Tag Archives: Publish
It all stems from a lunchroom conversation. A music teacher friend of mine, Lawrene, told me about a cool event: a Pulitzer prize-winning composer was coming to a local elementary school to sit down and help students compose their own music. The more I asked, the more excited I became. This story just begged to be written. And published. I jotted down notes and, unknowingly, conducted my first interview as a freelance writer for a print newspaper.
Writing itself is not new to me. I’d written in the high school newspaper decades ago and of course I’d written a lot in my previous career as a legal assistant. I loved to edit my family and friends’ college papers and dabbled in some freelance writing for online magazines, like Associated Content . Most recently, I’d written my first middle grade novel and felt the itch to get published.
After much research and drafting, I optimistically submitted the article to the local newspapers. At first, I didn’t hear anything. I imagined the newspaper offices were swamped and understaffed, due to previous budget cuts. I felt confident in my writing and knew it was print-worthy. I followed up with phone calls and two newspapers picked up the story.
Since then, I’ve published 25 articles, mostly in the Canton Observer Newspapers and I’ve learned a lot in the process. Here are 15 tips for writing in a print newspaper:
- A good story begs to be written and published. In other words, content is top priority;
- Of course, good writing is a must. Check your grammar and word choice until it’s perfect. Reading it aloud several times helps to know when to stop editing it;
- Talking about the idea with a friend or relative helps develop the story and draw out what makes it interesting for readers;
- It’s easy to write about something that’s exciting or that I care about. Even if the story is not one that I’m initially connected to, once I start interviewing, the excitement builds;
- Friends, family and co-workers are great sources for stories. Keep ears perked for ideas and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Before long, they will approach you with ideas;
- Make connections in the community that may serve as contacts for stories;
- Unlike many online newspapers, space in print is limited and brevity is key. Start out writing without a word number limit and then tighten it as needed. Sometimes, the editor already has an idea how much space they want to use and they’ll give you the word limit;
- Write articles without your opinions, unless it’s an editorial — “Just the facts, and nothing but the facts”. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t quote someone’s opinion, as long as it’s not a slanted story;
- Be sure to proofread. Especially check the correct spelling for names. This makes it a lot easier for the editor and that’s who you want to please;
- Interviewing key people is important to the story. Not only does it provide information in an exciting way, but they are passionate about the topic and can give eloquent and interesting quotes;
- Invest in a voice recorder for interviews. Not only does it help get the exact quote, but hearing the tone in the person’s voice helps narrow down what’s most important to him/her;
- Be sure to back up your facts and research thoroughly. Do your homework;
- Write the most important information first. In other words, use the upside pyramid formula with the least important information at the end;
- Once you have a working relationship with the editor, get your story ideas approved before writing them. This saves you time and gives you a better chance of getting paid;
- Take pride in your writing. Seeing my writing published in print was more satisfying than online; It also turns out to pay better (at least for me).
I love freelance writing! Not only do I love the thrill of seeing my writing in print and I like the extra money, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of interesting people right here in my community.
*Write what you know and research what you don’t; in other words – try to be as authentic as you can in order to be believable – whether you’re writing fiction or not – it turns off a reader when something doesn’t ring true;
*When quoting someone for a newspaper piece, wait for the right quote! People are amazing and no matter what age, when they are excited to share something that’s important to them, they say beautiful things – I found this was the case for every single article I’ve published; sometimes the best quotes come after the person relaxes and shares something, almost like an afterthought;
*Use a recording device for interviews – not only because of the obvious, getting the quote right – but it also helps to listen to it later and hear the excitement in the person’s voice and the event;
*Don’t give up – submit! so far, I’ve published everything I’ve submitted – even my Thanksgiving poem – (except for my ms, which I only started submitting recently); I became a freelance journalist ONLY because I submitted stories to the local paper and someone (awesome Editor that he is) liked what he saw and gave me a chance; it comes down to what the author, Janet Evanovich, says in her book “How I Write” — you’re not going to get published if you keep it to yourself – you have to submit!
*Listen to conversations around you – people say the most hilarious things in the most mundane places, like the grocery store and the oil change/tire store, etc.
*Don’t let the publishing industry dampen your spirits — they are human — really — and they are making business decisions — it’s not personal! Even if my ms doesn’t get taken up by a publishing house, I will still write my next ms — it’s completely based on the market and the bottom line and I get that;
*Reading the ms out loud is a must — especially to hear if the words come out smoothly, naturally or trip you up;
*Writing is a work of art! Before I realized this, I used to be so careful about my grammar, etc. and then I’d see a best-selling novel and find “errors” — or what I perceived as errors — like starting a sentence with “And” or having a sentence without a verb, etc. When writing prose — those rules are not so set in stone and it depends on the dialog or the flow. Perhaps the writer wants it to sound hurried. So she uses short words. Or the writer wants to keep it going and going and on and on because she wants to make a point of how long it really is…Just. Like. That.
*Avoid cliches! They’re just overdone and it makes for a boring piece. I love reading new ones – especially similes and metaphors that make me laugh;
*Exchange your ms with writing buddies who will give you the good, the bad and the ugly. (thank you Michele and Nancy!) Not only are they helping you with your ms, but when you help them with theirs, you also learn a lot too.
Editing is almost finished on my first manuscript! Whew! I look back and it probably took me just as long to edit it as it did to write it. In all fairness, though, I did take some time away from it to have a fresh look at it. (This works, by the way!)
I know every writer has his/her own method for editing and there may be some fast rules on it — that’s all great & nothing wrong with it. Other than the usual editing grammar, etc., this is how I went about it:
*I started an informal critique group of family & friends — since several of them do not live locally, it was mostly individually and via email/phone calls. I found that some of my best critiques came from educators (media specialist, learning interventionist). They have a grasp of what kids read and were very good about telling me when I was off mark. Every critique was helpful and appreciated. It was also great to have readers with a wide range of backgrounds, since it’s a multicultural book.
*I printed out several manuscripts in “booklet” form with a feedback sheet and a wonderful 5th grade teacher passed them to some of her students. It was anonymous so I could get honest feedback. This was the best! I loved reading their (mostly) great comments and each one encouraged me to publish it because “this book was awesome!” I highly recommend this if you have a willing teacher. In fact, I may do this again once my final editing is completed.
*I paid an excellent professional editor and it was worth every cent. She was thorough and great about providing explanations for certain suggestions.
In the beginning of my editing process, I attempted to join/form a writer’s critique group, but not enough people showed up. Later, when I was invited to an existing local group, I had schedule conflicts. Honestly, I didn’t pursue this avenue too much, but I’ve heard of wonderful writer’s critique groups and may still join one for the fun of it. I love learning from other writers – a great bunch!
Now that I’m this close to being agent-ready, I’m super excited about the possibilities!