Edit, Edit, Edit, then Edit Some More: Or How to Become a Wordsmith

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Magazine article writing lesson #1: Don’t fall in love with your first (or second or third) draft.

When I agonize over a sentence or paragraph, it’s easy to become overly attached to it. But if it doesn’t work with my storyline, it doesn’t work. Slash and burn is my motto.

A Lesson from the Knitting Basket

I had purchased the finest yarn—and most expensive– I’d ever worked with and chose an intricate pattern for a stunning, red sweater. Weeks of knitting on tiny needles, and I finally had the sleeves attached to the body. To my horror (it really was traumatic!) I discovered a major mistake halfway up the body of the sweater. I was left with no option but to tear it all out, and start over again.

I guess that lesson prepared me to be brutal when editing my own writing. Clear, concise writing is not for the faint of heart. You need big shoulders if you’re going to expose your work to an editor. Crafting the perfect sentence takes courage and tenacity. Being thrifty with words is imperative.

The most daunting aspect of aspiring magazine writing is word count. Most articles average 300-600 (unless it’s a feature and you get to ramp it up to 1000-2000). Modern readers need you to get to the point so they can get onto the next article. This can be a challenge, but it should produce tighter, more succinct writing.

Choosing a specific focus within a general subject is the key.  Writing a great opening sentence—thesis in university lingo—will help keep the writer on topic. And you need be tough when it comes to editing.

I love to edit, so trying my hand at magazine writing is a good fit and is forcing me to be more efficient with words.

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