Author Topic: Editing Non Fiction  (Read 951 times)

Offline SamPerkins

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Editing Non Fiction
« on: January 23, 2012, 06:21:48 AM »
I'm getting a dab hand at editing fiction. I am a methodical sort of person, liking lists to guide me. I have a 10-point list for editing fiction, and so far, it is doing me well.

But I don't know how to edit non-fiction. I have a couple of articles, and they are below word count, and I have no idea where to start editing, and most importantly how to get the word count up! Do I need to do more research? How do I know I am doing it right??

Arrgh! Please help!

One very distressed wannabe!!! ???

TIA

Offline Dawn

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2012, 06:28:01 AM »
Hi Sam.

I'm sorry I have no idea. However I would be interested in your list you have already. :D
Time to take it serious and get the job done

Offline SamPerkins

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2012, 06:31:31 AM »
 :D I nicked it! From Writing Magazine I think. I will happily send it your way though :D

Offline ma100

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2012, 06:41:55 AM »
I don't write articles, but I can only hazzard a guess at this. Like fiction, I feel you need to make everyword count. Get rid of all your, that's had's and just which are superfluous.

To increase your word count, I'd check to see I had got over my point and not some vague idea of what your article is about. Knowing your subject well helps a lot, so research will help you.

That's the best I can offer and I am sure there are experienced article writers will right my wrongs and point you in the right direction. ;)

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2012, 07:07:57 AM »
I've never been under word count in my life. I don't know how that even happens.  :DThere are always many points you can hit in a nonfiction article. Your job is usually to prune down too much information into what is most important, and what interests your reader the most.

If you're under word count, I'm guessing the article skims the subject, or breezes through its main points too quickly. You're new to all this, so you probably don' t know how much research you need to do, or how many main points you need to have, to reach a certain word count for a given story. This comes with experience.

An editor told me once that writing is like building a house. You go brick by brick. To see how your article is built, try breaking it down into its basic structure. Make a list. Basically this:

Hook (an intriguing start)
Theme/subject angle
Main points (each building on the previous one is best)
Aha moment (if necessary, not all articles need this)
Wrap up/kicker (an image or idea or fact you want your readers to walk away with)

This is very basic. But it can give you an idea what points you need to flesh out in the article. If it's a researched article (I'm assuming it is), you almost always know like 90% more than you actually write. The more you know, the more authoritative your voice sounds in the article. A thin story is often a sign you didn't do enough research.

I just said what ma said.  :)  Anyway, I hope you read a lot of nonfiction articles. Blockedyze how they're put together. You'll soon be able to recognize the different ways to structure an article depending on what it's trying to do. This'll help you too in the long run.

p.s. If this didn't make sense, blame my cold medicine. My head is so stuffy.... :)

« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 07:10:32 AM by Annmarie »
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Offline Dawn

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 07:10:10 AM »
Thanks Sam.

Very informative.
Time to take it serious and get the job done

Offline SamPerkins

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 08:16:41 AM »
Thank you Annmarie.

I have got 2 article ideas out of the one subject. It is very much a case of 'write what you know'. My cat recently got diagnosed with Flea Allergy Dermatitis, and that is what the article is all about! I have done some basic research on the interweb (most of it seems legit, most sites just regurgitating previous sites), but I am thinking I need to delve deeper, not just into FAD but the flea, the allergy and the dermatitis.

I am incredibly new to this, but I am extremely willing to learn. But it took me several years to master the editing of fiction (and the writing).

Offline threenorns

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2012, 08:26:12 AM »
i've done a lot of research articles (how i used to make a bit of cash on the side).

you didn't say what the required word count is, but this is something i would've included in such an article:

the Flea - life cycle, anatomy of the bite (the toxin and the method of delivery), the reproduction rate (which is exponential).

what is an allergy?  what are general signs of allergy in cats?

what is flea dermatitis allergy specifically?  which immune system is involved (is it strictly the histamine system or is it also involving other areas of the endocrine system?)

what are the symptoms of flea dermatitis allergy?  can it be confused with other conditions (such as sarcoptic or demodectic mange or eczema)?  is it transmissable?  is it genetic?

what are the consequences of leaving it untreated for the cat?  

what treatment options are available?  can the same treatment be used on both your cat and your dog (be careful with this one - it's a trap)

do pesticide treatments differ in households where a cat is allergic (some treatments cannot be used if the skin is raw and open)

what are the consequences of not treating a flea infestation for other animals in the home?  for the humans?

what is the prognosis?
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 08:27:48 AM by threenorns »

Offline SamPerkins

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2012, 08:32:59 AM »
i've done a lot of research articles (how i used to make a bit of cash on the side).

