Guest Post: 19 Editorial Tips From a Senior Editor

We have a special treat today, a guest post by a prolific freelancer who knows a lot about getting along with editors. We are pleased that she agreed to share valuable tips on this blog.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen is a full-time freelance writer on Bowen Island, BC, Canada, who writes for a variety of national publications. She maintains 3 blogs: Quips & Tips for Freelance Writers, Quips & Tips for Achieving Your Goals, and Quips & Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility.

—————————————-
19 Editorial Tips From a Senior Editor
by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

These writing and editorial tips are from a senior editor I write for regularly – and they include some of the most frequent errors she sees in article submissions. Pay attention, fellow scribes, because even when you think you’ve got writing down to a fine art, there’s always more to learn!

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage – as long as you edit brilliantly,” says C. J. Cherryh. Don’t let writer’s block or fear paralyze you. Instead, jot it all down…and edit until you can edit no more.

Quote Your Sources Properly

1. Always include your source list when submitting your article. Include references and links to any studies, research, findings, and people that you reference in your article.

2. Avoid using sources that don’t seem 100% reliable/trustworthy (such as authors of some self-help books). Avoid referring books that are old or out of print (unless it’s a classic), and avoid using too many sources in one article.

3. Don’t refer to a source as a book’s author, when he or she is actually a co-author. Be careful when identifying a book’s title. Make sure you get the title 100% correct.

4. Include and list a source’s academic credentials after his or her name (use Andrew Weil, M.D., at first reference, not Dr. Weil). Add Ph.D. to the source’s name if warranted; it may be taken for granted to you if a scientist is being quoted, but this adds an element of trustworthiness for the reader. Refer to dietitian sources as “R.D.,” not “nutritionist” (no academic degree or certification is required to call oneself a nutritionist). Seek out registered dietitians over “nutritionists” as sources.

5. Don’t unnecessarily cap the professional title of a source: “Chief Scientist” instead of “chief scientist.”

Write Accurately

6. Avoid making overly speculative comments and overpromising results, especially in articles about things like dieting. “You’ll lose 5 pounds in 2 weeks with this plan” is a statement that is dangerous and could result in a lawsuit. Avoid calling a weight-loss study a breakthrough, miracle, etc.

7. Include relevant information that would interest readers, such as where a certain product or procedure is available, when it’ll be available to the public if not yet on the market, etc.

8. Use reliable sources, especially for health information, such as nutrition or diets. Make sure your sources are government-endorsed (National Institute of Health) or widely recognized (Tufts University). There are far too many homemade/sketchy nutrition Web sites.

9. Avoid reliance on a very small study and attributing its results as conclusive/authoritative.

10. Don’t give medical advice that’s unsubstantiated or not evidence-based.

11. Make sure your articles present both sides of a controversial issue.

Pay Attention to Grammar and Punctuation

12. Avoid the overuse of parenthetical phrases for descriptions or details. Brackets are “speed bumps” to readers, and may cause them to stop reading.

13. Punctuate appositive phrases properly.
* Bad: Common-sense measures like washing your hands or getting a flu shot, can go a long way toward preventing or greatly decreasing your risk for getting one or more of these viral illnesses.
* Good: Common-sense measures, such as washing your hands or getting a flu shot, can go a long way toward preventing or greatly decreasing your risk for getting one or more of these viral illnesses.

14. Avoid using the plural instead of singular when referring to body parts.
* Bad: Everyone needs to be concerned about the health of their brains.
* Good: Everyone needs to be concerned about the health of their brain. (Each person has only one brain!)

15. Watch for sloppy construction.
* Bad: The FDA urged the public to only eat peanut butter until further notice.
* Good: The FDA urged the public to eat peanut butter only from jars until further notice. (Otherwise, it sounds like the public should eat peanut butter to the exclusion of every single other food in the world!)
* Bad: fatty foods you should eat every day.
* Good: 6 healthy-fat foods (Nobody should eat 6 fatty foods every day!)

Miscellaneous Editorial Tips

16. Avoid referring to readers in unflattering or unpleasant ways (eg, “chubby” or “dim-witted”).

17. For expert Q&A articles, focus on the reader’s question. Don’t supplement the piece with related topics until you have answered the reader’s question.

18. Include your proposed title and subtitle (dek) with your article submission or query pitch. Deks could be sentence case (not capitalized).

19. Do not submit your text in any color other than black.

Again, many thanks to Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen for sharing these tips.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

,
,
,
,
,
,
,
.
,

Advertisements

Sell That Article Before You Write It

It always amazes me to learn that someone will spend hours writing an article and then try to find a publication to buy it. That’s really a backwards way to go and often a waste of time.

