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changed and rearranged, perhaps, in such a way, that the young writer may learn a good deal by comparing the printed matter with the manuscript as it left his hands. All of the changes made may not be improvements. Typographical errors may stand out in inexcusable array. On the whole, however, the contribution is likely to be the better for the editing it gets, and the author may learn enough by observing what has been done with it to pay him well for all his work.
The advantage of getting an audience, and, to some extent, establishing a name, which publication in a local paper gives, is also an important one. It may be best for a young writer at first to adopt a pseudonym, and to conceal his identity from the neighbors and friends who are sure to read what the local paper prints. In that way he may preserve his natural modesty, and at the same time he has a good probability of hearing unprejudiced and unrestrained comments on his work, from which he may learn much, if he is not too sensitive. The editor will keep his secret for him, generally, if he is asked to do so. Editors of local papers naturally become the confidants of the community in time, and every such editor in the country carries around with him under his hat a great many more interesting local stories than his paper ever prints. The young author, then, may remain anonymous, or pseudonymous, if he likes. The advantage of a pseudonym over anonymity is that in time it gives the author something of a reputation, and for that reason when an author has once chosen a pseudonym he should stick to it like a burr in a country school-girl's hair and use it with everything he writes. For most purposes a pseudonym that looks like a real name is preferable. The transition from a pseudonym to the author's real name is easily made when at any time such a change becomes advisable, and then the author in his own name gets the benefit of all the good work he may have done under the pseudonym. If his work under the pseudonym has steadily improved from the beginning, as experience was gained, then the reading public is likely to remember only the later and better work, and the author is not hampered by the indifferent reputation which his first work if it had been pub
lished over his own name would have given him. Writing on local topics, with which he is thoroughly familiar, and for a local audience is great training for a young writer. The editor of a local paper is always glad to get short, pithy editorials, or brief, pointed articles on matters of local interest. It is a good thing for a young writer to contribute such matter to his local paper, and his work of this kind may lead to profitable employment in the course of time. More likely still to be profitable financially are paragraphs of local news and local special articles. For such matter even the local paper is frequently prepared to pay, and the writing of it is good literary training, provided always that the writer does not slight his work. A "Rambler" column of slightly-connected paragraphs of from 100 to 300 words each, partly local, partly general, such as many weekly papers print, would be a "feature that some local editors would like, and the writing of such a column would give first-rate training in literary work. If the paragraphs were bright and of local interest, the signature at the end of them would soon become a local household word, and the writer would quickly find himself in possession of an audience the size of which, after experience was gained, he might indefinitely extend.
Lastly, it is a great advantage to the young writer who makes use for his own benefit of the local paper that he is freed from the evil of competition. As a rule, there are only a few writers in any small town or village, and so he can have his field practically wholly to himself. If he writes well, and improves as he gets experience in literary work, his field is sure to widen in the course of time. After he has learned by experience something of the technique of writing for the press, and becomes able to judge his own work more fairly than was possible at the start, he will be able to decide when he has written something that is worthy of acceptance by one of the periodicals that pay. Still working and practising with the local paper as a field, he can make ventures outside as he sees fit with manuscripts, trying his wings, as it were, before leaving wholly the parental nest. If his ventures prove successful, his after course is clear. If otherwise, he may
still try the unsuccessful manuscripts on the local public, and continue his apprenticeship in literary work. If he really has talent and originality, success outside will come some day; and then he will agree with me, I think, that if
the local paper does not make the first round in the ladder of literary success, it at least makes a broad solid basis on which the ladder of literary success may rest. Arthur Fosdick. ATCHISON, Kan.
DOES IT PAY TO PUNCTUATE?
"Oh, I never punctuate my manuscripts. I always leave that to the editor. He knows more than I do about all such things as that; and, besides, punctuation is a horrid bother, anyway."
So said a young writer in my hearing recently. She held in her hand a big brown envelope containing a rejected manuscript as she spoke. I remembered then having noticed that the postman brought her similar big brown envelopes very frequently. On the other hand, to my certain knowledge, very few of the manuscripts she had written had ever appeared in print. She had told me herself, in fact, that she had seldom had a manuscript accepted, and that so many of her manuscripts that she felt sure were really good came back to her that she was beginning to think that editors cannot distinguish really good manuscripts from the other kind.
One day, not long afterward, I saw one of the "really good manuscripts," which had just come back to her in another big brown envelope that dull, gray, November afternoon. She was feeling blue about it, and as usual she questioned the discrimination of the editor to whom she had submitted it.
"Just you look at that yourself," said she. "I know the story is original and good. It was a wholly new idea when it occurred to me, and I was deeply interested in it myself all the time when I was writing it. And yet, in spite of that, seven editors already have sent it back to me. What is the matter with it now? Just take it and read it, that's a darling, and tell me if you can."
I took the oft-rejected manuscript and looked it critically through. It was rather loosely written, in a thin, light feminine hand, not illegible if you looked closely at the pages, but still rather difficult to read. Of paragraphing there was none. From beginning to end, conversation and all, the story continued uninterruptedly without a break. Quotation marks to indicate conversation were most irregularly used. Toward the beginning of the story they were generally put in place all right. Further on - evidently as the author got interested in her narrative—they began to be more and more irregular and toward the end they disappeared. entirely.
