Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do You Have an Article in Mind?

After I graduated to the empty-nest phase of my life, I decided to write fiction. You, however, might prefer non- fiction. Articles are a good place to start, and you have a vast store of experience to draw from. People contemplating home education might benefit from a how-to article. Moms in the April doldrums might be uplifted with a humorous story or encouraged by how you handled similar circumstances.

As with story, articles have structure. A beginning, middle, and an end. In addition, they often include sidebars that contain tidbits that don’t fit into the story but add to interest, provide further information, or answer frequently asked questions.

The beginning is the opening paragraph or paragraphs, often called the hook. It is supposed to grab the readers’ attention and pique their curiosity. To avoid sounding preachy or like an encyclopedia, use a conversational voice and incorporate dialogue, description, or a bit of action.

The middle is the main part of your article. If the story is about something that happened, write chronologically. If it informational, supply details for the topic mentioned in the opening. You can show cause and effect, comparison and contrast. Embellish with quotes, anecdotes, and opposing points of view.

The ending can be a logical conclusion such as the finished product in a how-to article or the end of a journey in a travel article. You can also end with practical suggestions, an invitation to further exploration, or with a request for a new conclusion. As I am about to do, you may also return to your beginning paragraph with a slightly different focus.

If you are a serious writer there is one thing that might steer you toward non-fiction. It pays better. Much better. First, you’ll want to find a market that features your type of article. Many public libraries have directories of periodicals in their reference section. Look up a magazine that fits your story and follow their submission guidelines. A very popular guide is Writer’s Market, published by Writer’s Digest. Sally E. Stuart produces the Christian Writers Market Guide that lists periodicals covering everything from apologetics to youth issues. Both are available on Amazon.—Quinn

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