Make Your Editorial Sparkle

Learn how to get killer quotes and write great articles.

by Leila Morris, Editor, California Broker Magazine


Los Angeles editors met for some inspiration last month over pasta and candlelight at a Melrose Avenue café.

Don’t be afraid to include the good stuff, even if it’s not entirely flattering.

Addressing the group was guest speaker Victoria Clayton, a full-time freelance writer whose work has graced business publications and numerous consumer magazines. Victoria gave the group some ideas for coming up with fresh and creative stories amid restrictive editorial calendars and dry business topics, such as lighting-fixture installation.

Clayton’s overriding advice was to look beyond your publication’s niche and take in what is happening in the outside world. You can get your best article ideas by keeping your ears open at the grocery store line, looking at the bestseller list on amazon.com, and getting input from your readers.

Victoria offered the following advice for coming up with story ideas:

  • Go out to lunch with anyone who offers. Publicists will usually pay! But, of course, you’ll probably have to pick up the tab for a freelancer.
  • Listen to ad people for story ideas and hot trends, but check out what they say. To a certain extent, this advice goes for publicists too.
  • Invite reader input by doing surveys, soliciting information on your Web site, and by talking to readers at trade shows.
  • At trade shows, pay attention to unique products, services, and people. A rule of thumb is that three of anything is a trend. Also, consider the alternative to the norm. What are you not seeing this year when you walk the trade-show floor?
  • Look for deeper meaning in trends and events.

When it comes to interviewing, Victoria said she would much rather tape a conversation than furiously take notes or click away at a laptop. When you’re so busy taking notes, you can miss body language and nuances in the conversation. Also, no matter how thorough your notes are, something always gets lost in the translation. She added that follow-up questions are usually what bring the interview home.

 

People who are interviewed often can be the best — and worst — sources.

People who are interviewed often can be the best — and worst — sources. Consider interviewing the service rep instead of the CEO. Also, don’t be afraid to include the good stuff, even if it’s not entirely flattering to the industry or person.

To ensure that people will actually read the articles in your publication, consider assigning shorter pieces. Also, focus on what your readers will get out of the article and use freelancers when possible. Before assigning an article, consider how you will “package” it with cover blurbs, for example. To break up endless text, use white space, boxes, charts, and pull quotes.

She stressed that when it comes to writing and editing, reevaluate your tone and don’t be afraid of humor. Also, don’t be afraid of pop references or slang when appropriate. Only you can be the judge. Also, aim for stronger verbs and descriptions.

To prevent burnout and nourish your creativity, Victoria says to keep in mind that you are not alone. Most writers and editors have to rehash the same stories. Her tips for inspiration:

  • Do writing exercises.
  • Check out A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves.
  • Read a lot.
  • Fiction and poetry are best to get your creative juices primed.
  • Check out books on tape from your local library.
  • Take creative writing classes at a community college.
  • Freelance or donate your writing services. It’s probably best if it’s unrelated to the field in which you work.
  • Most of all, she says, get out and learn something new.