Canadian Magazine Industry News
5 June 2009,     TORONTO
Notes from MagNet: Editing tips from Gary Ross
According to Vancouver Magazine editor Gary Ross, "The only people who object to good editing are bad writers." An editor's job, according to Ross, is to take the raw sap provided by writers and turn it into Maple syrup. He offered a wealth of tips on how to do this during a seminar held Thursday afternoon at MagNet, packaged as "8 Simple Rules for Handling a Manuscript."

 
1. Choose the right article

The best magazine articles are generated in-house, Ross said, because editors understand their magazines better than freelancers. Hold frequent editorial meetings, Ross suggested, where editors can "sit around and shoot the shit about the events of the day." Writing a mission statement for your magazine and ensuring every story fits into that is also useful.

2. Choose the right writer
Pay good writers more, Ross said. If you hire a weak writer on the cheap, you're going to end up paying just as much for it in the time you spend editing his or her work. On occasion, though, the "right writer" may not be the "best writer;" for example, when someone has the inside track on a story that no one else can get.

3. Tell a story
Most of the time, Ross favours a chronological approach to storytelling. He also prefers stories with clear protagonists and only a handful of characters. "Otherwise you're going to get Where's Waldo?"

4. Save the punchline
Getting a reader to stick with an article means "withholding the good stuff." This applies to the full piece, as well as individual grafs and sentences.

5. Be concise

A good editor can turn 1,000 words into 750 words, Ross said, by eliminating rote verbiage ("in order to," "on a daily basis," "regardless of whether or not," "there's no question in my mind"), and by killing compound verbs (i.e. "He managed to eat the whole pizza" becomes "He ate the whole pizza.")

6. Avoid lame language
"Use language that's vivid, juicy and muscular," Ross said. Cut cliches and banalities and consider creating a list of tired/meaningless words to ban from your magazine.

7. Be specific
When a writer tells you that the robbers hopped into their "getaway car," ask her to go back and get details about the car itself: colour, size, make, etc.

8. Max out quotations
Ross is very liberal with quotes. He believes writers and editors can have their way with them, so long as they run any changes by the source. Those with more conservative views on quote tampering can still maximize quotes by effectively placing attributions (Ross prefers the middle of a quote) and by playing with punctuation.

— M.U.
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