Getting out of the office

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News To Me, Barry NewmanGreat writing often involves getting out of the office. That’s one of the many take-away insights from Barry Newman’s entertaining book News to Me.

What Newman looks for in his own writing is the opportunity to add colour. Forty years on the Wall street journal convinced him that most of the fun stuff happened away from his desk.

One of the stories in the book describes how he became interested in people who spot mistakes in movies. One woman, Rikki Rosen, spotted over one hundred errors in the classic shark-attack movie Jaws. The more mistakes she saw, the less scary the film became.

Newman goes to see Rosen and she shows him one of the many errors she found. The quote he gets sums up her obsession brilliantly, and is a great example of what getting out of the office can do for your writing:

“The more she watched, the more mistakes jumped out – 156 to be precise: A leg bitten off barefoot wears a shoe as it sinks to the seabed. A thumbtack changes place on a poster. And those yellow barrels the shark yanks off Quint’s boat in the final petrifying sequence: ‘Look—two barrels on deck,’ Rosen said, stopping the action and starting it and stopping it again. ‘But here—three. Now two! Two on the boat, three in the water. Three on the boat, two in the water.’”

News to me: finding and writing colourful feature stories, by Barry Newman is published by CUNY Journalism Press (2015).

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