Excerpted from a post written by Writer’s Block Philippines, and published in Manila Bulletin on June 25, 2011.
MANILA, Philippines — In an age when words are everywhere, when anyone with an Internet connection and a social media account can publish ideas, it is easy to believe that writing is a piece of cake. However, the harsh reality is that the ubiquity of words, ideas, and publishing platforms has made it even more challenging to stand out from the above the clutter, making it imperative for aspiring writers to develop other skills that will give them the edge with editors and publishers.
Here, we will share with you 10 of the most important (non-writing) skills that every aspiring writer needs in order to catch an editor’s eye, get published, and break into freelance writing.
1. Develop a nose for stories. There are many ways to write a feature article, just as there are many ways—as the saying goes—to skin a cat. Good writers are those who can find unique angles even to hyper-saturated stories (e.g., summer travel in Boracay) and create content that has not yet been written about.
2. Ask incisive questions that get great answers (and soundbites). At the heart of a great story is a great interview that produces great soundbites (otherwise known as quotable quotes). Whether you are writing about a restaurant, a summer getaway, or an event, you will need an interview that adds depth or a human element to a story. The better your interview is, the more potential angles you will have, and the meatier your story becomes.
3. Be a good reporter. The telltale signs of bad writing (or a bad attitude toward writing) is sloppy reporting—that is, failing to take notes, being lazy about doing additional research, using Wikipedia as a source (¡Que horror!), and relying solely on opinion or hearsay. Even when writing lifestyle features, you will always need facts and background information to make your story more accurate and more relevant. The less of these you have, the fluffier your piece becomes.
4. Write pieces that readers will love (and that will help publications sell, or get clicked). It is one thing to “write” and string sentences together, it is another to properly inform, inspire, encourage, and empower readers. Remember that at the heart of every magazine or newspaper is a publisher that needs to make money, and the more your content is a hit with readers (and advertisers), the more chances you’ll have of earning future assignments.
5. Stick to deadlines. It takes a lot of steps for a submitted piece to make it to print, and each of those steps has a timeline. Failing to meet deadlines compromises every other step of the publishing process, ensuring that your editors will remember you enough to not assign you anything in the near future. Many editors have said this over again: sometimes, they would rather get an average but reliable writer over a great but forever-late writer, if only to spare themselves the headache of running after deadlines.
Read Tips 6 to 10 by clicking on the link above. To learn more about how feature writing can work for you or your company, join Feature Writing 101 on September 17 (Saturday). Click HERE to view more details.