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more testimonials ...
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originally found this site after searching for
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issues and now look forward to Fridays (Juliet Wallace,
SO YOU WANT TO
BE A FEATURE WRITER?
by Alastair Rosie
There are thousands of writers out there all of
whom are just as good as you. If youíre dreaming about foreign travel and tÍte-ŗ-tÍte
with Kylie Minogue dream on, youíre living in a fantasy world.
However, if youíve gotten this far thereís
hope for you. You can get past those lines that read, ĎUnfortunately, while
your story was well written we couldnít use it in our publication.í Signed
SO WHY SHOULD I READ THIS?
Because thatís what writers do. My reading
habits are varied and fluctuate from literary fiction to Mills and Boon romances
and everything in between. I read with a purpose.
- How have the writers written their first
- How have they backed up their opinions?
- What is the average word length for the
- What is the language style?
- How much space is taken up by advertisements?
BUT I CANíT FIND ANYTHING TO WRITE ABOUT.
Wrong. Letís say you live around the corner
from a retirement home. Tom Jones works there and one day in conversation you
discover he was a salesman for a leading multinational company. Now he works as
a volunteer in a retirement home while he studies at a local college.
BUT WHAT CAN I GET FROM THAT?
Youíre getting curious, letís return to Tom.
Go through your options. Why is a salesman, who can probably get another job as
a salesman, working as a volunteer in a retirement village? Itís a quirky
story in itself. Here are some options.
- A piece on downsizing in the 90s and its
effects on the workforce.
- A profile on Tom Jones
- Retirement villages and the people who service
- Alternative careers in a changing job market
- The Community Welfare course Tom is attending;
what will it offer students?
Do you see how many ideas come out of one
conversation? Each of those stories can sell to a different market, not all at
once but in time they can sell.
HOW DO I START?
Find an angle. What is your story going to be
about? Letís do a story on the dedicated volunteers in retirement villages.
- Gather a list of sample questions, keep them
simple and allow room for extra questions.
- Find yourself a concept, a line that sums the
- Go through your list of publications and weed
out the ones who wonít take it.
OKAY, NOW WHAT?
- Arrange the interview time, preferably by
phone. Tell them who you hope to submit to and what the story is about;
remember your concept?
- Make sure you arrive fifteen minutes early.
Make sure and bring a pen, writing pad, tape recorder and spare batteries.
- The interview is really just a conversation,
so get curious and start asking questions, but explain once again the object
of the story.
- Get some background information on the
village, anything you feel will back up your story.
- Do this with two other villages just to get a
feel for the story. Donít be too alarmed if itís leading in a completely
different direction. I started writing about dog kennels last December and
wound up with a story on pet sitters.
WHAT OTHER RESOURCES ARE THERE?
- Press releases (usually brochures and other
- Libraries, check both local and national
- The Internet, need I say more? Thereís a
wealth of information out there, I could write a whole article on that
IíVE GOT THE INFORMATION, NOW WHAT?
- Stop asking questions.
- Sort out information and lay it out in piles
on the floor.
- Revise your angles and find facts to back them
up. Donít disregard the rejects; keep them on file for another day.
- Lay out a plan. Now you know why your teacher
took such pains to ask for a synopsis of your essay.
- Now write the piece from start to finish.
Donít worry too much about spell checkers, that comes later.
- Once youíve written your piece, put it
The feature takes time to develop and write.
Youíve expended all that energy and now itís time to relax. The story is
still there but you need to recharge your batteries. When youíre ready,
redraft it until youíre satisfied.
HOW DO I APPROACH AN EDITOR?
Editors organise written material for their
readers. Theyíre not out to get you or destroy your precious work. However,
please donít waste their time and yours with silly questions. Editors are busy
people and need to know what you are selling.
WHAT DO I SAY TO AN EDITOR?
"I have a story in which you may be
interested. Itís about the dedicated volunteers in retirement homes, one of
whom is a former salesman for Advance Publications. It includes advice for
potential volunteers and exposes some of the shortfalls in the current system.
The article runs to 800 words and includes a 200 word breakout, but doesnít
In sixty words Iíve told the editor what the
story is about, how long it is and given them some background information.
Iíve also specified whether or not photographs are available. Itís
guaranteed to get me a sympathetic ear even if I donít sell a story. Editors
have declined my idea and suggested another publication. The editor may ask you
whether youíve been published before. They need to know if you have completed
a story before. Tell them where youíve been published and what the article/s
were about, even if it was for the school magazine. If you havenít been
published, donít be afraid to admit it.
SHE WANTS THE PIECE, WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Go back over your piece and a sample edition of
- Paragraph and word length
- Style of language
- Your facts, make sure theyíre correct
- Spelling, make sure itís as good as you can
- Punctuation, go over it and line edit every
line, does it fit? If not, rewrite until it does fit.
- Now give your story to someone else to read,
preferably another writer or colleague, a friend can pick up glaring
inconsistencies in my work that Iíve missed completely
OKAY, I CANíT DO ANYTHING MORE WITH IT.
Now send it in along with a brief covering letter
reminding the editor of the original story idea and explaining any changes
youíve made in the process of writing. This gives the editor the story history
and shows youíve been dedicated enough to follow through with a project.
SHE TOOK IT!
Congratulations, youíre now a Ďpaidí
published writer, one of many I might add but itís nice to see your name in
print and even nicer to see the cheque in your hand. Youíve designed the
concept, done the research, written the story and sold it, so give yourself a
pat on the back and mention me to Kylie Minogue when you finally interview her,
Iíd like her to know I exist.
BUT WHAT IF ITíS REJECTED?
Donít be too disheartened. Iíve got pieces on
file for our magazine that are very good but I canít use them. A story that
was rejected by one paper can always sell somewhere else, even if it is a non-paying
market. Never, ever take rejection personally. A while ago, the former Deputy
Editor for Aussie Post, Peter Mayer rejected yet another Ďideaí of
mine. Perhaps sensing my frustration over the phone he added quietly,
"however, Iíd like to encourage you to keep trying; youíre on the right
It was all the encouragement I needed at the
Alastair Rosie is a graduate of Box Hill Institute
in Victoria and a widely published writer who laid the groundwork for the Professional
Writing Web Pages at Box Hill. He helped launch the inaugural issue of Divan
at the Victorian Writer's Festival 1998. A writer for the Australian
Jodie Foster Web Pages, he is now seeking fulltime employment in the media
industry while editing his first novel - which received an honourable mention in
the Opus Magnum Discovery Awards (USA).
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