I’ve been working on a 2,000 word article for an outdoor magazine. Last night I submitted my first draft of that article to the editor. I say first draft because an editor will always want changes and in my experience those changes always produce a stronger article.
An editor knows their magazine better than anyone and a writer should always keep that in mind. As writers we should not fall in love with our writing. Writing is something malleable and the editor and the readers of the magazine always come first.
In editing down the manuscript, trying hard to reduce it to 2,000 words, I kept passing the sentence below. I liked it very much. I thought it explained a great deal in just a few words. So I didn’t edit it. Until the last draft in which I removed it entirely. It simply did not fit into the rest of the article but I kept denying that because I liked it. Are there entire sentences, not just words, that you can remove from your writing?
Reclamation districts are local entities paid by member property owners to maintain levees, canals, sloughs, pumps, and other infrastructure that protect farmland.
My poetry and fiction workshop at the Writers Studio (internal link) is in its second week and is proving to be interesting and challenging. Consider our current exercise:
Create a third-person narrator who’s observant and maybe witty, and have that narrator follow a character on his/her daily rounds. The character doesn’t have to be going any place special – the laundromat or the post office will do fine, as long as your character is reacting to something that’s already happened and as long as your narrator is tuned into the character’s mood. . . .
This is so far afield of my normal writing that I might as well be on the moon. In nonfiction magazine and newspaper writing there is little place for such creativity – we focus on the facts and not anyone’s mood, unless their mood and temperament come out in quotes. Or, if we have five thousand words to play with in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, or Rolling Stone.
Sticking with who, what, when, where, why and how is always the best approach. My past editors would all agree. But who knows? It’s possible that at the end of this course I might be able to incorporate some of its ideas into my nonfiction writing. For now, I must get back to that exercise.