Consider this: Although you may have great interest in the subject you’re writing about, the publication may not have the same interest. I can name at least three other reasons why you should sell that article before you write it.

1.  The editor may have a similar article scheduled for publication or in his inventory.

2.  Yours may be a topic that the editor hates — or one that’s not popular with the readers. Remember this truth: editors know what their readers want to read in the publication and that’s always foremost in their editorial planning. (Did you check the editorial calendar?)

3.  The subject of your article may be one that is regularly covered by a staff member, or it may be a specialty of a writer who is one of the magazine’s trusted freelancers. (A careful study of the writer’s guidelines and several back issues of the magazine can give you a clue about this).

Those reasons don’t apply for humor or very short articles. A query usually is not needed for those pieces but you still need to check guidelines and back issues to see if the publication uses similar pieces before submitting yours.

Otherwise, a query is your best route to a sale. Sometimes, even when a query is rejected, the writer still can make a sale. I recall twice when the timing of my queries was off. My queries were turned down because both editors had already assigned similar articles to other freelancers — but both also ended up assigning me articles on different subjects for upcoming issues, and one of them was a cover story! The editors knew my work because I had written for them previously. A well-crafted query may also earn you an assignment for a different article, whether or not you have already written for a particular publication.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

,
,
,
,
,
,


Any questions?

It just occurred to me that some of you might have writing questions you’d like answered.

While I admit I don’t know all the answers, I have done quite a bit of non-fiction writing over the last 30 years and most of that work has been published in magazines and newspapers, plus I’ve done a lot of copywriting.

So I do know about those specialties. And I’m willing to try to answer your questions about writing, editing, proofreading, getting published, copywriting and working with editors and corporate clients — or to direct you to experts who can provide the help you are seeking.

Send your questions to me at LDDaley@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer them here.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

,
,
,
,
,
,
,
.


Variety Can Spice up Your Life And Your Writing

We’d soon get bored if we ate the same foods every day or always went to the movies on Friday nights. Even the most delectable dish becomes trite if we are expected to enjoy it on a regular basis.

Variety is what we crave in our diets and our entertainment, and readers are entitled to enjoy a bit of variety in our writing, if we want them to read an entire article or every chapter of a book.

Here are a few ways to bring variety to your writing:

1. Avoid a string of brief and simple sentences.
2. Follow a group of long sentences with a short, two or three word sentence.
3. Replace the usual subject, verb and object or complement sentence by one using an adverb modifier at different spots in a sentence. Each change brings a different emphasis to the sentence. Here’s one example:

“For two consecutive days, the lawyer relentlessly questioned the defendant, despite many objections.
Despite many objections, the lawyer relentlessly questioned the defendant for two consecutive days.
The lawyer, for two consecutive days, relentlessly questioned the defendant, despite many objections.”

4. Invert the normal word order of sentences. You can create different effects by your choice of words. A website called Buzzin notes how poets and song lyricists often change the order of things to create a rhythmic effect, as composer Cole Porter did this with these lyrics:

I’ll sing to him, each spring to him
And long for the day when I’ll cling to him,
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I.”

You can see how that last line would have been much weaker if the composer had written “I am bewitched, bothered and bewildered” in the usual subject, verb object/complement form.

Probably the best way to achieve variety in our writing is to write like we talk. Most of us don’t speak our sentences with a subject, verb and object. We talk in fragments, our sentences run on and on, we make statements, we ask questions, we sometimes shout our words — our speech is filled with variety.

When we capture those patterns on paper or on the computer screen, we truly have variety. And readers are more likely to stay with us to find out what we have to say.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

,
,
,


Guest Post: “A Freelance Writer is Always Full of Ideas”

Today we have a guest post by Sean Platt, a Long Beach, California freelancer and a prolific writer. All of us — new freelancers and veteran writers alike — can profit from Sean’s insights and his wise advice. Sean has two blogs, writerdad, and ghostwriterdad.
————————————————————
A Freelance Writer is Always Full of Ideas
by Sean Platt
The demands of running an online business or blog can be daunting. The writing requirements are easy enough at first, as our passion is inflamed and mental stamina untested. Soon enough our spirits are tested and we hit that invisible retaining wall that every blogger eventually finds themselves colliding against.

What on earth will I write about today? Our dashboard grows suddenly daunting and we wonder if we will ever pull another original thought from inside us. There isn’t any need to worry, for that is a well that has no bottom.

There are no limits to our thoughts, they are as endless as the breath we draw from the air that constantly swirls around us. In the past year, I’ve written the rough draft of a novel, a couple dozen children’s books, a manuscript for a young adult book, a few e-books, more than three hundred articles and archives of emails I could probably only count with a calculator.

