A FEW BASICS ON ARTICLE WRITING

If you want to write a good article it helps if you abide by a few basic journalistic rules. Besides, it is always a good idea to place yourself in the position of your reader. Ask yourself what you want to read in an article about the subject you are about to handle. And ask yourself what you don’t want to read in it.

Titles
A proper article for a magazine or website consists of a number of components: The article has a title and sometimes a subtitle, a lead and a bodytext. In some cases subjects that need highlighting are placed in a special section. A title should be plain and simple: it lets the reader know what the story is about without beating around the bush. The subtitle can be used to entice the reader into reading your story. This can be done by picking a quote from the story, or by making a statement that leaves the potential reader with questions that have to be answered.

An example:
(title) Yukon steelhead
(subtitle) Seven wonderful days in hell

This was the announcement for a story about a group of fishermen that landed somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. Their plane broke down and they were stranded in hostile territory, but with a virgin steelhead-river close by.

Leaders
A story is always preceded by a leader. This is a short piece of text (between 50 and 100 words) with a special purpose: to let the reader know what the story is about. It is in fact a summary of the story. In most cases the leader is used by potential readers to decide if a story is interesting enough to start reading. Keep a leader to the point.

Bodytext
The real article is called bodytext. When writing your story follow a clear storyline with a beginning meant to draw the reader into the story. The middle-part should be informative and the end-part conclusive. To make a bodytext easy to read, divide your story in parts with a sub-header to explain the content.

Storyline
Stories about fishing trips often follow a chronological path. As reader you are meant to follow the journey from the visit to the travel agent until the hugs and kisses from the loved ones when the writer returns home. For the reader this means that he will find the real action somewhere in the middle of the article.

Most readers won’t bother: they have better things to do. If the logistics of your trip are important, put them in a special section that is not a part of the actual story. It is always a good idea to start your story with the best part of the trip.

Put the reader in a boat, holding a fly rod with some angry creature on the other end. This will wet his appetite to read on.

And, to want to know more about a destination that can provide adventures like the one you are describing. When you have wet the appetite, you can continue by stating: ok, so we had this action. But this is what we had to do to come this far. This is where the informative part starts.

Even the informative part of an article may never become dull. You can prevent this by deepening your information, using anecdotes: ‘Use a reel with plenty of backing. I found this out the hard way when I hooked a threadfin from the beach……’

A good story has a strong finish: a message to the reader, a wish or a strong conclusion. Let the reader know what your (it is your name above the article) conclusion is: ‘flying back looked down on the landscape and saw the creeks and sandbars that provided us with lasting memories.

And to the north and south and scattered in between those wonderful fishing-places, I saw many more that we didn’t visit.

It left me with an itch that can only be cured by returning.’

Photos

I am not going into the technicality of photography with an article. But if you supply your own photos with an article, be sure the photos cover the same subject as your article. By referring to the article in your captions you emphasise that article and photos complement each other. If you write about a day's fishing in the summer, don't show winter pic's. Show the locations you visited and don't just show people holding fish. Add some variation in the photos you supply. And remember the rule that the people on your photos are having a good time.

Article writing in easy steps

  1. Be creative with finding an angle. Ask yourself: why should I want to read about my day out, my trip or my special fishing technique?
  2. use the building blocks of an article in the way they were intended:

•  title: what is the story about?
•  Subtitle: why is this story especially interesting? (teaser)
•  Lead: a summary containing the five W's: who, what, where, when and why
•  Bodytext: with a proper build-up, a teasing start to draw you right in the story, a sturdy middle, telling the story and a conclusive end
•  Put important information like travel info, names of outfitters, tackle-dealers and so, in a special section. Remember that the reader has to be able understand this section without having read the full article.

Captions with the photos:

Article 1    Don't show summer pictures if your story is set in winter
Article 2    A photo of the setting of your fishing trip livens up your story
Article 3    If you show a guy holding a fish, try to put some variation in the angle
Article 4    Or use a more detailed shot and always keep an eye on the background
Article 5    People on your photos should show they're having a good time. But there's always the risk they overdo it.

Jeroen Schoondergang.
www.uwteksten.nl

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