Editorial Intervention: Thoughts from Craft Editor Julie Riddle
May 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
The good folks at the PressGang blog interviewed Brevity craft editor Julie Riddle recently, on finding work, accepting work, rejecting work, and working with the work to make it better. Here are some of Julie’s guiding philosophies:
Weak submissions are numerous and are easy to identify (too didactic or simplistic; predictable or conventional; sweeping generalizations; weak structure or style; lack of voice). Strong submissions – pieces that are tight and cohesive, that have something new to say or that arrive at clarity/understanding in new ways, with language that is fresh and surprising – are rare and stand out.
It’s the work in the middle that can be challenging to make decisions about. Especially when there’s been a dearth of strong submissions: the mediocre stuff starts to look pretty good and I begin talking myself into thinking they’re better than perhaps they really are.
Deciding on submissions is largely done through gut instinct. I’m still learning to trust my instincts. I allow plenty of time to consider pieces – I read submissions several times over a period of days. Clarity often comes in the in-between time.
And ideas on how to approach the editing process:
- Locate the strongest opening and closing paragraphs. They aren’t always the first and last paragraphs of the piece. Sometimes the essay begins in the second or third paragraph and the first sentences were the author clearing her throat. Sometimes an essay ends with the second-to-last paragraph and the final paragraph was the author wrapping up meaning with a pretty bow.
- Eliminate redundancy. Sometimes writers don’t trust that the reader will “get” what they mean and will make their point twice, implicitly and explicitly.
- Untangle awkward sentences. Move a paragraph or sentence elsewhere in the piece to tighten/clarify the section it had been in and support/enhance the section it joined.