Archives for posts with tag: writing

In the course of my career, I’ve spent a lot of time asking about the things that appeal most to editors, those gatekeepers of bylines, the masters of purse strings. Every single one has said, in some fashion, that they want a good story.

On the one hand, you’re probably saying, “Duh.” But you might also be asking, “How do I improve?”

Journalism is as much craft as profession. And the only way you get good at craft is to continually practice and polish. For me, that means reading. A lot. Especially at the end of the year, when I turn to anthologies from the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt “Best American” series.

The first time through, I’ll read for the pleasure of reading. But when there’s a particularly striking story, I’ll go over it again and pick out compositional structure, think about the questions that were asked and the author’s angle, listen for turns of phrase, look for holes.

Approaching the collection so deliberately takes time, which is why it takes me until December to get around to reading books that were published in January.

This year, I’ve collected the 22 articles from “The Best American Science Writing 2010” on Delicious and mirrored them on Pinboard. They’re by some of the biggest names in science writing, which, in my opinion, is one of the toughest subjects to cover for a mass audience, and therefore, the most interesting to study.

Read, enjoy, and tell me which are your favorites and why. If you get really ambitious (or nostalgic), have a look at the 2006 collection.

For something completely different, read “Trying Really Hard to Like India,” a really funny article by Seth Stevenson that was part of the 2006 “Best American Travel Writing” anthology.

Most freelancers will tell you when it comes to deciding who to write for, choose magazines. The pay better. And there’s something nice about seeing your name, your photos, your work on glossy — or if it’s a “green” publication, matte — textweight stock.

They’ll also tell you it’s good to develop relationships with editors. After all, getting assignments is as much about who you know as it is about your story idea.

But what if you’ve never pitched before? Writer’s Market and Writer’s Digest are two sources for beginners’ guidance. Freelance Success has morphed into a dynamic community of newish and experienced guns for hire. And MediaBistro’s popular writing classes provide in-person and online experience with feedback from working professionals.

There’s a lot you can learn online as well. Jason Tanz is posting a step-by-step article about landing a profile of “Adaptation” screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in Wired magazine. If you’re curious about the pitch process, check it out.

And to show you how quickly word spreads online, check out the Google search.

Photo by Sarah Sosiak/Flickr