Editing

In stretch as a student journalist I’ve never worked on a feature article for as long as I’ve worked on this one. It’s a profile of an important journalist and editor who founded Ryerson’s prominent magazine in 1984. The guy has worked in a bunch of top jobs including stints at Maclean’s and Toronto Life and so many writers today consider him a mentor like no other.

I won’t pretend that while writing this has been fun, it’s also been exhausting. Whenever I think I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m hit by lots more dust and debris that need to be cleared to get to the end.

The biggest shock to me came a day or two after Christmas last year (which is strange to say since it’s only January), when my editor for my story sent me back edited copy that had been effectively torn to shreds with edits and notes saying something to the effect of “needs more info!” I’ve just realized this paragraph is a reiteration of what I said here, but that’s okay.

Anyhow, just last night I got my third draft back. While not as devastating as the last time, I’ve still got a bunch of minor edits to make before my copy is finally good for submission.

It got me thinking about how everyone seems to have their own process for editing work. I’ll admit that when I write something here or for my music blog, I don’t proofread as much as I should. But when I’m submitting something for school, particularly a journalistic article, I’m deadly serious. I look over my piece several times (and even then I still miss mistakes here and there).

One thing is key in my editing though. Whenever I have a word limit to work with, I rarely ever exceed the limit by more than ten or twenty words or so. I seem to be part of a minority that prefers what I like to call the “slow build.” The opposite of this is writing to your heart’s content until you think you’ve gotten your point across, then cutting from there.

But cutting is something I can’t bring myself to do, at least in large quantities. Sure, I can trim off a few words here and there and make a phrase tighter, but ask me to turn 3,500 words into 2,500 and I will most likely be internally sobbing at the incoming word loss.

For many writers, cutting words is like getting rid of children. Each word means something special, and separating them will end your relationship with that word for some time. Okay, maybe not all writers feel that way but that’s definitely a summation of my feelings sometime.

So I’m hoping by the end of tomorrow my fourth (and, here’s hoping, final) draft of my feature (which swelled from around 2,800 to 4,300 words between drafts two and three) will be finished. i will then have to deal with an entirely different beast- putting together a fact-checking package.

But fact-checking is something not worth describing at this point in time. For now, I’ll go back to toiling away at editing and then run off to class. Hope you enjoy your Monday, whoever might be reading this.

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