I’m reminded today that I really enjoy editing, and that I’m really good at it.
We have a ridiculously wordy staff writer here who loves to write everything about everyone. Today, she turned in a 5,000-word personality profile (an article about a person). If that sounds like a whole lot of words to you, it’s because it is. No personality profile should ever roll longer than 2,500 words. In fact, really no article, unless it’s s super in-depth, should ever be more than 2,500 words. People just don’t want to read that much. And they certainly don’t want to read that much about one person, with quotes only from that one person. Yes, indeed, the only quotes in the article are by the subject of the story. That’s a bad thing, certainly.
As for the story, I tackled it gamely, first just doing a light editing and proofreading job. Having reached the end though, I said to my editor, “This is super, super long, and too many words.” She basically told me to have at it with my mad editing skills, and boy, did I ever. The 5,000-word article is now 2,700 words. I was told that it could stretch to 3,000 words, and I intend to have it that long, after the writer gets additional quotes from other people for me to add. I found out a few days ago that this particular writer emails all her questions to the story sources and subjects, so I made this task easier by writing out the sources I wanted, and the questions I wanted asked, and forwarded that to my editor. I do not want this girl to get this story back, so suggested that she just send the quotes back to us, and we’ll fix it all. And I’m holding on to it until it’s done.
The whole project of the article has put me in a splendid and productive mood. This is what I’m here for, and I finally feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If I can get my editor to let me tackle the articles first and fix them to the best of my abilities before she gets them, then I’ll feel like my purpose is a real one here. Also, I really enjoy doing this. It makes me happy, because I’m really good at it.
UPDATE: 20 minutes later.Having said all that, come to find out that we don’t have the time to send the article back to the writer for any additional quotes. My good feelings about the article, about it becoming something so much better, effectively go down the drain. And now I feel like it’s all kind of wasted, you know? I don’t understand what the what is going on, in that we don’t have time to make a story so much better for the magazine. All this editorial should be turned in way ahead of time, and there should be days and days to make it perfect. Sadly, no. *sigh*
UPDATE: 45 minutes later than that.
My editor read through the questions I had emailed her, and even not having read the article itself, she said she saw that the answers to those questions would be compelling for the story. So, she contacted the writer and asked her to get the additional quotes. I'm pretty excited to have gotten my way in this regard, but I fear that the writer may blow off the extra work and I'll be stuck with a less-than-awesome article on my hands anyway.