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finding (project) stories -- do you "save string" and if so, how?

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by hackhack, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. hackhack

    hackhack New Member

    From new book "Writing Tools" by Roy Peter Clark....organized into 50 short chapters ... includes one on how he collects materials for projects -- what he calls "saving string."

    This is a good practice for anyone, a beat writer, small paper, big one, whatever.

    Roy collects topics that interests him, then collects material on those topics. He talks to his friends, becomes a magnet for anything on his topic.

    So the material in his topic boxes grows. He's an accomplished writer, so he knows when he's reached critical mass on his subject and hear's the whisper, "it's time" -- time to write.

    He also quotes other authors ( David McCullough, George P. Shultz) on their methods.

    Any thots on "saving string" or other methods of finding project ideas?
  2. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Sirs, Madames,

    From the mag and book world: I put together clipping files for story ideas and bigger projects on a daily basis. (I never toss them even if they hit the rocks when pitched. You never know when events will breathe life into them.) For a magazine pitch a little less is involved that doing a book proposal, natch. One of my editors is big on this--he hands me these files all the time. Fo0r my part I'm somewhat organized on this--I used to work as the clippings/filing guy at the journalism library at the alma mater (which was more useful than many classes). I also put entries in my daily planner and journal when something strikes me for following up. The last feature I did sprang from reading a pretty well known book sports book and wondering whatever happened to two characters who were in the margins of the story--so my entry in my journal was the book title, the page #s, the names, schools and institutions mentioned and then ... "phone directory search" ... not that any of it was a priority (I managed to let it sit for six months before finding the principals and pitching the story. But after that it was fast and furious.

    YHS, etc
  3. Jones

    Jones Active Member

    I think that's a pretty cool idea, the string thing. I've never been smart enough to do it. I guess I keep kind of a mental file of stuff -- I mean, I have a bunch of ideas sort of floating around in the ether, and then if something sparks, I pick one out -- but I've never kept anything like Friend's files. Seems like a good thing to start doing, though.
  4. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    More delusion from Roy. At small papers run by idiot MEs ("We need as much as you can write, ASAP!), people don't have time to save string, and even if they did, they'd never have the chance to write about it.

    At one paper, the ME would bitch because we "didn't have enough project stories." Meanwhile, the city editor was assigning too many stories and using story counts as a monitor of who was doing a good job.

    A proposal was made: Drop the story count B.S. and allow each reporter to have one project day every 2-4 weeks. In return, those days had to lead to a project being submitted.

    It was rejected for the usual reasons: "We don't want to change now; if everyone would just stop slacking, you could write 5 stories a day AND do a project, etc."
  5. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Active Member

    So any good idea should be immediately scrapped if a short-sighted and poorly managing editor gets in the way? That's a really good way to get stuck in a nowhere job forever and never write anything worth reading. I agree that management is a major problem in the newspaper industry (in fact, it's a problem in all industries. Business consultant W. Edwards Deming says management is the source of 95 percent of all problems in business) but if you allow poor management to stop all your writing opportunities, you will never get anything accomplished. And yes, I've worked in poorly managed newsrooms.
  6. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    We didn't immediately scrap it, though. We came up with a proposal, and it was rejected because the management thought story counts and quotas were the way to do things.

    In their mind, the projects could be done along with the 5-6 stories per person per day. Reality, however, proved different.
  7. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Active Member

    You rejected the entire concept as "delusion." Saying that reporters at small papers "never" have the chance to try these kinds of projects.
  8. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Because it's in the same vein as the usual Poytner bullshit: Spout a bunch of hypothetical crap, then ignore the reality, which is that people at small papers run by idiots (you must not have read that final qualifier) don't have time to play Poynter games.

    If the people at Poynter were anything more than myopic cloud drifters, they'd know this.
  9. hackhack

    hackhack New Member

    OK so ignore, for a moment, the word Poynter.
    You're stuck working for a small paper run by idiots.
    Can you rise above that? Or do you focus on all the reasons you can't?
    What're the options?
    Just asking.
  10. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    Well, hackhack, like I already said: We went to the highers-up with a proposal. The writers wanted to do more meaningful journalism, but they didn't want to get reamed with unpaid hours in order to do it.

    The proposal was rejected, with the usual B.S.: We don't care what you want. We don't care if what we're telling you makes sense. Find a way to do all of it.
  11. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Pack,

    No reason you can start with some productive work routines that will serve you well when you move on to a better work situation. Try to be better than the dolts in charge. Maybe no reward in it, but certainly no harm.

    YHS, etc
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