While copyediting is a large component of any editor’s job, much of my work as an editor-in-chief consists of editing content organization, story angles and big-picture ideas. Checking in on Google Docs drafts is as much aiding writers in gathering their content in a timely manner as it is guiding them in developing a clearer focus. Asking probing questions that guide the story to the next tier, encouraging writers to seek out unrepresented sources, playing around with different ways to structure subsections — these are a few of the ways I edit before Verde enters our final stages of print production. Something I initially struggled with as an editor was how to balance my vision for the magazine with the personal writing styles of staff members. Initially, I erred on the side of my stylistic preferences. However, after reflecting on my difficulty developing a voice as a newly minted reporter, my editing style shifted to the other side of the balance. Now, as I edit stories, I try to refrain from imposing my voice on the author’s and instead make suggestions which will elevate and enhance theirs.
*Content below used with author permission
The Bigger Picture
Last year, Verde's Columbia Scholastic Press Association critique mentioned a lack of Paly-centric feature stories. One of my priorities as an EIC been to change that. During our second issue of the year, two writers pitched a feature-profile about Bay Area drag performers. While they wanted to cover San Francisco queens, our editor team agreed that a more local focus would better resonate with readers. The discussion was especially difficult because the writers had already written out long, poetic swaths of SF-focused content. My role as an editor was to provide an outsider's perspective — to view the piece as the sum of its parts and make comments accordingly. I was ultimately the one who mediated the conversation for our drag cover, rationalizing why focusing on Palo Alto High student queens would produce a more compelling piece and helping the writers decide how to re-frame their angle. Below you'll find my comments on an early draft, as well as the polished final product.
“San Francisco, my favorite city, where the women are strong and the men are pretty,” drag queen Holotta Tymes toasts. The audience lifts their wine glasses in response and laughs, recognizing the truth of the irony.
San Francisco is the LGBTQ capital of the world, taking pride in their rich history of queer rights movements. Within the LGBTQ community, San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area takes pride in one niche in particular — drag culture.
With an increase of drag performance in the media, the culture is becoming popular in younger generations, including at Palo Alto High School.
Three thousand square inches of black trash bag looked couture on Palo Alto High School sophomore Atticus Scherer, cinched at the waist and topped off with fishnet tights and a pair of five-inch heels.
Strutting glamorously into the center of the floor at Paly's Homecoming dance, Scherer flaunted his flexibility, sculpted by years of ballet training. By the time he finally landed in a death drop, a move in which the dancer dramatically falls backwards into an outstretched pose on the ground, students had circled around him, cheering and whooping over the blasting music. By the end of his short, impromptu performance, it seemed that everyone on the floor knew his name.
What some students remained oblivious to, however, was that many of Scherer’s dance moves are deeply rooted in drag, or the art of satirizing gender. Death drops and split jumps, popularized by “voguing” — a pose-heavy dance style derived from the LGBTQ community — are traditionally moves presented by drag queens to show their athleticism and dancing ability while lip syncing.
The Original Hook
The Revised Hook
Asking for Help
In the craze of production weeks, it's often difficult to remember which stories still need editing. During our first cycle in particular, I found that some new staffers were shy to ask for edits when my co-EICs and I were swamped with paper drafts. To streamline the process (and save a couple of trees) we created the following editing queue for Verdites to request online text edits.
Even when we're not in the frenzy of production weeks, I try to make myself approachable in-person and digitally at all times. My goal is that writers feel comfortable enough with me proactively reach out whenever they need guidance. Below, you'll find a few examples of what that looks like in practice.
As you'll notice above, multiple sections of Verde have two section editors. Due to a surplus of qualified applicants and a peak in the number of staffers, we had doubled-up feature and profile editors for the first time in Verde history. Our previous editing system didn't account for multiple editors of the same type, and it was left to my co-EICs and I to configure a new option. After extensive brainstorming, our three most promising options were as follows:
1. Pure jurisdictions: each section editor is assigned to a story which they exclusively edit; the final SE check must come from that editor.
2. Free for all: writers can pick with SE they go to, as long as they end up with a check from either one.
3. Jur-ish-dictions: SEs edit their assigned stories until they are satisfied, then pass the story to their co-editor for one final review before giving a check.
Rather than unilaterally deciding, however, we left the final verdict to the section editors — the ones who'd be most affected by this choice. Below, you'll find evidence of our digital direct democracy and the final system we collectively decided upon: jur-ish-dictions.
Shown above is the poll I sent out in our Verde section editor Facebook messenger group.
My editing begins before a word of the story is even written. From the preliminary brainstorming phases and beyond, I offer structural and stylistic feedback for every story in the magazine, as well as direction for the next stages of reporting. My preliminary edits focus on the big picture — what questions to ask, techniques to employ and ideas to explore will make the piece more enriching? Deeper into the production cycle, I focus on sentence-level edits, wordsmithing jilted prose, banishing dangling modifiers and restructuring sentences for flow. Shown below are some of my edits for a profile on a prominent community coalition.
Click the arrows to view my edits at different drafting stages and hover to view additional context.
From Pixels to Print
At the end of each cycle, I mark up paper drafts in the traditional manner. These edits tend to be more granular and focus on style, flow, grammar, copyedits and design. In the frenzy of last-minute production week, I sometimes spend upwards of 9 hours a night editing print copies (so forgive my delirious doodles — they're mainly there to provide the writers with some much-needed comic relief).
Slide or click through the gallery below to view my production edits for several stories.