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?
Aside from guest posts, I haven't really written much in the area of articles. Thanks for the checklist!ReplyDelete
Alex, you bet!Delete
Julie, I've never written any nonfiction to this extent, but you make me want to try. :)ReplyDelete
It really is fun! I never thought I'd like it either, but I do!Delete
The great thing about being organized is that a person can get several articles from one research trip, chopping up the info and slanting it to fit different, yet similar markets. :) Great advice here!ReplyDelete
Angela, that's an excellent point! While doing research, you find so many cool details that might not relate to your article, but it can be the genesis of another article :)Delete
Julie you're awesome. I still want to learn to write non-fiction now because of you.ReplyDelete
It really is a lot of fun! I never though it would be my thing, but I'm so glad I tried it.Delete
Depending on the topic, writing nonfiction can be just as fun as writing fiction.ReplyDelete
Nicole, you're absolutely right! I've learned all kinds of oddball things while doing research for nonfiction.Delete
You've pretty much hit the nail on the head, Julie. Outstanding post. We just sent another non-fiction history article out yesterday to a magazine. The only thing that I could add is - just like our novels, make sure everything is formatted correctly.ReplyDelete
Excellent tip, Loree, thanks! And good luck with your article submission!Delete
I started my writing career by writing articles for the newspapers. Then moved on to short stories and finally to books. Lovely tips, Julie.ReplyDelete
Rachna, that's one thing I learned in my writing course--that a great way for writers to break in & gain credits is to write articles. It worked for me!ReplyDelete
I love research - used to love doing essays (I know, scary!). I'll have to look into trying this out one of these days.ReplyDelete
I also love research! It's addictive (addicting?)Delete
Not only awake... but better for it too. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Yay! I didn't put you to sleep! Thanks, Karlene :DDelete
I love getting lost in research - especially when it sends me off on tangents. You should teach a workshop on this, Julie.ReplyDelete
Oh another on writing articles! YAY! Thanks. I have a friend who is writing one, so I'll tell her to stop by and read! ;)ReplyDelete
It's been a very long time since I've written articles. Your advice is fantastic though!ReplyDelete
I used to write lots of articles for magazines and editorials for newspapers. It required a huge amount of research. I got burned out. I don't do that anymore. :)ReplyDelete
I've written lots of articles for various media and as usual, your advice is on the nail. The great thing about research (and finding a way to store all those snippets of information is paramount) it can be used on different topics if slanted in the right way. I love researching too - digging deep to find that little gold nugget.ReplyDelete
I really haven't written nonfiction, but I've bookmarked this post for the possibility, since it's full of such good advice.ReplyDelete
I love how you use the color coding to get organized. What a great idea. I worked as a stringer for a local weekly newspaper years ago, just to get some writing credits. I prefer fiction over nonfiction so I quit writing for the paper, but this is a super helpful post for anyone who wants to write articles. I wish I liked that kind of writing because there's more opportunity for getting published that way, plus getting paid! That's always nice, isn't it?ReplyDelete
What great articles! I loved them both - and learned from both! Sunset and sunrise every 45 minutes.ReplyDelete
Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)ReplyDelete
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