the sports desk that night, and someone wanted to lead briefs with Kulwicki. It was the briefs syndrome rearing its head again, and I argued that the defending Winston Cup champion deserved better. Some papers would have put Kulwicki on the A front, not just the sports front.

In the end, we put Kulwicki atop the sports front, but it was a battle.

I don't want people to think I was always right; I wasn't. I made bad choices, too. But I did learn a lesson from all of those battles. I always left a "throwaway" spot on the sports front, at the top or bottom, in case someone died or another big story came in just before deadline. That story never jumped, so the important news story would have to stay on the front. But at least it'd make the paper, and we could follow it up the next day.

I wasn't going to put a great or important story in briefs.

More editing/writing blog entries

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Writing your first novel

In 1977, a friend of mine handed me his "novel," which was really his autobiography. I read it with interest, since I already knew most of the story. In many ways, my friend did a nice job. In others, his novel/autobiography came wanting.

There was no dialogue to spice the narrative. And it was all narrative. My friend said that his father was a mean man, but he didn't give examples. He didn't talk about family dinners and how he was bullied, how his dad showed favoritism among the children, whether his dad beat him.

If he'd written about beatings, he could have talked about his dad's choice of "weapon." Was it a strap, a belt, a switch? Did he choose the closest thing to hit him?


Were the beatings (if there were any) spontaneous or planned out? What was his dad thinking? And what was he thinking when his dad got in those moods?


We didn't learn any of those things. We only learned that he was a mean father.


On the other hand, we didn't hear about his dad's kindnesses either, since Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, the Marquis de Sade and Adolf Hitler all probably had generous and warm sides to go with the death and carnage. No one is all good or all bad, and we didn't hear about it.


And how did his father's rantings or whatever affect his mother and his brothers and sisters? Was his twin sister a help in those times? How did his father treat her?


There was so much to tell, a rich tapestry, if done well.


I explained to my friend that you need to show me, not tell me. And we talked a lot about how to weave one story line within another. He was surprised that I knew so much about writing. I don't know why; I'd read literally hundreds of novels and non-fiction books up to that point, and, frankly, I have a knack for this stuff.


Did his "novel" ever get published? Who knows? If it did, I just hope he added some dialogue and a few more details.


He was a great friend, and I believe I was a good friend to him. But he needed a good editor, too. I wasn't able to help him then, partly because he didn't realize that I could help. I could now. If only...

Who and whom

Here are several examples of who vs. whom that I've found recently:

Who is it: He's a believer, and so are many of the players, whom have taken on a different mentality, an altered approach, according to tailback Reggie Bush.
M
Let's change the middle of that to "...the players, who have taken..."

Yes, there are times to use whom, but who should get its due, too.

Found online: After all, whom are the Dolphins going to get to replace Sparano on an interim basis?

That's right. Who would work better here.

Another problem: Therefore, this notion that Rivera can hire someone who might be able to develop an offense that can highlight the skill set of Jimmy Clausen, or whomever is the quarterback, is a little farfetched.

Yes, whomever should be whoever.

Finally: South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde declared the Chad Henne era over and advised the Dolphins and their fans to move on to whomever the next guy is. 

Whoever is next will work fine.
More later.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Peaks and piques

Found online: This is part of a job posting for an unpaid internship.

Breaking News, Sports, entertainment, and the environment, what peaks your interest?

Nothing peaks your interest; it piques it.
Pique: to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.)

Sigh; more who vs. whom

Who is it: This is getting monotonous.

He's a believer, and so are many of the players, whom have taken on a different mentality, an altered approach, according to tailback Reggie Bush.
M
Let's change the middle of that to "...the players, who have taken..."

Yes, there are times to use whom, but who should get its due, too.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Too much rushing

Needs editing: And the defense was manhandled by Notre Dame’s running game, which piled up 212 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a victory that was never in doubt.

The writer talks about Notre Dame's running game, then piles on with rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. This can be re-written this way:

And the defense was manhandled by Notre Dame’s running game, which piled up 212 yards and three touchdowns in a victory that was never in doubt.


More editing/writing blog entries

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lazy editors

I've worked with copy editors who had a pat way of editing a story. They'd look for a little chunk of the story, perhaps an anecdote, that they could cut out.

Editors have done that to me many times. At least once, an editor cut out the reason for me writing the story. Another time that I recall, a different editor cut out the best anecdote in my story. In both cases, the stories were watered-down, weakened because of the editing.

Recently, an editor cut out three sentences from a quote to shorten the story. He'd have been better off just paraphrasing the quote. If I'd known he was going to do that, I'd have paraphrased the darn thing, since he cut out the best sentence in the whole story.

Other times, editors have end-cut my stories. And, often, they were leaving out the best part.

Lazy, lazy, lazy.

It did, however, teach me to put all of the good stuff in the first few paragraphs of the story, if possible.


More SpeedEditor blog entries

Blog entries on The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

Friday, November 11, 2011

This sentence needs work

No, sorry: As a former player and now an assistant head coach in Green Bay, players believe Moss knows his stuff.

This sentence makes it sound like the players are a former player and now assistant head coach in Green Bay.

It would read better this way: Players believe Moss, a former player and now an assistant head coach in Green Bay, knows his stuff.


More SpeedEditor blog entries