On editing: James Manning, Travel Editor at Time Out
Time Out London's travel editor gives us intel on how he edits & what he wants from freelancers
Fear not, it’s still only Monday, but your TTW is coming early this week as we’re running a series of interviews with seven editors (one each day) all about their edit process, preferences, and what sort of pitches they want to see from you. To kick off, here’s James Manning at Time Out on how he edits the travel section.
Here’s what’s coming up for paid subscribers the rest of the week:
Tuesday: Georgia Stephens, Nat Geo Traveller
Wednesday: Alex Robertson, Fields and Stations
Thursday: Ben Parker, The Independent
Friday: Meera Dattani, adventure.com
Saturday: Julia Buckley, formerly at the Independent & Evening Standard
Sunday: Nikki Vargas, Fodor’s
To receive all seven editor interviews this week, become a paid subscriber now for just £48:
If you’re thinking of taking the leap to going full-time freelance, our co-founder Lottie Gross is joining Sian Meades-Williams, of the excellent Freelance Writing Jobs newsletter, for a webinar on just the topic. It’s this Wednesday and is a pay-what-you-can event. Sign up here.
What's your edit process like?
Generally, if it's a first draft I will give it a full read when it comes in, to see if there's anything that needs extra work by the writer. If it needs extra bits or major edits from the writer then I'll ask for those first — no point in moving on to detailed edits ‘til those are done. If it's all good then I'll let the writer know (often at this point I'll tell them they can invoice) and start going through the text closely.
What sort of things do you look out for when editing?
Mostly, making sure the piece reads well, isn't boring, is reasonably close to our brand tone of voice and isn't too similar to anything that already exists on the internet. Also the usual scanning for clichés (we have a regularly updated list) and anything that feels like it could use a fact-check. I also look out for vague references: 'local delicacies'… like what exactly? Specificity is so important, and I think it's one of the skills that new writers take the longest to develop.
How much stylistic stuff do you change? How much do you remove a writer's voice/personality?
I never want to remove a writer's voice or personality — your personal experience and impressions of a place are important to include! But I do need writers to write in a tone that works for our audience. We tend to be a bit more practical, pragmatic, direct and conversational than some publications, so if your writing feels too 'purple prose' or veers too close to travel-writing clichés (even ones that might be A-okay for other outlets) then you will need to adapt your voice to write for us.
Is it ever OK to challenge an editor's decision?
Absolutely — there's always scope for discussion, especially if you have a perspective on the story that we don't. Ultimately we are not editing for ourselves but for our audience, and we're likely to know that audience better than you do when it comes to questions of what tone, content, format etc work best for that audience. But often you will know more than us about the details of a destination, culture, interview subject etc — so do challenge us if we get stuff wrong or (hopefully not, but it does happen) introduce errors. Your name will be on the piece, so we want you to be happy with it!
Do you ever include compliments as well as constructive criticism? If not, why not?
Of course! It's so easy to give praise for a job well done, and so encouraging to get it!
If you've had to do a particularly challenging or heavy edit, would it put you off using that freelancer again?
It depends — if it's a discussion where the writer seems willing to work with us to fix any issues, then we'll be more likely to use them again even if those issues take a while to fix. What would be off-putting is if there's a fundamental, deep philosophical disagreement about the piece and no prospect of closing that gap. But that never really happens!