Two weekends ago I attended a fantastic aviation event. Granted, “fantastic” is a subjective term. But for a guy who has both flown and rebuilt airplanes for a living, I looked forward to this particular event for quite some time.
For one thing, the event was held in Sebring, Florida – an absolutely lovely little town that overdevelpment hasn’t ruined yet. I was also quite enthused because I was attending with media credentials in hand, as I have since this particular event’s inception. The publication I was freelancing for is a favorite of mine. The publisher is a top-notch guy and my editor is a real professional. I’ve never had a bad experience with them. Considering I can say that even after submitting a story with a small but slightly embarassing factual error several years ago, you know I really mean it when I rave about these guys.
Back at my home office after a day in the sun, my face tilted skyward with the arrival of each new airborne engine sound, I got down to the business of writing my story. My deadline was lax, perhaps because I have a history of getting my work in ASAP. So the words were flowing without any anxiety about when I had to hit the “Send” button with a finished piece. I was well into it when I realized I’d never actually asked anyone what my word limit might be.
In reality I didn’t have much of a problem. Having written for this same publication for several years I had a pretty good feel for what they were looking for. As a matter of fact, I’d covered this same event for them for at least three years running. So my confidence level was high. But that stray throught brought back a flood of memories of my time editing a few small aviation magazines over the past decade. I’ve had stories submitted that ran for so many pages I couldn’t possibly finish reading them, let alone edit them down to a usable length. I’ve also opened envelopes to find nothing but a handful of Polaroids with notes scribbled on the back. Either extreme is worthless to a busy editor. And neither gets the writer any closer to their first published article, or a paycheck.
It’s a fact of writing – size matters. Whether you submit to the local paper, where they measure length in column inches, or the magazine market where they count words individually – writers have to know where to wrap it up.
And on that note, I’ll do exactly that. Goodnight.
Author – Burritos and Gasoline