Editing + Two-Week Stories

Good seeing all. Plenty to cover…

First, for Tuesday:

  1. Remember to bring your finished, revised draft, now squeaky clean from your line edit (if you didn’t finish in class, do so tonight). Print it out and bring your laptop.
  2. Before class: Write up the feedback prompts you’d like in your peer edits, as discussed in class today. I’ve included examples below.
  3. Follow up with me on pitching out your current stories and your final story so we can ensure you have the best chance at getting published.

For revising and line editing, here’s what we came up with:


  • No class Friday. Have a great holiday
  • Your final stories – whether 2-week or 4-week – should be self-edited and revised and filed by next Thursday December 5th at 10 PM unless you are the kind of masochist who would like to try finishing on an all-nighter type of deadline (this actually has real-world value). If so, let me know and we can talk.
  • our final class is December 6th. For those with stories that are in the process of being published, I’ll be available to help in the week after.
  • Daniel will be presenting next Monday. Look for his email with readings. It’s going to be a good one.
  • Joaquin Palomino is here next Tuesday, December 3rd, from 3-5 PM, to talk about data journalism and provide a brief training session.

Resources for Editing, etc.

The Elements of Style

Example of Paramedic Method (video)

Cut this Story! – a great (short) piece by Michael Kinsley arguing for shorter stories. (This, BTW, is the type of thing we’ll focus on in the class I teach next semester)

That editing slide show from today


Editing Note Process for Tuesday

1) Make a first read, very thorough. Don’t edit the story per se, but jot down reactions as they happen in a notepad file to the side. The first gut feeling on something is often going to be the truest, and closest to how an ordinary reader may react.

2) Second read: Go back to the major points of emphasis.

  • Ask, OK, what have we left out?
  • Revisit the specific anxieties that the writer has expressed (weakness of a character, a thin spot where the information isn’t as robust as hoped, etc.)
  • Evaluate how feasible it is to address these weaknesses, and suggest alternative approaches (quotes, details we hoped to get but couldn’t).

3) Third read: This is where you copy edit, but more likely are tightening.

  • This can be delicate as you do not want to change the writer’s voice
  • But tightening is more than being a stickler. Tight writing communicates at least as much authority, confidence and expertise as the reporting and scenes it presents. In fact, the most thoroughly reported story can be undone by tentative or heavily qualified copy.
  • You want the writer to believe in themselves and in the truth of what they’ve done at all times.

4) The notes to the writer.

  • This is where you show your work, not only as a professional courtesy, but because it also helps articulate reactions to the story in a concise and respectful way.
  • Often times, you’ll be presented with a really good, really sellable story that works, but the writer, having spent so much time with it, is unsure if she’s really done something good. This is where you take the time to buck her up with some solid, concrete reasons why it’s good.
  • Format the note as follows: 1) Big picture and positive parts of the work 2) specific elements you liked, didn’t get, want more on, think need addressing 3) suggestions for alternative methods or ways of thinking, if applicable 4) final, considered thoughts

5) Communication is very important

  • What do you want to hear from an editor?
  • What would you feel obligated to say to a writer, as their editor?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s