A fellow Examiner on Linked In asked for my recommendation of her column. I ignored her twice. Then she sent a direct message and link, asking for feedback.
A critique can be a great help to a writer. I appreciate feedback when it is expressed in a way that encourages improvement in my writing. Lots of writers participate in critique groups for this purpose. Just because the story is long enough, doesn’t mean that it’s good enough.
Back in the good old days, when writers typed out a manuscript on paper, and spent most of their earnings supporting the US Mail Service, editors would jot a quick note or critique to let the writer know where they can improve their writing. Today, with electronic submissions, most editors click the delete button, and the writer is left in the dark. It is getting more difficult for a writer to get honest feedback.
And so, I replied.
Because the Examiner is willing to hire people who have knowledge and experience in their field, exm.nr/iQBbgl regardless of their publishing experience, and because there are bloggers publishing themselves the same way, I thought I’d republish my response to this reporter.
First, your bio sounds like a job application. People want to know why you are qualified to write this column, not your personal opinion about yourself. My bio for arts and crafts says I've double-majored in journalism and art, have published three craft books, and am certified to teach art. That makes it look like I'm well qualified for the job, and I know what I'm talking about.
The first sentence is what appears on the first page of the paper, a Google search, or a subscriber's email update. That first sentence has to tell the reader that this is a story they just can't miss. You have two seconds to hook your fish, or he's off the line and down the stream.
You missed your lead. The lead tells the reader why they need to continue reading the story. So far as I could figure, you put the lead, or most important fact, in the last paragraph of the article.
Here's a basic story outline:
- Why do you want to read this?
- What is the main point you are going to get from the rest of the information?
- The most important info
- The next important info
- Evidence that supports a source's opinion, or a source's opinion that supports the evidence.
The conclusion is not your opinion. Reporters keep their own opinions to themselves. Any opinion stated should be a direct quote from someone who has authority to make one such as an eye witness, scholar, or someone in that profession.
A true reporter reports the facts and allows the readers to come to their own conclusions. To come to a conclusion for them is to patronize them, treat them as babies, and make ourselves superior to them. The notion that there is one official opinion that everyone must believe in is the cornerstone of communism. In a free country, people are free to come to their own opinions, and a good reporter protects freedom of the press by allowing them to do so.
I hope this helps
This Examiner’s mistake is that she was writing her story upside down. A story is written in an inverted pyramid style, with the most important facts first, and the least important facts last.
If this is the mistake you are making too, try this trick. Write each fact, quote or source on a separate scrap of paper. Sticky notes work well, but scrap paper is cheaper. Get a tack board and start pinning the pieces to the board.
Sort the slips into two piles: facts and quotes. Begin with the facts only. Put the most important facts at the top and the least important at the bottom of the tack board.
Add your quotes from your sources or research facts from books to the board next. Choose where to pin them by looking for the common factor between one piece of paper and the next. For example, the quote ’“We lost everything,” said Susan James.’ is pinned next to the sheet with the fact of “A house burned down last night.” Both sheets have a common factor of the house stated or implied.
Keep your own opinions out of the story. The sheet that says “It was a lucky night because...” goes into the trash can. However, the slip that says ‘”We were lucky,” James concluded.’ Is the perfect ending for your now perfect story.
©Paula Hrbacek All rights reserved. Please link to this article instead of reposting it. For reprint rights use the contact form at www.paulahrbacek.weebley.com.