Be Not Just a Writer, But a Salesperson As Well

No one likes rejection. I feel like that is just a basic human instinct. The thing we want most is to be accepted. We may not feel the need to be accepted by everyone we ever come across, but we do want to be accepted by our peers and the people we look up to. I, like anyone else, have a fear of rejection. Someone remind me again why I decided to be a journalist.

If this reading taught me anything, it was that journalists need a tough skin, something I know I do not have. I thinking working for The Student Printz has spoiled me. I can pitch a story idea to my editor, and within a timely matter I know if I should pursue the story or not. As I write the story, I am almost certain that it is going to be published. I know that I am doing this work for something. It seems as if freelance writers have to do the exact opposite. They seem to write a story in hopes that an editor will accept it to be published. You have to make sure while you are writing the story that you are thinking about what publications would even consider something like this. I would imagine sending the story you have worked so hard on to a publisher waiting for an acceptance or rejection, it would be like sending your only child to a boarding school you really don’t know too much about.

While rejection may be scary, while the idea of trying to make a story sound appealing to an editor that probably gets hundreds of pitches a month (at least) is daunting, that is part of the whole process. If this is something we want to do, rejection is just the biggest part of it. Eventually a story will be accepted, and even if it isn’t that just means we need to improve our writing in someway so the next story will be accepted. It will be challenging, it will be hurtful, but this is what we signed up for. At least we are learning this early on.


Feature Writing Part 2.

I do not enjoy writing news stories. I never have and I probably never will.  Public Relations makes me nervous as to how much I may have to write, but I sincerely hope it will mainly consist of press releases and features! 

Reading about features helps to clarify what they are– as reading about anything would.  I am in public relation for two reason: I love talking to people and I like getting people excited for opportunities, products or anything really.  The feature story reminds me of a conversation or a speech you would give or have.  It’s more like speaking than a news story.  There can be bad speaking and good speaking. Chapter 2 covered a lot about how bad features could be and how well written features could be.

The feature is a voice.  There is no voice in a news story there is just an announcer or a messenger.  You can do little to make a news story a product of your own imagination or initiative.  The feature allows you to create something new for someone.  Something you are excited to share and other are excited to read.

Everything we write mainly consists of the 5 W’s and the H. Telling True Stories reaches further into the depths of the question words.  We have to think beyond these questions and list out what we want to find and what we want our readers to know.  The questions can be answered or they can linger to a different topic or to be continued at a latter date.

I am extremely excited to write my first feature.  The readings have shown me, so far, that a feature story can be fun and should be fun.

Excited About Feature Writing

After reading chapter 2 of “The Art of Feature Writing”, I can safely say I am going to really like this class. When reading through this chapter and the different stories that were used as examples of good and bad feature writing, I find myself eager to start writing!

I’ll say this simply: Writing is not my trade, but I’m not afraid to say I think I am decent at it. Chapter two really made sense to me when it explained what was different from a news article and a feature story, and how a feature story can be about pretty much anything you want, as long as the subject matter is prevalent to someones life and the content is interesting to keep you reading. There’s more room for creativity and humor, and you just don’t get that with a straight-laced, all-facts, news article.

What feature writing always reminds me of is the Letter from the Editor section of almost every GQ magazine by Editor-in-Chief, Jim Nelson. His articles always seem to start off with a subject that is so off the wall, you wonder how it will relate to you. But, by the end of the article you are always nodding your head in agreement with his, sometimes, twisted logic of pop culture or what is currently happening in the media or country. They pull us in and make us relate to the subject matter, and that i what I think the true goal of feature writing is. If you have witty dialogue, keen observations, and logic to bring to the table with also a hint of persuasion, you’ll be left with a great feature article.


Feature stories: the good, the bad and the great ideas

When I read Chapter two in “The Art of Feature Writing,” I thought it was helpful to see examples of  good and bad feature stories. It was interesting how the author presented a short news story that should have been a short feature story. The difference between a straight news story’s simple lead and a feature story’s suspended interest lead helped determine the structure and flow of each story. 

