Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tips from an editor

Note: This post is based on an e-mail sent to the Pinoywriters e-group. Writers may find the tips here useful.

I know some of you are magazine writers here. I'm a magazine editor, and I was just talking to another magazine editor recently. We got to talk about our contributing writers (yeah, just like the way writers talk about their editors, haha).

We are happy when we discover writers who can really deliver the articles we need. When we do find them, we take the time to nurture them so they will become even better.

Sometimes, though, these writers who have become better start becoming problem writers. They turn in articles late, or don't follow the guidelines given them. Or they lose their spunk--a result of taking in too much freelance work. As a result, their articles aren't that brilliant anymore.

We all have our off days, but we all need to try our best as much as we can because our readers expect that of us. So here are some tips:

1. If you are freelancing, check your work schedule first for the month before agreeing to take on an assignment.
Make sure you'll have time to do ample research and conduct interviews before agreeing to the deadline. If your schedule is really tight, don't say yes for the sake of money. Just decline politely and say your sked is full as of the moment. Editors can consider you for the next issue.

2. If the specs given seem vague, feel free to ask for further clarification.
Or if you think you have a better slant to the article, discuss with your editor. My friend lamented that one of her writers submitted an article that was way off what was asked -- she pursued a different angle, which was not what the editor wanted or expected.

3. If you're having trouble finding interviewees, holler for help. Editors may be able to help you out.

4. Before submitting your article, run a spell check please.

5. Make the dictionary your best friend. This is just a click away: http://www.merriam- webster.com/ dictionary. Look up even ordinary words to check if they're spelled in one word, etc. I've had to change "hard-working" to "hardworking" in a writer's copy a lot of times.

6. Be open to your editor. If you have questions, complaints, grudges, etc., the best person to talk to is your editor.

7. Observe ethics. Don't write about the same topic for a competing magazine at the same time. For example, if you're writing about the lanzones festival for Food Magazine, don't write a similar article for Yummy Magazine and submit both as "exclusive." Better yet, stick to one magazine per genre (example, for food writing, write for only one food magazine; for fashion writing, write for only one fashion magazine). Safeguard your credibility and reputation.

I hope you find these tips helpful.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: When my grade school classmate Ega asked me about Queena Lee-Chua's math books, I remembered that I bought a copy of Eureka, her book compilation of columns published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Sunday Inquirer Magazine. The lady has a gift for serving up math and science in easy-to-understand terms, although toward the end, when she talked about Fermat's last theorem and the like, I got completely lost. Still, it's an interesting read.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. Proverbs 3:13-14