Wednesday, August 10, 2011

3 Tips For Writing Your First Mag Story

Happy hump day, Edsters!

Some big news this week – I have a byline in the magazine!

Last week I blogged about a story I was doing research for. I’m going to get a small research credit for that, but this week something even better developed. My own story and a real byline. I can’t even fully believe it.

Admittedly, this story is not the most exciting thing ever. It’s a small, front-of-the-book item, barely more than 40 words. But still, it means my name and my writing is going to be read by people all over the country, and I couldn’t be more excited.

It was an interesting experience, too. I’m used to writing longer pieces – for me, 500 words is pretty short, never mind 50. I had to figure out a way to shrink three 30-minute interviews into three sentences, which was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Here are a few things I’ve learned about writing short-form for mags:

1. Every word counts. I actually went through more drafts for this tiny piece than I usually do for longer pieces, because I had to scrutinize every word. I used the thesaurus a lot trying to find words whose meanings were exactly right – there is no room for imprecision when you have less than 50 words.

2. Pay attention to graphics. Magazines, unlike newspapers, rely on the relationship between text and visuals. If there’s a graphic or a picture to go with your story, you don’t have to repeat the information in the graphic or caption. This can be tricky, since, at least at my mag, the graphics department is pretty separate from the text department, so I had to go out of my way to contact the designer and find out what information was going in the graphic.

3. Be prepared for edits – even on tiny stories. I met with the editor twice after I submitted my copy, and basically rewrote the entire story. You have to be ready to be critiqued. Chances are you didn’t do a bad job, it’s just that every mag has a really specific voice, and your editor whose been there for years is going to understand that voice a lot better than you will as an intern whose been around for a few months at most.

The other day, I saw a proof of the page my story will be on, and it hit me just how cool this really is. I’ve certainly had some ups-and-downs through this internship, but right now, I couldn’t be happier.

How about you, Edsters? Any bylines coming up?

Until next time,
Edit intern

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