Last week I got the opportunity to go to Taylor University in Upland, IN, and observe an editing class. The course is part of the writing program offered at Taylor. Ginger Kolbaba, the editor from Today’s Christian Woman, was the guest speaker. (If you haven’t had the chance to check out this magazine, you can click here for more information. While you’re there check out their writer’s guidelines and pitch Ginger a story.)
Ginger’s presentation was about her magazine’s editing process. Whoa! I had no idea so much went on behind the scenes.
It was insightful to see what goes on after we submit our articles.We got to see why magazines request a certain word count from their writers. (And a chance to pretend to be YOUNG college students again. Loved it!) Editors only have so much space for content and if the number of words surpasses that, it doesn’t work. They won’t fit. To me, trying to put all the pieces together was worse than trying to put together a left-brained jigsaw puzzle, a job that doesn’t appeal to me. Editing our stories dealt with numbers and columns and spacing issues. The whole layout structure intimidated me, causing me to break out in a hot sweat (okay, maybe it was a hot flash, I’m old) and brought my opinion of Ginger, and all other editors, as high as the clouds outside my window. I’m so thankful that God gave us all different talents. I’ll stay with story telling.
Part of an editor’s job is to read through query letters and decide which ones look impressive enough to request the full story. Another job, after she chooses which stories to run, is to SQUEEZE out our unnecessary words. Nothing screams AMATEUR louder than a writer using redundant words. I loved Ginger’s examples of good queries and bad queries and her redundancy test, so I thought I’d share them with you in hopes that they’ll improve your writing.
First, TAKE THIS TEST and see how redundant you are. Do you use any of these? How could you write tighter? (Answers are below.)
- at the present time
- have the ability to
- perform an assessment of
- few in number
- field of engineering
- qualified expert
- plans for the future
- thought to myself
- stand up
- vanished out of sight
- For me, personally…
- mischievous grin on her face
- They built a new church.
- natural instinct
- merge together
- newly created innovation
- lift up
- sufficient enough quantity of
- the reason is because
- stand to your feet
- sum total
- end result
- postponed to a future date
- “Stop it!” he shouted angrily.
- ecstatic with joy
- She nodded her head.
Below are TWO QUERIES Ginger received from writers. Would you request the story after reading these pitches? WHY or WHY NOT?
I have guard duty today. Yes, guard duty. I do not resemble GI Joe. Sadly, I am a matronly 45-year-old woman who wears relaxed-fit jeans (elastic on the sides, please), and arch supports. I clip coupons. But today, I, along with thousands of other women, will take on Mission Impossible, putting my life on the line for those I love. My comrades-in-arms and I are the mothers of teens with boyfriends.
Nothing stops us. We will mine the yard, throw a grenade between two Velcroed teenagers, even play Tennessee Ernie Ford music throughout the house–anything to douse the fires of adolescent stirrings.
Until that still, small Voice reminds us that we were once 16; that Christ is not only our Sovereign Lord, but theirs too; and that he expects us to act like Christians (!) when dealing with our teens.
As the mother of three teenagers, I often face the dire, delightful dilemmas of parenthood. May I send you my article ‘Guard Duty’ (73 words) to assiste other women who struggle in this role? I can send it at your convenience.
Would you ask this woman for the story? Why or Why not?
Here are the answers to the test above:
- thought (who else would a thought be to?)
- vanished (if it’s gone it’s out of site.)
- mischievous grin (where else would a grin be but on her face?)
- They built a church. (Duh, of course it’s new.)
- postponed (isn’t that a future date?)
- “Stop it!” (the exclamation point tells us he’s angry.)
- She nodded. (we know it’s her head nodding.)