Students journalists are normally mediocre at best, this list should help you become a more professional and successful writer.
Everybody should keep themselves up to date with all of the latest news, it makes you a more intelligent, well read and interesting person, but for writers it is essential that you keep on top of the news. People look to writers for inspiration and when something happens people are going to expect you to talk about it, regardless of if you don’t care about what is happening, you are the kind of person that has to be in the know. Articles have to be planned, you can’t write about baseball when the World Cup is taking place, nobody is going to read it. Writing is all about supply and demand, have you noticed that recently that about 70% of all articles on the internet recently have been somehow linked to Game of Thrones? Coincidence? I think not.
Always write your articles or stories on a platform that automatically saves as you go along. This can save you so much hassle and helps you avoid any enraging moments that you might have when your laptop suddenly decides to shut down on you.
Everyone forgets to save their work as they are going along as websites such and WordPress do it for you, so don’t be ‘that person’ who turns up on monday morning saying that you have nothing because your laptop died. That excuse is so 2011.
Edit. Edit. Read and then edit again.
I cannot stress how important this is. As an editor, I go through people’s work thinking “my god, did a chimpanzee proof read this for you?”. I always hope that punctuation errors are actually just smudges on my laptop screen, but unfortunately people just love to overuse commas and randomly place semi-colons to seem like they know what they are doing: I’m just an editor for a school paper and in the real word, people wouldn’t put up with silly mistakes, you have to be certain that you did everything you could to check for errors before you submit any work to an editor because they will tear you apart. Errors are the number one fault in most writers work,
Look at me!
Nobody wants to read a boring looking article. Everything you do has to draw attention to yourself because you are a writer and everyone should be paying attention to you. Your twitter (more on this later) is a very useful tool for sharing your stories and if people see just a blank link they aren’t going to click it because it just looks like a virus. The featured picture, in most cases has to be landscape because it blocks together with other articles on the website and when you share it, the image doesn’t get cropped. All the images you use should be high quality, if you use a picture that is even slightly pixilated then your story loses all credibility and they only thing they reader can think about is how bad that picture looks. I once spent longer looking for the best pictures than I did on writing the story, they are just as equally important.
Social Media. (I told you)
In the past, following people could get you a one way ticket to Folsom Prison, but now that’s all everyone wants you to do. The more followers you have on sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr means the more people that your story is going to reach, which inevitably is the entire point of writing it, right? Twitter is perfect for writers because it gives you an opportunity to find out so much about your audience. Once you’ve build up a large base of followers then you can ask them what kind of stories they want to see and you can just tweet ideas of phrases or jokes to see if people like them. It’s a great tool that has really revolutionised the journalism industry for the better. So, follow me! @SJNeve
In an interview last year, the Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago was asked about his daily writing routine. His answer was, “I write two pages. And then I read and read and read.
Reading can broaden your horizons and give you inspiration to write stories that you would never give a second thought to. Sharing these stories can also help you in your social media endeavours, because either the author will read something of yours after seeing you like his work or your followers will see that you read a lot and will start to trust what you post more. Whenever writing gets too painful, when each word and idea seems to be dragged from the mind like the limb of an aborted camel, reading offers a writer an escape into a fantasy world where stories are revealed with simple ease and order on the page. Writing is often hell, but reading is almost always a pleasure if you are discerning.
It may seem like an archaic form of communication but the business card should still be a top priority for any writer who wants to have their voice heard. Never go cheap when it comes to business cards, they are a pocket sized reflection of your entire career and have the power to change your life. Being a writer you normally find yourself in strange and exciting places with strange but exciting people, having a bunch of cards on you at all times is so important because you never know when you might need to talk to these strange people again, or even better if they want to talk to you!
Here a few tips on the perfect, modern business card:
Always have a large name with the company name underneath.
Only include your email address and Twitter handle
(your personal cell phone number should be kept private, if they need it then they can email you and ask you for it. Texting is the least professional thing anyone can do. Also as you may be travelling quite a lot, a cell phone is unreliable because it may not work in certain countries)
It has to stand out, don’t get crazy, just be unique.
If you put a link to your website or portfolio then use a QR code, this is modern and colloquial.
Make sure the link is owned by yourself and not just another .wordpress account. This lacks professionalism and might suggest you aren’t really committed to your writing.
Never, under any circumstance use Comic Sans.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
If you are in meetings with your editors and other staff members and you lay claim to a story then you had better damn write it because you represent the entire team and if you produce a poor story or even worse, fail to complete it within deadline then you aren’t just letting yourself down, you are letting the entire group down. If you have to post a new story every week or even every weekday then you have to keep to it because if you miss one day, people remember that more than if you constantly post on time for 5 years in a row. Surely most people know this all already?
Always keep up to date with other writers lives and what they are writing about because it helps you understand how other people view you and how you can use that to your advantage. The best writers know what the reader wants before they even know it and the only way to understand this fully is being able to empathise with them. Go out with with your writer friends once in a while and the stimulating conversation will help you write that masterpiece you have been stuck on for months.
Use a pen
Whenever you are trying to come up with article and story ideas it’s always better to write down your thoughts with a pen and paper rather than typing it on a computer. I always find that writing down key words dotted around a page and writing around them really helps me formulate ideas and even structure of my articles and stories. You just can’t beat the feeling of creating and forming the words, it feels so much more real and you’ll instantly feel good when you start writing with a pen.