>Big pen for really big storiesPosted: December 9, 2007
>Yesterday in a Christmas gift exchange, I wound up with a 12 1/2-inch long pen topped by a snowman. It actually writes, but I’m finding it hard to get a foot away from the paper. So, do you think a big pen will allow me to write really big stories? Or taking it a step further, do you need a really expensive computer to wow the big markets? No. As long as you can send them what they want, they don’t care what you produced it on. But if a piece of writing equipment inspires you to write more or write better, by all means use it.
Speaking of what people want, most of us know newspapers have a special “style”, a way of doing numbers, abbreviations, capitalization, etc. Most use the AP style book or a variation thereof. Well, I just sold a story to one of the Cup of Comfort books, and they don’t use newspaper style. Nearly all the edits had to do with making my writing conform with the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s like the fancy way to write vs. the everyday way. Where newspapers use numerals, they spell them out as words. Where newspapers leave the extra comma off, they put it in.
In newspapers, we look for short paragraphs because when you cut them into columns, your sentences can go on for days. I’m always breaking things up. This editor, who by the way is very skilled and kind, combined paragraphs into longer ones. The moral of the story? Match the style of the publication you’re writing for. You can usually tell by reading it. And if you find you want to write for someone regularly, ask what stylebook they use. Some papers have compiled their own style guides. Request a copy. Needing to make fewer changes makes everybody happy.
This editor also urged me to try the Change Tracker function in MS Word. If you haven’t done it before, give it a shot on something unimportant just to see how it works. It’s quite useful, especially if you’re afraid to make big changes for fear you’ll lose something important forever. It keeps track of everything you add or delete. I had to consult the help screen a few times, but I think I’ve got it now. Those computer guys are smart!
One more note on the Cup of Comfort. This is a book, right? An anthology. I still had a tight deadline. The editor said yes on Saturday and needed a bio and the edits done by Sunday night. It’s not only newspapers that work last minute, but if you write for newspapers on a regular basis, you’ll get it done, no problem.
Okay, back to practicing with my really big pen.