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Writing/editing questions: seeking opinions, philosophies, etc.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Piotr Rasputin, Aug 4, 2007.

  1. Piotr Rasputin

    Piotr Rasputin New Member

    Had originally started to post this at Writer's Workshop, but don't want to clutter that helpful board with my ramblings about something unrelated. . . . .

    A lot of sports journalism today involves writers trying to find the clever metaphor or analogy, the cute pop-culture reference, or the fallback to a cliche when saying something that has become standard in journalism. The originality, the truly clever turn of phrase, the observations and descriptions that take the reader there and convey story have been replaced, with the choice made to leave them chuckling that "Wow, the Celtics bench really is as thin as Paris Hilton after two weeks in jail!!!" (Thank me later for that easy one, Bill Simmons).

    For me as a reader and editor, when I hit the first cliche or tired reference, I stop and look for something else to read. I return to that story later, but just can't finish it the first time through. The problem is, this means I sometimes stop at the lead. Hell, if I see a college or high school lead that begins with "The (school) (sport) team" I usually don't bother with the rest of the story, unless I'm editing. I guess I just feel the goal should be to constantly look for new and different ways to say the same things.

    Thoughts? What do you seek in a story? Are you constantly editing, even when just acting as a reader? And when writing, are you sometimes aware of the fact an easy cliche is available, and a choice is made on whether to go with it?
  2. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    As a writer, I really try to avoid the cheap, easy cliche.

    Early in my still-young career, I wrote a gamer and used an lead playing off of Eminem. I thought I was being clever. Now, when I look back on it, I wince in agony.

    I think it's a matter of looking around for your lead. Maybe there's something small that you can build on. It's always there, writers just have to think a little bit.

    The other thing that helped me was having friends who told me when my stuff worked and when it didn't. That's the only way writers will ever learn.
  3. Riddick

    Riddick Active Member

    I think th
    I think that's the most important thing. In the past, so many times my editors simply took what I had and threw it in the paper. That wasn't help me at all.
    So, I started sending my unedited stuff to some friends and they would rip it to shreds. Sometimes it hurt the go, but it usually led to a better story.
  4. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    I think that's the only way a writer can get better, having their stuff shredded by people who know what they're doing.
  5. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Originality is hard.

    Cliche is easy.

    Popcult reference as figurative language - metaphor, simile, comparative, parallel - is a kind of suicide.
  6. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    I think it's easier for magazine writers and takeout specialists to be original because they're not writing the same volume of stories as does the beat writer.
  7. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    I think that's absolutely true, HB. Which is why writers in high-volume beat jobs should learn to write the cleanest, simplest, crispest prose they can. Cliche and bad analogy become crutches under the weight of a high daily wordcount.
  8. Sam Mills 51

    Sam Mills 51 Active Member

    Absolutely agree. A couple of summers working for my hometown publication, I was doing so much writing that originality was flying out the window. The KISS method starting working until I could get second wind ...

    Then again, the same can often be said of working desk and doing numerous pages a day ... there aren't but so many different templates out there, no matter how much designers might want to dispute this.
  9. Breakyoself

    Breakyoself Member

    when i was a part-timer in college at local daily, my stories were probably edited and tossed in the paper mostly as is. when i got my first job out of college, my editor sat down with me, went through the whole story with me and showed me what he changed and why, rewording some things, making something sound better and taking out crap that didn't need to be there. after about two weeks of that, i started to get better and he found less and less stuff. I read his copy and the copy of the other writer, who was very good as well. halfway through that football season, about six months into the new job, they noticed how far my writing had come. it was a good feeling to have them say 'that was a real good story.'
    i looked back at what i wrote in college and hated it.
    i've gotten better since then still, and it comes from people reading it and giving an honest opinion of how it reads.
  10. In Cold Blood

    In Cold Blood Member

    I was lucky enough to have a similar experience with a patient editor, although mine was when I was doing the part-time thing. . . Often, he would let me look over his shoulder as he edited my stuff, always taking the time to offer a quick explanation of why he was changing this or that.
    He wasn't afraid to hand a story back to me and say something like "dude, that lede sucks", but he always told me why something wasn't up to par.
    He was also really good about pointing out what I did right - he'd tell me he liked a story, or send me an e-mail. Again, he would tell me why he liked something.
    Now that I'm out in the real world pretending to be a professional, I try to keep in mind all the little things he pointed out. I'm sure I still fall short on occasion - everybody is guilty of the hokey or cliched lede at some point - but overall, I am a better writer because of his patience.
  11. im a younging in the biz.. about five years.. but there is a 30-year vet at our paper who uses those cliches and "tired references" all the time.. and people love it.
    despite that I just keep ignoring them, as I was taught to try and avoid them. It's good to be punny once in a while, but every story it gets a little out of hand
  12. hockeybeat

    hockeybeat Guest

    I think the other thing that helps young writers improve is to read good writers. I try to read as many good writers as possible. Am I ever going to be Mike Vaccaro or Selena Roberts? No. But I can learn from what they do.

    I avoid Bill Simmons like the plague because Boston's Great Untapped Columnist sucks hairy, swollen, jizz-stained donkey balls. My friends love him because he forces in roughly 12,000 pop-culture puns in his diatribes. But what good does reading Simmons do if you're a young writer? You're going to end up writing pun-infested shit instead of good stories.
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