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Magazine writing for newspaper writers

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by forever_town, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I've bought a couple of books related to the subject of magazine writing. I remember a brief discussion about magazine writing when I took one of my two journalism classes (this particular class was back in 1993, though). However, I'm perplexed about the differences between newspaper writing and magazine writing.

    Rather than simply trying to pad a newspaper story's length since it's going into a magazine, what kind of things would I need to do differently in terms of the writing style?

    In terms of depth of stories, that's something I've been working on since I started at my current gig. It's a weekly newspaper so I generally don't have the necessity of writing for tomorrow's paper. However, that presents its own challenges: How do I write a story that will be compelling even four or five days after the daily newspapers that carried it have become lining for birdcages everywhere? What can I do differently with a story that could make it resonate even with readers who've seen the story in my competing paper?

    When I do gamers on the Big Division I university's games, I already use a second-day lede and try to work more of an analytical approach to the games. I usually try to look at trends. Last year, I would post Web-only stories that covered midweek games when the game that hit the print side would be on the weekend.

    I'm not trying to be the next Jones or jgmacg. Lord knows I don't have that in me. But if I were trying to get a gig as a freelance writer for a magazine, how do I write the story so the editor doesn't come back and tell me what my journalism teacher told me about my one attempt to write a magazine story: It looks too much like a newspaper story?
  2. dragonfly

    dragonfly Member

    I'm a big fan of mediabistro and the How to Pitch articles...

    first thing you'll learn is that most likely your first articles for magazines will be pretty short, front of the book type stuff. 300-600 words at most.
  3. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I think the biggest key is to be patient. Let the story flow -- and by that I mean: don't get caught up in the inverted pyramid.

    You don't have to get the lede or nut graph right up at the beginning. And you can develop the story so that it builds up suspense and the ending snaps. That's a very rare situation for a newspaper writer. You might have to think about the format -- the organization of the information -- more than you would if you were writing for a daily deadline.

    Also, if you're seeking freelance -- pitching the story is even more important than writing it. (If you don't pitch it well, you won't get to write it.) So think about that, too. Mediabistro.com is a very good reference for that, like dragonfly said.
  4. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Make sure that you have a solid grasp on the magazine's audience. Writing for an ESPN the Mag audience is very different from the Glamour audience is different from the Popular Mechanics audience. You get the idea. But magazines know their audiences to a T and also have a specific tone that they take to reach their audience. Know who you're writing for and know what tone you should take.

    This differs from newspapers, which generally tell you to write at an eighth-grade reading level and for a very broad audience.
  5. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Town,

    I had to think long and hard about this when I took a gig teaching magazine writing this year.

    I've borrowed liberally from Writing for Story by Jon Franklin and James B Stewart's Follow the Story. Most people would prefer the latter, I suspect.

    What it is: complex. What it isn't: padding out a newspaper story. If it's a feature-length deal, it's probably closer to following the model of a film rather than a newspaper story. That said, I have one editor who insists on using film terms when discussing stories -- not sports stories, she'd never see this site -- and it drives me up the wall.

    My thumbnail for students.

    1. You have a character. The character has a problem. The character makes a decision. The character faces an immediate outcome. There is an echo that lasts longer.

    2. Narrow: Your story should be about a person (not a place or a thing). Broad: Your story should have meaning or application beyond that one person.

    There is, of course, a lot more. Ledes as scenes, nuts as transition, ends taking elements from the lede (the gun in scene one must be shot in the final act). But 1 and 2 are a start.

    YD&OHS, etc
  6. Ed_Hardin

    Ed_Hardin New Member

    The best advice, on this, I ever received: Put yourself in the reader's Lazy Boy. You pick up the magazine with your story in it. You're in no hurry...
  7. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Assuming you're not just writing a short feature, I would say approach it the way you would a big centerpiece for your paper. You're writing a definitive piece on your subject. Read some of the winning APSE entries. Yes, they appeared in newspapers, but the writers took a magazine-style approach.
  8. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    You can have more fun with it. Longer sentences, more unique leads, etc.
  9. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr 17,

    That was the first lesson I taught:

    Writing long doesn't mean writing long sentences.

    i had the class read Mrs Kelly's Monster and count sentences of ten words or less. And then six words or less.

    Long sentences, no. Detail, yes.

    YD&OHS, etc
  10. Would "Mrs. Kelly's Monster" win an APSE award? Would it get past the average sports desk? I mean, it won the Pulitzer. But my thought is that most sports editors would read it, harumph and say, "Where the nut graph???"
  11. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr Wannabe,

    The subject line is "Magazine writing for newspaper writers." I think the distinctions blur a bit. Mrs Kelly's Monster was a newspaper feature but it would stand up as a magazine piece. There's long-form and then there's news, straight news, columns, and stuff that's not long-form. Does A Sense of Where You Are have a nut graph? I'm sure there are sports features in magazines (not SI, not ESPN, but in the New Yorker, Esquire, the Atlantic, GQ) that play outside conventional lines. Esquire's Derek Jeter deal would probably be one. I hear what you're saying. If you wrote Mrs Kelly's Monster in a sports setting and it was of equal quality, maybe it wouldn't get past the sports editor but it would get into the feature-news hole/magazine of the NYT, WP, St Pete, LAT and others.

    YD&OHS, etc
  12. My post was a knock on conventional newspaper thinking - not on Franklin's piece, which is brilliant and ground-breaking.
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