J404 Feature Writing, Fall 2007
Magazine articles and free-lance pieces carry titles. The author writes these, and they help to sell a piece. Put a title on every draft – even the early ones. Underneath the title is your byline. Word count and rights being sold are listed at the top right corner.
Citing sources and preparing a contact list:
· Every article draft must have at least three sources. No article draft with fewer than three sources will be accepted for grading. A first-person, single-source story is called a confessional; these are difficult to market and rarely have the depth or scope of a developed article. Similarly, a single-source interview story gets stuck at that level: an interview. Feature stories need to develop their themes by placing them in context and addressing questions of depth and scope. Commentaries need similar depth, in order to be fair and authoritative.
· Because of close personal connections, some people are not appropriate sources for your stories. Do not cite family members, close friends, co-workers, other journalism majors, or employers in your articles. If you are in doubt about using a source, don’t. Or, ask the instructor or publication editor for guidance. The SPJ code of ethics also has helpful guidelines.
Bring to class at least five ideas that include specific angles, viable sources, and a sense of forward motion for the storyline. Each needs to be about three sentences long and to show potential for a profile, a general feature or a how-to or service article. These will be used in an in-class exercise.
Length: approximately five pages (typed, doublespaced). The components emphasized for this draft include:
Length: approximately seven pages (typed, doublespaced). The components emphasized for this draft include:
Query letter and market list
The query letter is a formal business letter to an editor that proposes a story idea and asks for the assignment to write that story; it is a free-lance writer’s equivalent to the story proposal.
The market list is a researched list of five or more publications that are likely to be interested in running your story. To find these, use “Writer’s Market” and Websites for the publications.
The letter needs to:
The market list needs to include for each publication any information you’d need to write a new query letter and mail the article, such as:
Final drafts of general feature, profile, query letter and market list
The length of the final drafts depends on what your target publication accepts. Address the query letter to the first market on your list. In the query, be sure to include the title and length of the articles. The query letter and features are now ready to submit to an editor; they should be tailored as a package and be formatted appropriately (i.e., with title, word count, rights, source list). Make this as polished and professional as you can – and mail the query letter! Students have sold articles from the J404 class, and you might, too.
The components emphasized for both articles include:
Choose an essay or grouping of commentaries in “Telling True Stories” that deals with an aspect of writing that you find personally challenging and involving. In one page (doublespaced, about 250 words) tell what this issue is, why you chose it, what the authors have to say, and whether you agree, disagree, or can apply their insights. (Do not use pieces already assigned as readings for this class.)
The topic for the column is open; it may flow from your earlier articles or be something new; length is three pages. Avoid topics that have short-lived news angles; the theme developed needs to be as enjoyable to read six weeks or months from now as it is today. Take a stance and bring in your own experiences, complemented by research that provides context. Let your own writing style show through, and enjoy being funny, indignant, amused, puzzled, or … all of these.
The components emphasized for this draft include:
This draft will be a more polished version, with a crisper presentation of your views. The essential components are the same as for the first draft, but with:
Persuasive article, draft 1
This article needs to convince readers of a certain viewpoint or interpretation by presenting well-researched facts, building an argument by placing these in some logical order (deductive, inductive, analogous, etc.), acknowledging the strong opposing arguments, and carrying a convincing tone showing that you, the writer, care about this issue.
The components for this draft include:
Persuasive article, final draft
This article should be ready to submit to a magazine or a newspaper op-ed page. Check your target publication for the desired length and any other guidelines.
Components for this draft include the same list for the first draft, plus:
Effective use of tone and voice.