Archive for June, 2016


June 23, 2016


We are going to cover three other types of articles this time which seem totally unrelated, but all have a place in nonfiction writing.

A brief mention of profiles deserves our attention.  Like interviews profiles sell well, and can be a bit easier to write.  Profiles don’t require speaking directly to the subject of the piece.  Once you have your facts in hand, you can craft an article with a minimum of effort.  The all-important word in that last sentence is facts.  Make sure your facts are correct.  Nothing will make an enemy for life like attributing the wrong facts to someone.  As I said previously right now is a prime time for profiles for political candidates and amendment subjects.

Nostalgia is another easily written article type.  For these articles you’ll need access to someone with knowledge of historic events.  An old-timer in most towns will be flattered to be asked for stories about the town’s history.  Write down the story, making sure you have the basis of the event or incident recorded correctly, and then devote a paragraph or two to setting the scene.  Sure you’re going to have a couple of old-timers who saw the incident another way—that’s good for more articles.  Don’t worry about it.  It is in the past and no one can blame you for the person’s recollections as long as you record the old-timer’s story as he or she saw it no one is going to blame you for the story.  Be aware of the person you are dealing with and if the subject has been labeled by most of the citizens as “crazy”, it might not be the most accurate presentation.  Holidays and celebrations are excellent catalysts for this type of article.

Here and now articles provide an outstanding opportunity for getting published.  The Chicken Soup for the Soul books have made an industry out of these types of articles.  Sometimes called “incident with a purpose” articles, new writers have nearly an open door to publication.  Of course, the Chicken Soup articles are of a religious or inspirational nature.  I suggest you read a few of these at your local library, and then try your hand at writing one.  Recall the incident, then build your story around it.

Next time we will discuss other opportunities in nonfiction writing to jump start your career.



June 16, 2016

Last week we began our journey through nonfiction writing by discussing some of the types of articles you might write to get that all-important first writing credit.  After how-tos, journaling, and jump essays, another way to get that “paying gig” is to interview and write an article.  You may think of interviews as for celebrities only, but that isn’t quite accurate.  Perhaps you could interview a person starting a new business in your area or a local celebrity.  Hey, it’s political season, I’m reasonably sure that every candidate on the ballot would love to tell you their life story and their views on nearly every subject you can think of. Political candidates are easy to contact through their campaign headquarters.  So go for it.

Here a few tips netting that important interview.

  1. Always be on time. There’s nothing more frustrating to an interviewee than to be waiting around for an interview.  It tells them you really don’t think they are important enough to be on time.
  2. Have your interview questions written out beforehand and be familiar with them so you don’t have to read them during the interview. A quick glance at your notes is forgivable but reading questions tells the interviewee that you didn’t take time to prepare.
  3. Check to make certain it is okay with the interviewee to record the interview on your cellphone. Most interviewees will be fine with this, but sometimes older people especially will not want you to use “gadgets.”
  4. If you can’t record the conversation, take enough notes that you can write an intelligent article.
  5. If photos are included with the interview, let your subject know the type of photos you would like. This procedure will save time and eliminate the subject rummaging around looking for a photo.
  6. If the interview is not on a time constraint, offer the interviewee the opportunity to see your article before it is submitted for publication. This gives the subject the ability to change or amend statements before they show up in shocking print.
  7. Offer to give the interviewee a copy of the published article. This makes for great relationships and may give you a chance for a second interview if the subject warrants that or a segue into other interview subjects.
  8. Always be gracious. Bring a small gift if you think it will help things go smoothly.  An interview is always a bridge and sometimes it is a bridge to greater things.

Interviews are a great way to build an article.

Next time we will discuss the well-researched article.



June 10, 2016

Most writers will tell you that they love writing fiction, but with a few notable exceptions, they make their money writing nonfiction.  Nonfiction gives you plenty of opportunities for exercising your writing skills without the starvation of writing fiction.  There are also numerous types of nonfiction writing.

  1. How-to: The how-to article is a popular article type.  As I’ve told budding writers for years, everyone knows how to do something that other people might not know how to do.

My favorite example of this happened in one of my classes when I said perhaps no one knew how to peel and onion without crying.  “Oh,” one of my students remarked. “I know how to do that.”  I suggested she write a brief article about it.  How-tos always have an open market and if written in a short format can sell as fillers.

  1. Jump essays-Op-ed pieces tend to be jump essays “jumping” from something in the news to a different viewpoint or just a new way of handling a situation. Although most op-ed pieces don’t pay, they might give a writer the opening they need to become a publication columnist. Most humor pieces also fall into the category of “jump essays.”
  2. Journaling-Journaling tends to be used for personal writing, but occasionally journaling can be used for “day in the life of” pieces or to chronicle famous, terminally ill, or teaching articles.

The positive aspect of each of these first few types of articles is that each requires little research and can assembled “ready for publication” with a minimum of time and writing experience.  These are some of the best ways for a beginning writer to “break into” publication.

If you are a beginning writer, try your writing skills out by jotting down some ideas and perhaps even short pieces on one of the preceding article suggestions.  The piece just might garner your first writing credit.


June 4, 2016


Before we leave the “glitches” of writing, I’d like to take a few moments to discuss style.  We aren’t talking about the style that leaves you ignoring quotation marks or the style which ignores starting sentences with capital letters.  We are talking about your style–the style that sets you apart from every other writer in the universe.  Your writing style is you and the way you write.

One of the saddest statements I’ve encountered was a young writer who told me he had studied John Irving’s work and was going to write exactly like John Irving.  Develop your own style I urged him.  The world already has John Irving, readers don’t need another Irving.

Read another author to learn how they develop their storyline or pull off their distinctive humor, but not so you can imitate that writer’s style.  Style is as individual as the writer is.  Keep with your pattern of writing.

One of the most difficult things writer’s encounter is editors who in editing a work throw out the author’s style.  I finally found a wonderful editor who is able to edit without losing me in my work.  I want to keep her until I finish my writing career because she is a rare editor.  If you have something edited and you can’t find yourself any more—find a new editor.

Style is really why you write.  It is obvious in magazine or newspaper writing that the same scenario can be presented in ten different ways and has ten different resultant articles.  Each writer sees a situation from his or her viewpoint and emerges with a bit different “take” on the story.  That “take” is style.

So embrace your style and share it with the reading world.

Next time—I promise the column is for your nonfiction writers.