This course is designed to be a tasting platter for the aspiring print or online editor, or anyone curious about the job. It’s also a great course for writers who want to learn how editors think, and use those skills to make their own work better. Almost anyone can read a piece and tell that it isn’t working. But identifying precisely *why* it isn’t working, and how to fix it, is magic. (Unlike most writing jobs, editorial jobs also come with salaries and benefits. So there’s that.) Both first and second years are welcome.
One goal of this class will be to connect you with actual working editors at great publications. Over the semester, we’ll host or hear from editors at the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, California Sunday, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, and more. We’ll also be doing the occasional field trip, beginning with one to Wired Magazine.
Beyond building a network of career connections, these visits are designed to prepare you for a job in the editing world through real-world practice. Editors applying for a job at a publication are typically asked to take an editing test. Through our guests, we’ll get actual samples of these edit tests, and work through them – then have the results critiqued by a real editor in charge of hiring. We’ll back these exercises with lectures on everything from fine-grain skills (refining sentences for clarity, power, and concision) up through more advanced techniques: identifying reporting holes, understanding a story’s driver, structures and layers (the “plot plot” and the “ideas plot”), and strategies for sustaining narrative momentum.
Along the way, we’ll discuss the challenges of working well with writers, from recognizing strengths and weaknesses (sentence-smart vs. story-smart etc) to psychodrama management. We’ll also be discussing questions like:
• As an editor, how do you evaluate a pitch?
• When approaching a first draft, what do you do?
• How can you distinguish whether a story’s main problem is poor reporting, poor writing, poor pacing, or poor organization?
• How do you set a story’s mood and tone?