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Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist, writer and editor for more than 30 years.
His book editing projects include two New York Times bestsellers; Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time (2014), by Brigid Sculte; and Top Secret America (2012), by Dana Priest and William Arkin. As editor of The Washington Post Magazine, he conceived and edited the story, Fatal Distraction, which was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. He also edited and contributed to Pearls Before Breakfast, which was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. In addition to being an author and editor of narrative journalism, Shroder is one of the foremost editors of humor in the country. He has edited humor columns by Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tony Kornheiser, as well as conceived and launched the internationally syndicated comic strip, Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson. His latest book, to be published in September, is Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal, a fascinating, transformative look at the therapeutic powers of psychedelic drugs, particularly in the treatment of PTSD, and the past fifty years of scientific, political, and legal controversy they have ignited.
I know how you feel.
I’m sure there are writers who don’t find writing to be a bone-crushing, nausea-inducing festival of self-loathing. I just don’t happen to be one of them. Faced with a blank screen, I am invariably seized with the overwhelming desire to clean out my garage, give myself a root canal — do anything other than write.
The problem seems to be standards. I have some. And I’m terrified I can’t live up to them. Does that sound familiar? I’ve found that to avoid paralysis, I have to begin by telling myself, “Don’t write, just type.”
Because once the story is out there, even in a horrifyingly inarticulate form, the real work can begin. I can see where the words are working, and where they’re not. The ideas that should be in the piece, but aren’t, speak loudly with their silence. The awkward phrases swell up and stink. The good ones hum.
This is the fun part, especially when someone else has done the miserably hard work of writing the first draft. It’s why I’m a good editor, and why I love editing.
And that’s why I can help you, as I’ve helped innumerable writers over 25 years as an author and editor of Pulitzer Prize winning journalism and best-selling books. I’ve worked with some of the biggest names in journalism and fiction, but I’ve also worked with hundreds of regular folks who have never published a word, but had a compelling story to tell. In the end, the most powerful thing I’ve learned is this: it is always about the story.
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