you didn't say what the required word count is, but this is something i would've included in such an article:

the Flea - life cycle, anatomy of the bite (the toxin and the method of delivery), the reproduction rate (which is exponential).

what is an allergy?  what are general signs of allergy in cats?

what is flea dermatitis allergy specifically?  which immune system is involved (is it strictly the histamine system or is it also involving other areas of the endocrine system?)

what are the symptoms of flea dermatitis allergy?  can it be confused with other conditions (such as sarcoptic or demodectic mange or eczema)?  is it transmissable?  is it genetic?

what are the consequences of leaving it untreated for the cat?  

what treatment options are available?  can the same treatment be used on both your cat and your dog (be careful with this one - it's a trap)

do pesticide treatments differ in households where a cat is allergic (some treatments cannot be used if the skin is raw and open)

what are the consequences of not treating a flea infestation for other animals in the home?  for the humans?

what is the prognosis?

Thank you!!

Yes, I do feel that my lack of questions is what holds me back. From my research thus far, the article length is approx 2000 words, which leaves me a thousand words short.

This is my very first research article. I have written essays before now, and never had issues with word count, but they were focussed. So, perhaps, my first learning curve is: Ask lots of questions.

I did brainstorm, but obviously not well enough. Do you mind if I steal some of your questions?

TIA :)

Offline threenorns

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2012, 08:42:42 AM »
steal away!  lol - warning, you'll probably end up around 4-5 thousands words with that lot, which is when you will find the joy of having to cut, trim, compress, and otherwise squish your article down.

oh - and add

is it necessary to seek veterinarian attention?  (the answer is yes for the reason mentioned above, there are other conditions that mimic FAD, so a vet needs to make a proper diagnosis - although i don't think cats can get demodectic mange)
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 08:45:09 AM by threenorns »

Offline SamPerkins

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2012, 08:55:13 AM »
Thank you. I will steal away and keep the lesson in mind for further articles!

I have added in both articles (one is aimed at cats, t'other dogs) that vet attention is always a must.

I will happily be over, I prefer to cut than add.

I have now done my editing for the day, I am going to get a first draft for a comp down before the school run, but I am looking forward to developing my non fiction skills!


Offline C.M.

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2012, 09:20:58 AM »
As far as editing goes, make sure you have documented all of your sources. Go through the article line by line asking yourself 'How do I know this?' then footnote accordingly.   C.M.

Offline threenorns

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2012, 09:54:46 AM »
thanks CM - forgot that caveat:  you can footnote or put them all in a "Sources" section at the end suitably annotated.

try to get a minimum 3 different sources - don't get everything off the internet. 

sources can include:  interviewing your vet; trade and specialty publications such as Cat Fancier or Cesar; local pet shops; calling the manufacturer; the information sheet included with products;  a professional  breeder;  a kennel (how do kennels prevent flea populations?); and so on.

guaranteed you'll run into conflicting information.  in such cases, it's your job to keep at the subject until you, yourself, are satisfied one way or the other.  then you would say something along the lines of "many people believe in holistic prevention through the uses of garlic and brewer's yeast. however, upon reviewing posts in [whatever] forum, it strongly seems that while such methods have a devoted following, they seem to have a limited actual effectiveness"  or, on the other hand, "it appears that such methods have a very good track record and are certainly less expensive than chemical treatments".
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 09:58:03 AM by threenorns »

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Editing Non Fiction
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2012, 10:59:05 AM »
Good suggestions from threenorns. Always ask yourself lots of questions about your subject. Which sources you actually pick depends on your audience and what publication you're shooting for. Every article has an angle. You can't write everything about flea allergies, so you have to decide how to focus the subject.

You're doing a 3,000 word article? That's pretty long. For a mainstream piece, you need at least 3 quotable human sources, at least one is a cat owner who dealt with the allergy, plus a couple of experts. One has to be a vet. If I was doing the article, I'd talk to a couple of people whose cats went through it, and build the feature around the most dramatic story, or the person with the most interesting quotes.

You can build the story around you own cat's experience, but this is a little tricker. Some people don't write as well about themselves as about others. So I'd say even if you base the article on your own experience, talk to other people. You can't quote yourself. Articles stay lively and interesting when people speak.

Your first job in an article is to keep people reading. Your second job is to inform. A human interest story dealing with a pet could center on at least one pet that the reader can follow through the story. You don't tell readers how Fluffy is doing right away. You let Fluffy's story unfold, and add context by quoting expert sources. If you do your job, readers will stick with you till the end to see how Fluffy got through everything.

At least, that's how I'd do it. Good luck with the rewrite.  :)

Oh, I should add I'm talking about an article you want published in a magazine or newspaper. Bulleted lists and titled sub-sections are popular these days to break up the text. Also keep your tone light and informative.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2012, 11:08:07 AM by Annmarie »
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