Feature Writers: Use This Checklist

Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality FeaturesMark Twain often spoke of  writing in an unpretentious way,  simplicity of language, accuracy, and “naturalness.” These are points that should be uppermost in feature writers’ minds when they write for newspapers and magazines.

Heed these key points about your prose:

1)  Select just the right word. Brainstorm until you get it right.

2)  Use concrete nouns.

3)  Use action verbs.

4)  Don’t prop up your verbs with adverbs.

5)  Show, don’t tell.

6)  Write using detail. For example, tell about the taste and smell of things.

7)  Don’t paraphrase  an interviewee’s great quote. And, put the quote up high in your article. (Remember that when someone says something colorful, it probably reveals a lot about their personality.)

8)  On the other hand, don’t put into direct quotation what has been  heard second or third hand. The quote should be the interviewee’s original statement.

9)  Write forceful, compelling sentences when punch is needed. (Always avoid clumsy and meaningless sentences.)

10)  Don’t write about ideas, but write about people who have the ideas.  Interview them.

11)  Don’t raise questions you don’t  answer in your article. (This usually happens when you forgot to ask someone something, and you didn’t want to bother to call and ask a followup question.)

Above all, remember that your work begins before the writing of the article. Your prep work will shape the article. That is, there is the brainstorming for questions for the interviewee, the observing at the interview, and the note-taking. Train yourself to take notes fast by using your own personal abbreviations.

Remember, too, what Sean O’Faolain, the Irish writer, said. Ideas sometimes become clear “by, and only by, the very act of writing.” (So, get something down on paper, and little by little, your article will take shape.)

If you’ve read the classics like “Miss Lonelyhearts” or “The Day of the Locust” by Nathanael West, you will find an economy and vividness of language that any journalist would be proud to write.  (So, read a lot of good writing.)

Finally, don’t forget that “cute” writing or a clever way of saying something is no substitute for a scarcity of facts and ho-hum observations.

For more essential tips, read my other posts on feature writing and general writing, too. You can also read “Beginners’ Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features.” The latter is one of my books that has been a Featured Selection of Writer’s Digest Book Club.

Copyright 2012 by Charlotte Digregorio.

About Charlotte Digregorio

I publish books. I have marketed and/or published 55 titles. These books are sold in 46 countries to bookstores, libraries, universities, professional organizations, government agencies, and book clubs. In 2018, I was honored by the Governor of Illinois for my thirty-eight years of accomplishments in the literary arts, and my work to promote and advance the field by educating adults and students alike. I am the author of seven books including: Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All; Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Homes; You Can Be A Columnist; Beginners' Guide to Writing & Selling Quality Features; Your Original Personal Ad; and my latest, Ripples of Air: Poems of Healing. The first four books have been adopted as supplemental texts at universities throughout the U.S., Canada, India, Pakistan, and Catalonia. They are sold in 43 countries, and are displayed in major metropolitan cultural centers. These books have been reviewed, recommended, and praised by hundreds of critics, librarians, and professors worldwide. I am also the author of a poetry collection: "Shadows of Seasons: Selected Haiku and Senryu by Charlotte Digregorio." Two of my books have been Featured Selections of Writer's Digest Book Club. I am regularly interviewed by major print, radio, and television organizations throughout the U.S. I regularly sign books at libraries, chain bookstores, and university bookstores, and do poetry readings at art centers, cafes, tea houses, and galleries. I was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. I have won fifty-nine poetry awards, writing fourteen poetic forms. My poetry has been translated into eight languages. I do illustrated solo poetry exhibits 365 days a year in libraries, galleries, corporate buildings, hospitals, convention centers, and other venues. My individual poems have been displayed at supermarkets, apparel and wine shops, banks, botanic gardens, restaurants, and on public transit. I have been nominated and listed in "The International Authors and Writers Who's Who" in Cambridge, England and in the "Who's Who In Writers, Editors & Poets U.S./Canada." I hosted my own radio program, "Poetry Beat," on public broadcasting. My poetry has been featured on several library web sites including those of Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana and Cornell University's Mann Library. My background includes positions as a feature editor and columnist at daily newspapers and as a magazine editor. I have been a public relations director for a non-profit organization. I am self-employed as a public relations/marketing consultant, having served a total of 118 clients in 23 states for the past several decades . In other professional areas, I have been on university faculties, teaching French, Italian, and Writing. I regularly give lectures and workshops on publishing, journalism, publicity, poetry, and creativity to business and professional groups, and at writer's conferences, universities, literary festivals, non-profit organizations, and libraries. I have been a writer-in-residence at universities. There have been about 400 articles written about me in the media. I have served on the Boards of writers and publishers organizations. My positions have included Board Secretary of the Northwest Association of Book Publishers. I served for five years as Midwest Regional Coordinator of The Haiku Society of America, and for two years as its Second Vice President.
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