Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A careful editor

I'm careful about my editing, but a lot of editors aren't. Once, a heavy-handed magazine copy editor totally rewrote my story; so much so that I didn't recognize it when I leafed through the magazine.

The big problem, though, is lazy newspaper editors picking a short anecdote to cut out of a story; even if it's a great anecdote, they cut it out. Or they end-cut the story.

They're more worried about making the story fit. Quality? Not so much.

I remember one particular editor whacking one of my stories that way, and I was furious. If I'd known he was going to do that, I'd have asked him to let me trim it myself.

Years before, I wrote a newspaper article about a swimmer from Alsace, France, named Philip Roth. His first name was pronounced the French way (Fee-LEAP), and Roth is a German name (Alsace is on the German border). It was a big deal to me because he was swimming for a college team in North Carolina. He seemed out of place.

The editor cut out the fact that Roth looked like German tennis player Ivan Lendl and spoke with a German accent but had grown up in France. He cut out the reason for me writing the story in the first place!

I asked him to fix it, but he said he was too busy. So I went into the computer and rewrote it, putting the info back and trimming it to fit his chosen length. It could have gotten me fired, but I didn't care. I wanted the reason for the story in there.

I remember the first editor (the one who cut anecdotes) being impatient as I cut a story of his to fit. I didn't cut out sections. I trimmed it carefully to make it fit and to let his writing shine.

I wish I could have taught him to do that.

Remember: I try to edit in such a way that the writer (and the reader) can't tell I've been there.


Entries from The Dog Blog

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

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

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