"Oh, what's the use of bothering about that?" she asked, when I mildly called her attention to what seemed to her an inconsiderable defect. Any editor with sense can see just who is talking if he stops to think a moment, and when the printer gets the manuscript he will put in all those quotation marks just where they belong."
It did not seem to occur to her that editors do not usually feel inclined to waste their time "stopping to think a moment" to find out what it is a writer wants to say. Neither did it occur to her that, with more manuscripts than he can use always on hand, an editor is likely not to waste much time trying to decipher manuscripts carelessly written, and consequently hard to read. She surely could not have known that compositors are paid usually by the piece, and that the time spent in "putting in the quotation marks just where they belong," in case the editor should accept her manuscript, would mean so much actual money loss to the unfortu
nate printer who might have to put her article in type. All of these things, when I mentioned them, were evidently new to her.
Her story was good, however, and original, and at my suggestion, she made a copy of it, taking pains to paragraph it and punctuate it as well as she could, especially paying attention to quotation marks and to making a new paragraph in conversation whenever there was a change of speakers. I went over it with her then, showed her some of the finer points of punctuation, and helped her make the manuscript" perfect copy" for the printer. Following my advice, she invested fifty cents in a copy of Bigelow's "Handbook of Punctuation," and began studying it as soon as she had sent the corrected manuscript away. Before she had Bigelow half digested,—in just a week, in fact,
- she received a printed acceptance slip and a check for $40 for her 4,000-word story.
In spite of my opposition, she insisted on expending $20 of her "windfall," as she called it, on a handsome gift for me.
"It's half yours," said she. "I never should have got it, goodness knows, if it had n't been for all those little curlicues. If that's what punctuation does for a fellow, why I'm going to learn Bigelow by heart, and then I'll buy Wilson, too, and make a regular proof-reader of myself before I stop."
All of which shows how very zealous it is possible for a new convert to be, especially when she has just been encouraged, after numerous rejections, by a $40 check.
BROOKLYN, N. Y.
Carolyn A. Sylvester.
THE ANNUAL POETRY PRODUCT.
It would be interesting to know just how many new poems there are written every year. Counting as a poem everything in rhyme that is sent to an editor for publication, the number must be something disheartening to contemplate. Two illustrations will serve to show how prolific the poets of the present generation are. The editor of the Ladies' Home Journal announces that more than 5,000 poetical contributions come to his office every year. In view of the fact that an average number of the Ladies' Home Journal contains not more than five or six poems at the outside, it would seem, at first sight, as if this abundance of riches might prove an embarrassment to the editor. Mr. Bok, however, takes the public still further into his confidence, and adds that of the 5,000 "poems" in question, there are not fifty that would not be a burden to the readers of his widely circulated magazine. While the contributions of the poets, therefore, may be an embarrassment to the editor in one way, he is evidently not embarrassed by any difficulty in making suitable selections, since the number of
good poems that he wants to get and the number of poems that he wants to print apparently very nearly coincide.
The 5,000 poets, of course, will not agree with Mr. Bok in his estimation of their work, and a good many other people, probably, will think it possible that he may have been overhasty in his generalization. It seems almost incredible that of 5,000 poems, each of which the writer thought was suitable for publication, only one in 100 should be anything else than burdensome. It must be borne in mind, however, that Mr. Bok is speaking of these poems only with reference to the taste of the readers of the Ladies' Home Journal. It is reasonable to suppose that some poems of which the editor of the Century, or the editor of Scribner's, or Mr. Morgan, of the Travelers Record, might heartily approve would not be attractive to the average Home Journal reader — and that, too, without any disparagement of the Home Fournal clientage. Every periodical necessarily has its own standard, and no editor judges any poem or any other manuscript, for that matter
with sole reference to its literary merit. The general character of the periodical, the peculiar ideas of its conductors, the supposed taste of its readers, must always be taken into account, and Mr. Bok would probably say, if he were asked, that not all of the 4,950 poems which he thinks would be burdensome to his readers are absolutely bad. His experience, however, is not unlike that of the editor who furnishes the second illustration of the fecundity of modern poets.
One of the great Boston dailies makes it a rule to print two poems one serious, one humorous - every day. Most of these poems are supposed to be new; very seldom is an old poem reprinted, excepting by request. Some of them are original; most of them are copied from other newspapers and magazines.
To get daily two poems that are satisfactory to him the poetry editor of the paper in question reads on an average twenty or thirty different new poems every day. Aspiring poets send their productions to him at the rate of from five to ten a day, in spite of the fact, which is generally known, that his paper does not pay for poetry. About one in fifty of the original poems submitted to him is suitable to print.
