Why Every Writer
Needs a Tough Editor
first job was in journalism and I was very young--just
18, the youngest ever hired by the Salt Lake Tribune.
My boss was a tough female journalist (they had to be
to stay in journalism in those days!) So, though she
gave me ulcers, she molded me into a professional. It
was on-the-job training as I studied journalism at the
University of Utah.
She insisted I go out with the photographers who were
shooting images to illustrate my stories when I preferred
to stay in and start a new story or polish the one I
was working on. "Journalists need to get out. That's
where they find the stories!" she said. Sometimes
it was cold and rainy and I got my shoes wet. Sometimes
it was boring. But I did bring back tons of story ideas
and was eventually given a full time position at that
paper, at least partly because I brought a different
sensibility to the feature pages.
She slapped me with the job of doing page layout (this
was pre computer days), even before I had a class in
the subject. That meant I often had to cut/edit others'
work (including Ann Landers' columns) to make them fit
into available space and be on a deadline to get them
to the backshop where there were typesetting machines
and huge roller presses and tons of smelly, oily ink.
One learns what’s essential and what isn’t
essential that way. And it started me on my path to
ferreting out wordiness (which I’m still on because
that task never ends!)
She didn't spare me the big important stories, but kept
me stretching. I once was assigned a great spring fashion
story for the front page of what would not be called
a Style section to be photographed in a park. It snowed
that day but I managed to do something that had never
been done (to my knowledge) before—spring fashion
in the snow . That experience inspired a chapter in
my novel This Land Divided now being shopped
by my agent. I wrote it some 50 years later.
I didn’t pay her. I got paid instead. But I also
learned the value of a great editor. It’s about
more than having someone check for typos and grammar
errors. And that led me to writing The
Frugal Editor, also some 50 years later.
I remember my editor well. And what she taught me.
Tips and Tidbits
(Each month in this box,
Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors
write or promote better. She will also include
a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected
books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)
multi award-winning The
Frugal Editor is now in its second
edition—as an e-book (the print edition
is coming a bit later.) It’s been
reformatted, updated and expanded.
Tip for Readers' Tip:
This time I’m not recommending
a book. I’m recommending a move. Belle
is a perfect ten for entertainment but it’s
also a perfect ten for studying how subtleties
on a them can be woven together. If you
love period novels of any kind, you’ll
love this book. If you love the theme of
this movie, you’ll find more suggestions
of the same vein at http://howtodoitfrugally.com/tolerence
nominate a book that fits within the parameters listed
in this year's Noble Back to Literature column. Explain
in 25 word or less why your nomination is a work of
literary merit and sent directly to me.
Nominations must be signed with your real name, e-mail
address and a URL if you have one. Email