Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why I Love Writing for NGEE

This weekend I had that experience that brings joy to all writers, that of seeing my name in print. There is my byline in nice big letters in the January issues of both National Geographic Explorer and National Geographic Extreme Explorer. I've written four articles for National Geographic Extreme Explorer, at which publication the editors are extremely likable. Extremely likable, and extremely good editors.

Where I come from, educational assessment and curriculum publishing, there's not a lot of editing (of stories and articles, anyway) for the sake of art and language. There is editing to get your word count, and editing to achieve a target readability, and editing to make sure the vocabulary is appropriate to the grade level. Before working with the NGEE editors, I'd been accustomed to writing my piece, turning it in, and getting paid. Once in a rare while, an editor might want this or that minor change to accommodate this or that project specification (or client preference or even whim), and of course I would make such changes with nary a grumble, but I was unused to revising according to direction.

Of course I revised on my own. I wrote and revised, wrote and revised, drank a glass of wine, slept on it, and revised again. Revising according to editorial direction is a whole nother matter. It takes a good editor, and by that I mean not just someone who edits well, but someone who is capable of clearly expressing his or her vision of the final piece, and making specific suggestions about what should be added, deleted, or changed to create that vision. Someone who can express and suggest in such a way that does not encourage the writer to curl up into a little ball of snottification and anxiety, as writers are sensitive souls and prone to weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth.

And then the editor does even more magic before the issue goes to print, with the result that when I see my story, I hardly recognize it, because it is so much better than it was before.

Dear NGEE editors, I am your big fan.

UPDATE: Fixed a typo. If only I had the luxury of a good editor for ALL my writing. Blogs. Emails. Etc.

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