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Editing: it's a love/hate thing | Oxfordshire event | New awards
Happy August, travel writing team! Before we get going, we’ve a small PSA to make…
Oxfordshire-ish travel writers: we want to meet you!
Banish the back to school vibes and say goodbye to the summer with the first annual get-together of Oxfordshire (and around) travel writers, editors and PRs. Join JSPR at The Bear of North Moreton (OX11 9AT) from 6pm on 5th September for a friendly networking event. RSVP to Hugh at JSPR on firstname.lastname@example.org or Lottie (hit reply to this email)…
I’d never try to pretend I’m one of the best writers in this industry. I’m not even an excellent writer, in my opinion. But I am a much better writer than I was a decade ago, and I have one single thing to thank for that: good editing. I was lucky enough to spend my first four years in this industry being edited by some of the most discerning professionals out there. My colleagues at my in-house job at Rough Guides were gentle but honest with their feedback, and my early features often had two or three iterations — full rewrites — before they became publication-worthy.
I can’t say it didn’t sting a little to receive those little yellow highlights on my Google Doc after someone had dissected my work line by line. But I was young and I wasn’t precious: I knew they were going to make my work better. And they did. I learned something from each edit process.
As I progressed in my role, I began to learn to edit, too. I read and re-read pieces by some of my favourite writers — ones who today are winning awards and writing books and getting the top commissions — and was forced to think critically about their work. My editor edited my editing, which sounds laborious for them but it taught me so much. Not only did I get to learn from other writers’ mistakes, but I also learned from their greatest prose, too. And I’d get to witness the improvements first-hand, sending comments and queries back to the writer and being the first to see their second drafts. It was fascinating and deeply satisfying, and this is how I became a better writer.
These days, as a freelancer, I rarely get edited in the same way. It’s not because I’m perfect. I suspect instead it’s because my editors and publishers have little time for feedback. They make tweaks here and there, and then hit publish or send it to print with little intervention. I can’t lie, it makes me feel good when a piece gets published without a query or comment. It’s a nice little ego boost: I got it right first time, I think. But I do miss it. I miss being questioned and queried and having my words shifted about on the page to improve structure or syntax. I miss that lightbulb moment when a really astute editorial comment inspires an alternative phrase or line of enquiry in a piece, taking it to the next level.
There are, of course, exceptions to all of this. It only happened once, but I have been edited so heavily I despised the piece that came out the other end. It looked nothing like what I pitched, very little of it felt like my own words, and the editing process was so painful it even hurts a little to write about it now. I was so proud of the story I’d found and was able to tell — one about an Albanian painter who spent his life savings buying back his own work, which had been looted from government buildings during the 1990s riots — but it was ripped apart and disfigured during the edit so much that it no longer looked like a story at all. I was deeply, deeply disheartened and disappointed. My ego was bruised, and my confidence shaken.
We can’t always agree with editors and their decisions. Sometimes I resent a word being inserted here or a turn of phrase changed there when I felt the tone, pace and meaning was on point. So what do we do when we disagree? Are you allowed to challenge your editor? Should you ever push back on edits made? There’s often an uncomfortable power imbalance between writer and editor and so it can be easier to sit back and let them crack on. But is that what’s best for your copy?
This month we’re delving into editing, why it’s great, what to do when it’s hard and how editors feel about being challenged. We’ve got interviews with editors from national newspapers, indy magazines and guidebook publishers, and we’re going to cover how to be your own editor, too. Here’s what’s coming up for paid subscribers in August:
8th August: tips for self-editing before you submit
15th August: SIX bonus emails with in-depth editor interviews from —
Nikki Vargas, Fodor’s
James Manning, Time Out
Ben Parker, The Independent
Georgia Stephens, National Geographic Traveller
Alex Robertson Textor, Fields & Stations
Julia Buckley, former Head of Travel at the Independent & Evening Standard, now freelance editor
22nd August: how to deal with difficult edits
Only paid subscribers will get access to our exclusive editor interviews and expert tips.
Inaugural TravYule Awards
Last month, the Travel Connection Group announced their inaugural TravYule Awards, a travel media and PR awards with a difference. There are 12 categories that go beyond the ordinary for travel awards, with an unsung hero award, a significant contribution award and diversity champion award. What’s even more different is that it’s nominations only. No self-congratulations needed here — you must be nominated by a third party to get on the longlist. We asked Howard Salinger at the TCG to tell us a little more:
“The awards are mainly aimed at PRs and journalists, but some of the awards are open to anyone in the industry, such as Best Mentor, Best Leader, Sustainability Hero and Diversity Angel. The awards are Christmas themed and some are focused specifically on PRs or media. The full list is here.”
Of course, we can’t talk about awards without talking about that one particular ceremony that caused understandable outrage after a largely white judging panel chose all white winners in the individual categories of their media awards. We asked Howard how they’re going to ensure diversity in their judging panel and shortlists at the TravYule Awards.
“This is high on our agenda when we come together to do the judging. We have focused on diversity on the judging panel, so we hope the awards will produce a similar result [in the shortlists]. We can only judge what we’re given though, so we hope to see nominations coming through from all areas. The aim is to reward people who don’t usually get recognised, and they’re free to enter, so we hope to see lots of diversity shown in the nominations we receive.”
Tweet of the week
I love that Sarah kept on pitching her story until she got the commission. Persistence, resilience and determination is key — even when you get rejected several times:
Who to follow
Who else joined Threads last month and then completely forgot about it? I did! You can follow me (Lottie) on @lottiegross and Steph on @worldlyadventurer here. Our feeds are in desperate need of more travel writers, so this Friday we’ll do a discussion thread on Substack so you can all share your handles, too, and we can all follow one another...
There’s some scary stuff going on in Europe this summer with wildfires destroying homes, hotels, resorts and livelihoods — as well as holidays. This piece by Which? Travel’s Rory Boland is an excellent reminder of the duty we have to our readers when it comes to promoting holiday companies. Take note of who is doing it right, writers, and lift up those with fair policies and responsible practices.
Thanks to Sarah Gillespie for alerting us to this highly entertaining and deeply relatable piece of writing on organised group tours for Millennials by the brilliant Caity Weaver at the NYT.
This email is free for all to read. The rest of August’s emails are for paid subscribers only. Become a paid subscriber to get access our exclusive editor interviews later this month: