Non-Fiction Articles

Show–Don’t tell!
Use action verbs. Describe feelings, emotions, smells, tastes, colors, places, etc. Use adjectives and adverbs as needed with lots of descriptive nouns and verbs. Let the reader see and feel what is happening.

Use Informal Conversation.
Pretend the reader is sitting across the table from you. You are having a cup of coffee with a friend and telling them this story. How would you talk? Write the same way. Write conversational but with good grammar, flow and style. Be very careful with slang terms. If in doubt, don’t use them.

Write! Rewrite! Polish!
Send your very best work to editors. Don’t expect the editor to polish your work for you. The less the editor has to do to your article, the more likely it will be accepted. Learn to edit your own work.

Use Strong Beginnings to Hook the Reader.
Anecdotes are great for beginnings. Quotes often work. Sometimes you need to jump right in the middle of the story with lots of action to hook the reader, then go back and tell what has happened.
Read several beginning paragraphs of books and articles to get ideas on good hooks. If it hooked you, it will probably work for others. Give the reader something that will make them want to keep reading.

Middle With A Message
This is the bulk of your writing. Stay focused and write tight!

Endings Usually Compliment Beginnings.
No matter what type of article you are writing there should be a strong ending. If you are doing an informational piece, with several points then make the ending a good “wrap-up.”
A Personal Experience Story needs a “take away” message at the end. You come full circle from the beginning. Start with a problem. As you solve it, this causes a “change” (preferably spiritual) in you, which in turn gives the reader a way to apply this to her own unique situation without preaching.

Read Through Your Story Aloud.
Reading aloud will help you feel the flow of the article. Is the pace good? Does it get bogged down in too much detail in places? Is your thought pattern broken in any one place? Do you have good sentence structure? Is it smooth? Do you stumble over particular words? Do you use lots of short sentences to move the piece along, but vary them with longer ones so it doesn’t get choppy? Make any changes necessary then reread.

Use a Mixture of Narrative and Dialogue.
If you have a problem using dialogue read a good novel. Using fiction techniques with non-fiction articles makes them more personable and even more “salable.” The reader likes the flow and natural breaks that automatically come with conversation.

Focus on Getting One Main Point Across To Your Reader.
Always keep your main point in mind when you write. What is the story about? Do I need all these details? Do they enhance the story or distract from it? Obviously, you need some detail, but don’t smother your focal point with trivial things. Don’t try to cram twenty years of experience into one article. Pick and choose details carefully so they compliment the piece, and try to focus the story on only one or two people.

Outline Your Article.
Outlining will help you put your information in order before starting on the article itself. It also helps you focus on the main point of your piece. An outline will even help in writing a query letter to an editor since you need to let him/her know the overall content of your proposed story.

Research Markets.
Send for writer’s guidelines and sample copies of the magazine. Study the magazine–stories, sentence structure, length of articles, target audience (look at advertising and types of stories), style of writing, tone, etc. Study guidelines and follow them carefully. What tips do they offer? What type of writing do they want? How much is written by free-lance writers? What do they pay? What word count do they want?

Tell A Good Story!
Never forget to tell a good story when doing Personal Experience Articles. Editors are looking for something unique. Make it so captivating the reader (or editor) can’t put it down. Make him laugh, cry and feel good. In this market a good story will outshine your manuscript. Always write in first person. It’s your story! If it’s someone else’s story, it must be ghost written in first person with the storyteller having the byline.

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