Writing the Newspaper Feature Article
By Wendy Dager
It was a stroke of luck that got me writing feature articles for the Ventura County Stars Life section. Luck and knowing someonein this case, the assistant opinion pages editor, for whom I was already writing a freelance column every other week. Sure, I was lucky to get into Life, but I am also a decent writeran easy edita trait thats kept me on the lifestyle editors list of dependable freelancers. Long gone are the days when the hard-nosed editor with a heart-of-gold nurtures a writer who has potential but requires a lot of editing. Todays editors are too busy doing their jobs to play mother hen. They want someone who can jump in, get the interviews done, do the research, write the story, and turn it in before deadline. If you can do all of this, youre halfway to being able to write a feature article. Now all you have to do is turn yourself into an easy edit. Here are a few guidelines to help you on your way.
Familiarize yourself with the publication.
You dont have to write like everyone else, but you do have to match the tone of past articles. If your style is too different from the status quo, your work may not ever make it to print. While newspaper editors do encourage individuality among their feature writers, the bottom line is readershipand, generally speaking, subscribers dont take too well to changes in form or content.
Remember that feature articles are fun.
Not that every topic is a bunch of laughsfor instance, Ive written articles about breast cancer, cystic fibrosis, and head licebut feature writing means you get to use a little color in your story. Adjectives are welcome here, as opposed to the hard news department, where too much description is taken as editorializing. However, you may wish to pump up your descriptive main story with a statistical sidebar, if applicable.
Dont go over the word count.
That means you have to self-edit, which is sometimes difficult. Put your ego aside and cut unnecessary stuffbefore you submit the article. That means you may have to delete something you consider brilliant. Believe me, its not as fabulous as you think it is. If it isnt crucial to the development of the story, its best to get rid of it. This sacrifice wont guarantee that your editor will fall in love with you, but shell appreciate the effort.
For me, writing feature articles has been a series of rewarding experiences. Ive covered a variety of topics, met some interesting people, and learned how to write what I believe is the purest form of creative nonfictionnews stories with flair.
Wendy Dager is a freelance writer. Her work appears regularly in the Ventura County Star, and her articles Writing Newspaper Opinion Articles and Creating Greeting Cards have appeared as chapters in The Writers Handbook.