The FWJ mailbag is always pretty full and there are a few questions that pop up regularly. Deb reposted her super popular Frequently Asked Questions and made me think about the most popular questions I receive over here at the Article Writing blog. So here they are in no particular order:
10. How do you write an article?
It’s true, I get this one pretty often and it’s kind of like asking someone how to cook – there’s a lot to it. So in pretty general terms: start with a topic, research the topic and based on your research find an interesting angle to the piece. Make an outline and be sure to include references (and locations if you’re smart) of source material. Decide on a format, create that all important lede (lead), then develop the article. Let it marinate for a day or so, then edit it with a fine tooth comb.
9. What’s the difference between plagiarism and inspiration?
Plagiarism will get you fired, inspiration will bring you fans. When you use someone else’s ideas, quote or material you must cite the source. Even on informal blogs. Inspiration gives you ideas on where you can take the material further. It inspires you to think of how you can enhance it, change it or develop it for a different market.
How long do you have for me to explain it? All jokes aside, the time it take to craft a piece really depends on the writer, length of article and complexity of assignment. I’ve had articles I sat down and birthed in an hour, while others have taken days of writing, editing, sulking, rewriting, etc. Really, the question should be, how long does it take to write a good article. It’s the quality of the piece that is important.
7. What are editors looking for in a pitch?
You should really ask them. Check the publication’s material for writers and/or send them a quick email asking a specific question about the work they accept. Whatever you do, don’t ask: “What kind of stuff do you like?” In general, editors are looking for fresh angles on evergreen pieces, fresh ideas in general, timely pieces and material that appeals to their target audience. Remember, many publications especially print magazines create an editorial calendar that operates several months ahead. Editors love writers who take the time to get to know their publication.
6. What are editors looking for in a piece?
Again, it’s a good idea to ask your editor. When you receive an assignment, it likely comes with a good amount of instructions. Editors want pieces that match the tone of the publication, follow the specific instructions given with the assignment and have a good number of cited, well researched sources. They love a clean copy so fix the easy mistakes i.e., spelling and grammar. Pay attention to the more abstract ideals such as tight writing and flow.
Stay tuned for Popular Writing Questions 5 – 1 coming up on Friday!
Got a writing question for me? Post it below!