Put It Together -- Part Eight
Editor’s Note: This post is the eighth and final in a series of basic steps to writing the magazine article. If you are wondering about my headlines. I know it’s a bit different but I’m changing the headlines and extending the parts since they are connected. Check out the previous articles: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five, Part Six, and Part Seven.
You are working hard on writing a magazine article which is targeted for a particular publication. Some of the details of how you put together the specific article will depend on the particular audience. No matter which type of magazine article you are writing, you always need to keep in mind the reader. It’s a common mistake that many unpublished or even experienced writers make with their magazine writing.
You’ve accomplished your research and your interviews for the article. What next? Do you transcribe your interview tape? At one of the publications where I worked, we were required to transcribe any interview. Some times an assistant transcribed the tape and other times we transcribed the tape. It’s common for me to tape my interviews but I have learned not to take the time to transcribe the tape. For me, it’s a problem because it puts the words in stone—firmly fixed. Writing is more of a fluid process and you need to have the freedom to move around the quotations and information from another person to shape the best possible article. I use my tape to verify the quotations and make sure I have the details from the personal interview. I do not transcribe these tapes.
With the various pieces of information, I create a brief outline of the entire article. Will the article contain subheads (short headlines which divide the article)? These subheads break up the text and make it more inviting to today’s reader and the editor will appreciate your efforts in this area. How will your article begin? With a provocative question? With a stirring quotation? A startling fact? A riveting story? There are many possible beginnings. To make this decision is a key part of the writing process. Also how will your article end? What will be the takeaway message? Will it have a key point for the reader? It should have a key point for when the reader completes the article. There are full length articles written on beginnings, middles and endings of magazine articles. It’s also key chapters in magazine books. Here’s three books I recommend you locate and carefully read:
The Magazine Article, How to Think It, Plan It, Write It by Peter Jacobi (Indiana University Press). Dr. Jacobi regularly teaches at Folio seminars which is where editors of the major magazines get additional training.
* Basic Magazine Writing by Barbara Kevles (Writer's Digest Books). This book covers seven different types of articles.
* Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Writer's Digest Books). Here is a compilation of some of the best articles about magazine writing from past issues of Writer's Digest magazine in one volume.
Through this series, I’ve only scratched the surface of the magazine article creation process. My hope is to have stirred some help for you in this area.