About one in ten of the printed poems that he reads seems worth reprinting. His paper prints 626 poems every year in the "daily" issue and about 350 more in the Sunday issue, which makes a feature every week of a column of light current verse. In round numbers he gives to his readers 1,000 new poems every year, and to get these he has to read perhaps 10,000 new poems, nine-tenths of which he finds to be unsuited for his purposes. He has had a dozen years of such experience, and if reading poor literature debases the taste, there may be justice now in the idea that some of his unsuccessful contributors undoubtedly have, that he cannot tell a good poem from a bad one, anyway.
These editors, however, are only two of many hundreds who have a similar experience, and while their circles overlap to some extent, since many of the same poems are read, no doubt, by many different editors, a little reflection will convince any newspaper poetry editor that at the very least, in this country of 70,000,000 people, 70,000 new poems must be produced every year and sent out hopefully for publication. It's appalling, is n't it?
William H. Hills.
SHORTHAND AS A HELP IN LITERARY WORK.
In England a knowledge of shorthand is essential to any one who undertakes reporting work on any daily newspaper. The English newspapers make such a feature of long reports of public addresses and proceedings at public meetings that a knowledge of shorthand is a necessary part of the newspaper reporter's outfit. It is different in the United States. American newspapers seldom print absolutely verbatim reports of any public speech, and when they do they are as likely to get the report by employing one or more professional shorthand writers as by depending on members of their own staff. On an American newspaper the
demand is for writers who can make a good "running abstract" of an address, writing out a fair report of it, partly in the speaker's language and partly not, as the speaker goes along, so that when the address is ended the report is ready for the printer. Very many of the best and best-paid reporters on American newspapers have no knowledge at all of shorthand, and would use the art, if they knew it, only as a convenience to themselves.
It is undoubtedly convenient, however, for any newspaper writer or literary worker of any kind to know something about shorthand. He need not be a verbatim writer; if he under
stands thoroughly the principles of the art, so that he can write correctly, though slowly, anything that he may desire to set down, he will find the accomplishment to be a valuable help in the performance of his daily work. A slipshod knowledge of shorthand will do him little good. Whatever he may gain in time in writing down his notes he will lose because of slowness in reading them and doubt in consequence of their illegibility. It is essential that he should be able to write shorthand correctly and clearly, and to read it as rapidly as he could read any ordinary print.
Such knowledge can be acquired by patient and persistent study of all the rules of any good shorthand system, and constant daily practice in writing shorthand in absolute accordance with the rules, with no effort whatever to write fast, but with constant care to make the shorthand outlines clear and good. Printed shorthand should be read and studied all the while. Three months' faithful study in this way will give an ordinarily bright student the ability to write in shorthand anything that he may desire to set down, and in much shorter time than he could put it down in any other way. If he has observed carefully the injunction to write clearly always, and to read printed shorthand as much as possible, his shorthand notes will be perfectly legible to him, and he will never have any difficulty in deciphering them. Even if he can write only at the rate of sixty or seventy words a minute, he can put down twice as much matter in a given time as he can in the ordinary way, and with much less labor of the hand.
The newspaper writer who has this ability has many advantages over the newspaper writer who has not. If he is making a running abstract of an address and wants to get one or two sentences down verbatim, he can do so readily, writing the shorthand characters so openly that it will be easy for him afterward to write the translation of them above them on the same sheets, when he has finished his report. If an idea occurs to him that he wants to jot down, he can set it down in shorthand very quickly, and the man who may happen to be sitting next to him at the time will not know what it is that he is writing. Many a time I have jotted down the outlines of a poem in shorthand on the wrap
ping paper of a bundle lying in my lap, while I was riding in a street-car or a railway train, with as little danger of gratifying any inquisitive curiosity on the part of my seatmate as if I were alone in my own library at home. If a writer who knows shorthand in this way is interviewing any one or wants to copy something from a book or magazine for future use, he can accomplish his object better and quicker by using stenography than in any other way.
Such a writer should take care always not to try to write faster than he knows how, and to write clearly and correctly, no matter how long it takes. The use of shorthand enables him to gain so much time that if he knows his system thoroughly he must write faster than he could in longhand anyway. So much depends on legibility that this advice is of supreme importance. No word or phrase should ever be written in shorthand that is not drawn and shaded accurately, with the shorthand outline written in every way exactly right.
If shorthand is written in this way, it can be read as easily by an amanuensis who knows the system according to which it is written as by the writer himself. This suggests that it is possible for an author to be relieved of a great part of the manual labor of writing, without recourse to dictation or the use of the phonograph. If he can write shorthand legibly at the rate of sixty words a minute, and an intelligent literary worker of any kind ought to be able to acquire that ability in from three to six months' time, — he has only to find an amanuensis who knows his system and who will take his shorthand notes and transcribe them on the typewriter. All the shorthand notes taken in court by James E. Munson were for a long time transcribed by others in this way. The compositors on Isaac Pitman's phonetic journal in England, I believe, are trained to set type from shorthand copy. The only reason why one person's shorthand is ever illegible to another is because it is written with undue haste and not in accordance with the rules. Shorthand, slowly and correctly written, is as legible as print. It should be remembered, too, that shorthand even slowly written is faster than longhand written at the writer's topmost speed.