Last week, in Article Writing 101 (Part 1--Ideas & Research), we discussed some of the basics of writing articles.
If you've thought of a focused idea, and you've done your research, it's time to organize, write, and search for markets. Like I said before, each writer works differently, but this is the process that's worked for me.
Once you do your research and speak with an expert on your subject, you'll likely have pages of data to work with. Now it's time to organize. When you go through the research process, it's helpful to think of an outline as you go. This way you can organize facts into groups, which creates your outline. I use a standard outline, like this.
I choose colored pencils to represent each section of the outline. As I sift through my notes, I color code each fact in the margin, noting where it'll fit within the article.
Writing the Article
Opening--Some ideas for openings include an interesting fact, a personal story, or a question your readers will want answered. Then let readers know what they can expect in your article. There's a saying about articles that goes something like this: open with what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then summarize what you've told them.
Paragraphs--Use the middle of your article to share all those fun facts you've collected about your subject. Consider adding a unique spin to spice up the piece. In my article A Spoonful of Laughter, I opened each paragraph with a silly riddle. Write your article using language that works for your target audience. Word choices will differ based on whether you write for preschoolers, teens, or adults. With smaller children, break your article into easy-to-read sections.
Closing--Wrap up what you've shared, and leave a parting thought or image with your reader. Are there fun activities associated with your subject? Add those, too. With my article We Saw It!, about the International Space Station, I added links for kids to track the ISS, view it from their home, and host viewing parties.
Bibliography--Most places I've submitted to preferred the Chicago Manual of Style (click here for examples), but check guidelines to be sure.
And as with all writing, revise, revise, revise until you get it right.
In some cases, it's helpful to already know the target magazine or e-zine before you start writing. That way you can structure your article and word count to meet their submission requirements in the early stages. If you're unsure where to start, Funds for Writers is a great place to search for markets. If you write for kids, consider subscribing to Children's Writer newsletter. It's cheap, $15 per year, but it's packed with writing tips, editors' needs, and markets.
If you choose your target magazine after the article is written, look at past issues of the magazine and revise your piece to meet their needs. Research their submission guidelines and follow them exactly.
Whew! We're done!
If you venture into writing articles, I hope these steps will help. And if you're still awake after this long & tedious post, and if you have further questions, feel free to ask in the comments or email me at julie (at) juliemusil (d0t) com.
Have you written nonfiction? How does this compare to your process? Any tips you'd like to add?