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Where the learning never ends ...

Wild Ink Interview Part II

What do writers who want to break into this genre need to know?

Any experienced editor or writer will tell you there’s no substitute for researching the magazine or book publisher that you want to write for. Whenever I write for someone new, I’ll read back issues, previous articles they’ve published on similar topics, or books in the same or similar series. I examine overall structure, sentence and paragraph length and structure, transitions, use of quotations, etc. Throughout, I’m also “listening” for tone—Is it playful, authoritative, or gee whiz?

That might sound like over-analysis, but especially when you’re starting out, it can be helpful to deconstruct what you’re going to replicate. With new writers, most nonfiction editors are not looking for someone who can wow them with a grand slam of unique writing brilliance the likes they’ve never seen, they mainly want to know you can touch the bases.

Oh, and use topic sentences to guide readers into a paragraph. That might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed at how many articles gloss over this high-school level aspect of clear writing. Young readers are often developing skills of managing and processing the flow of information from text. Topic sentences offer the road signs and anchoring info to help them navigate.

Also, get the interview, at least on contemporary issues. Nothing makes an article or book more current than the views of people who are making things happen right now. It injects a story with authority and personality.

Lastly, read your story aloud to yourself. By doing this, I constantly catch redundant phrasing, passive voice, and other oopses that I otherwise would have skimmed over.
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