At first, these articles were either written for my main site, Writer Dad, or guest posts related in some way. Once I entered the world of freelance, I was game to tap the keys over just about anything. In the last few months I’ve authored articles on everything from Alzheimer’s to zoology.

Do I ever run out of things to say?

No, of course not, but sometimes I find it difficult to stare down the blank page. That first slap of black smeared across the empty is always most difficult. Once I let my mind start to wander, it doesn’t matter if I’m talking green grass or gas grills, I can always settle on a perspective that is truly my own.

No blogger should ever fret for lack of fresh ideas. Running thought to vapor is inherently impossible. Once you hold the basic mechanics of writing, only your ideas need mining. Believe me, like running water you need only turn on the faucet.

When you find yourself deep in an inevitable dearth of good ideas, kick down the temporary wall in front of you. Head outside your blog and breathe the fresh atmosphere of a varied environment. Hop on the phone with a buddy, take a walk around the block; read a book or listen to some tunes. If you feel like staying in, fine, spend fifteen minutes in a favorite forum or tweeting on twitter, but feed your brain as best you can.

Our mind is easily inspired, but we cannot starve it and then expect it to feel fat.

Don’t worry about saying what someone else has said before. Your thoughts will mutate the message into something unique to you. Similar stories have been spread for thousands of years, but it is the voice inside each that makes them worth retelling.

Don’t worry about repeating yourself. We all do it. I’m doing it right now. Deja Vu doesn’t matter, so long as you’re spreading your message in a slightly different way (hopefully better then the last time) to a slightly different audience. Make sure you’re honest, passionate and fully articulate to the best of your ability.

I admit, the only times I find it difficult to fly is when I have next to zero interest in work beyond the paycheck. Even then the solution is simple. When I find myself faced with a subject that does little to light my imagination, I slip in through the back door. A quick Google search will yield a wealth of stories on any given subject. I find one that leaves me inspired, read it, then hit the keys renewed.

Writing is my profession. Like any job, it isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s necessary to bend my beak to the page and peck away until finished. Even at my most tired, when fear and doubt and worry come to crawl between my ears and worm inside my mind, at least I know a lack of ideas will never suspend my momentum.

Being a writer means my thoughts are always bouncing about with barely any boundaries. Doing it for a living means I need to make sure I grab hold of every one worth writing about.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

,
,
,
,
.


Some Tips about Profile Writing

Finally, I’m able to post an article about profile writing. My computer’s hard drive died two weeks ago and ever since I’ve been anxiously awaiting the computer’s return from the shop so I could get back to work.

I’m always eager to write about writing profiles — my favorite writing specialty. Over 30 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to sell scores of profile articles about individuals, companies and programs. You can, too. For much good information about profile writing, check out Lori Russell’s articles at Writers on the Rise.

For this post, I thought I’d go in a different direction with some insights that professional writers have shared about writing profiles. I think you will find these helpful:

Interviews with notable people are always salable, but a profile of someone in your community with an unusual hobby or profession or someone who has accomplished an interesting feat is just as marketable. (Berniece Roer Neal in “The Basics of a Saleable Magazine Article.” Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Writer’s Digest and other publications.)

When Sheryl James, a Detroit Free Press writer and a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing, talked about profile writing to newsroom staffers, she offered these tips:

I wish there was an easy formula for me to say about profiles, but every story is different . . . The main thing you’ve got to do is look at what you have and what major themes can you exploit here and can you use throughout the story.

She also said this:

With profiles, almost more than with any story that you do, you’ve got to have time to reflect. You’ve spent all this time gathering information, reading background, and all that kind of stuff, and it’s your instinct in this business to rush right into writing. I really think you need to pause to reflect for the profile. Really think, ‘What have I got here? What don’t I have? What are the high points?'”

Shirley Biagi, author of “How to Write and Sell Magazine Articles,” (she has more than 100 articles published in popular periodicals) advises:

The best profiles are filled with candid, original quotes, so be listening for them while you are interviewing. You’ll want to use significant statements your interviewee has made, not the ho-hum or the ordinary. Call attention to material that reveals your interviewee’s intellect or emotion.”

And Michael Schumacher in “Creative Conversations,” advises you to use quotes that reveal the person’s inner self:

You are wasting your reader’s time if your profile subject’s words give information that could be found elsewhere. Readers want thoughts, opinions, emotions, and ideas — anything that tells them something they don’t already know about the true person . . . Look for quotes that only that person could have given you. Let your reader in on that person’s inner self. The result will be a well-rounded, fully developed profile.”

I strongly agree. For any profile writer, always a well-rounded, fully developed profile should be our primary goal when we sit down at the computer.

© 2009 Laverne Daley

Please leave a comment.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

,
,
,
,
,