I love how feature stories give the writer more freedom when choosing a topic. For news stories, an event or something has to take place for the news to happen. But feature stories can be about anything we see or observe in our daily lives. Some ideas the author gave in the book are nail biting, blue jeans, phobias and power blackouts. These ideas have nothing in common, but I believe they are ideas for great storytelling. This idea ties in with the “Telling True Stories” book because one author mentioned for the writer to get their head out of newspapers and observe the life around them. This is where they will find ideas with real stories. I believe this a true statement because news, news, news can overflow my brain. It’s nice to walk around a neighborhood or shopping center and observe people, places and things. 

I also enjoyed reading the ten tips for narrative reporting because it’s main theme was finding an emotional appeal when reporting rather than just gathering facts and basic information. The author mentions for the reporter to have an emotional experience while reporting a feature story and to really get inside the people they are interviewing. Tip #2 was my favorite because it was about having access to find a good person to interview. The author said, “the best idea will become a lousy story without deep access to people living their lives.” These words ring true because a reporter really has to know the person they are interviewing so they can understand how the subject lives their life.

News vs. Feature

The second readings from both books basically wants us to differentiate between what is “news” and what is a “feature”. As Tonya pointed out, “What’s the big idea?” We have to realize that with a simple news story, the public is looking for the initial facts about who or what is the topic of the discussion in the news piece as opposed to a person’s expectations of a feature story where the main focus is to draw the viewer in by relating the subject to him/her. I mean – isn’t that what most feature stories are about? They pull us in by setting the stage and placing us amongst whatever is going on. News stories do this as well, but feature stories have their own way about telling a story and what story they tell also differentiates them from the typical anchor we see on the 6pm night beat. Both texts try to show us that feature writing requires an even closer look into the subject at-hand.

Chapter 2, Feature Writing continues

Well, first things first- how is a feature story different from an ordinary news story?  Well they both rest on the foundation of reporting- you have to report what’s going on.  Well, a news story is the ordinary news.  A feature story is the extra-ordinary news.  Features take it a step further in structure and in subject matter.

Features generally take much more time.  More time in writing, preparing, interviewing, and gathering information.  Features aren’t for the weak at heart, and features aren’t a phone call and done. They take time and energy.

Finding a good idea is key.  First, an unfolding action must take place.  The story has to have somewhere to go.  Something needs to happen to keep the story unfolding and the readers intrigued.

Telling True Stories gives great incite on some questions to ask yourself on how to get the story and keep the readers attention.  One question is, “What’s the big idea?”  Lane Degregory states, “If you can find a universal truth in a story, even if it’s as silly as ‘people like to be entertained at a bar,’ that’s important.”

Jan Winburn also gave an excellent list of questions to ask ourselves.  A time-saving tip she gave is, “Where would it be worth going deeper?  Where is the close-up on a story?  Where does mystery remain?”

This is where we need to go to get the story.  This is where the feature is.  Also, what is going to intrigue your readers?  What do they want to know?  This is how you select the “award winning” topic.

Going Beyond News Writing

Feature writing seems to be it’s own creature completely separate from news writing. I think not every news writer can be a feature writer, and vice versa.

Not only does the Feature Writing textbook explain how feature stories must be organized differently than news stories, but Telling True Stories talks about how the entire approach for the two stories is totally different. The Feature Writing textbooks says feature stories need to read more like a story. It’s not just about reporting the facts, but instead going deeper into the subject matter. It should lure the reader in instead of giving all of the important information right off the bat. It is the type of story that a reader should really devote time to, which to me seems more difficult than a news story. A whole news story should be interesting, but it is more important to make the first part of a news story very strong, and not so much the second part, because at that point it is just expanding on details and information. Feature stories need to keep the reader’s attention from beginning to end.

