Those limits made us focus intensely, winnowing out extraneous details. Instead of meandering, indistinct articles, we turned in pieces that told readers what they needed to know.
This being the features section, we were allowed to do it with a bit of panache. “Voice” was a thing* in our department. Unfortunately, we were sometimes a little too in love with the sounds of our voices.
Invariably, the editor called us out when we turned in 30 inches, or 35. Boy, we hated that.
We’d sit or stand next to him while he cut his way through our copy. No matter how much we whined about the loss of beloved (to us) details, he was implacable. “The reader doesn’t care,” he’d say.
Or, worse: “Save it for the book.”
Looking back, I can see that he was right. Left to our own devices, we would have routinely turned in too-long articles. That’s because we had such good material that we wanted to use it all.
But not every detail you gather belongs in an article (or a blog post). Details are great, but they can slow down rather than support the narrative.
Writing is as much about what you leave out. And that’s why we needed The Skilsaw of Skilful* Editing.™ Over time we learned that what you leave out is as important as what you leave in.
Bloggers and freelance writers: Let 2019 be the year you become more assiduous about self-editing. Fire up your own Skilsaw of Skilful Editing.™ When you cut the dead wood*** and hone your thoughts, you’ll do readers a huge favor.
That is, unless you want to drive them away. After all, the Internet is full of reading options. No one needs to stick around for unfocused, fuzzy drivel. Fire up your own Skilsaw of Skilful Editing™ and make all your posts leaner, cleaner and tons more readable.
My writing course includes a lot about self-editing, voice and other essential topics for bloggers and freelancers. Through Jan. 31, 2019, you can save 30 percent on Write A Blog People Will Read by using the discount code SKILSAW. The payment platform accepts credit, debit and PayPal.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good write.
*Voice is still a thing for me. An entire chapter of the writing course is devoted to it.
**Yes, I know that it should be “skillful,” with the double-l. It’s funnier this way.
***But don’t throw it away. Start a take called “tangents” and refer back to it from time to time. You could get separate posts from some of these. I do.