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Thursday, March 19, 2009

CNF: Revealing the Editing

A Pittsburgh City Paper story highlights an unusual move by the lit mag Creative Nonfiction: posting the editing of three essays on the journal's Web site. Lee Gutkind, editor, decided he wanted to show reader how the journal changed the shape of the essays by deleting the beginnings.

He says it's unusual for literary journals to mess with the structure of pieces they publish. That surprised me: as a magazine editor of commercial magazines, I have no qualms about moving (and changing) anything needed to strengthen the piece (I run it by the writer afterward).

I haven't looked at the three pieces posted other than to see that the deleted copy is highlighted in yellow and added copy in green, but in general I agree with Lee that often the writer starts at the wrong place. Going further, writers often end at the wrong place, too. It's hard to resist the urge to tie things up in a pretty little bow.


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