Telling True Stories was all about how to approach a feature story. You can’t just set up an interview with a source, meet at some place, ask some questions, and both go on with your days. Feature writing is a project from beginning to end. You really need to engulf yourself in the story to really understand the subject matter and find something that people didn’t know about. Even if it is something that people experience, like a break up, a feature story could shed some light on it from someone who has experienced a unique break up. This is another way that feature stories seem to be more difficult than news stories. As long as you collect the facts, you have a news story. Features aren’t about facts, but about the portrayal of the subject. It reminds me more of visual art than of a news article. A feature story to me seems like something that engulfs your life. It’s a real skill that not a lot of people have. I hope I can have it one day.

The Art…of telling true stories

The introductions to both books give great insight on what I consider the most beneficial aspect of journalism – feature writing. From tips on freelance writing to providing beautiful examples of works by other writers, it’s best to say that these two text references will be of great use during the course of this semester. As a Broadcast Journalism major, my main focus has always been on the hardcore facts in a story. While I have been taught that it’s best to add human interest to a piece, that just isn’t enough for me.

I view feature writing as more than a simple profile piece but ,overall, an experience in which all journalists should endure to become well-rounded in their writing. The more you experience, the more you have to tell. This course has already sparked my fascination with feature writing, and I hope to continue to grow not only as a writer but as a reporter too.

Chapter 1, Part 1

The Art of Feature Writing gives great insights to writing feature stories.  The first thing I learned about was freelance writing.  As a new writer on the scene, I’m trying to soak in every word, empower my writing muscles, and then run the 5k of writing.

“Freelance writers call upon imagination and reason based upon experience, as much as memory, when writing.  The writer not only for themselves but for a specific audience.”

I might type this up and post it on my bulletin board.  This is such a great thing to keep in mind.

Telling True Stories really tugged at my heart.  The writing was so elegant and it made me want to dive in to new writing.

“At the heart of every issue is a human element that leads to the three most beautiful words in the English language:  What happened next?  If you answer that question, you are a storyteller.”

Katherine Lanpher said this and it couldn’t be more true. Sometimes when I write I hit a brick wall and I ask myself, what do I write next?  From now on I’ll ask, what does the reader what to know next? What should happen here?

Another thing I learned from David Halberstam is the book is the idea.  Once you have the idea, the words just flow out.  So instead of just sitting down and trying to write, go out and find a great idea and then the words just write themselves.

Katherine Boo also gave some insightful knowledge about writing and reporting.  To be in their element.  When reporting, watch your subject live.  Find the truth in what they say and how they live.

“What is a Feature?” or “China? Really?”

Let me take you through a hypothetical situation. You are married and enjoying your 14th anniversary in Belgium, and then your spouse decides to go alone to China, without knowing any Chinese, without any plans to get money, and without getting asked to do so by anyone who would help with the expenses.

Now for a question, is your spouse insane?

No matter the answer, that is exactly what acclaimed writer Gay Talese did. He recounted this story in the textbook Telling True Stories to give an example of what feature writing can be, but what I want to know is what it is liked to be married to a feature writer.

What is it like to be Nan A. Talese when her husband’s job is to dedicate his life to spending months on end trying to learn everything about stranger?

That dedication is what I think of when I think about feature writing. By definition, there needs to be a devotion and specialization.

This is where I take issue with the book The Art of Feature Writing. In AFW, feature writing is broken down into a formula, a template that can be thrown on a news story so it can masquerade as a feature.

While that practice common in journalism (heck, I know I’m guilty of it while writing in Hattiesburg), but it just seems deceptive. The pressures of trying to fill a daily, particularly a local one, almost require some surface level features.

This is where AFW redeems itself a bit. The concept of a feature story being able to come from somewhere personal resonates a lot with me. What can make writers more devoted or insightful about something than actually caring about it?

And if that’s the case, Mr. Gay could write Nan’s story. It may not be all that dramatic though, considering Nan is actually is in the story industry herself. Bird of the feather, I guess.