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Author Joan Leotta on writing short articles

With the proliferation of websites, blogs and e-zines, there’s never been a better time for writers to target the market for short articles. I’m delighted to welcome author Joan Leotta today, with a (short!) article on how to go about it.

Thanks for your time, Joan!

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joan leotta, helena fairfax, short articles
Joan after winning a prize for one of her poems

Writing short articles

So, you’re a novelist! Writing short may seem difficult to you and you wonder why it is even worth it. But if you can complete the entire arc of a story (by that I mean a fiction or non-fiction piece of writing) in 1,000 words or less, you open up a great variety of publicity opportunities.

Articles of various types. Do you write for the local paper? Write for a magazine or newsletter about your hobby?

Today’s reader is cereal-box trained, I like to say. Readers want the information in short form, readable and often put forth as information bullets. Not every article has to be about writing. Write about your hobbies. Your other profession. I often write about food, travel, and health and story performance. These articles, paid or unpaid, build an audience of people interested in your work, offer you an opinion outlet.

Another kind of article that sells well is the success story—but if you tell your story, be sure to chart the steps for others to achieve success in the field. If your story is so unique that no one else could benefit, then it is likely that no one else is going to want to read it.

Of course there is the fun of learning about a topic by researching and writing about it and often the fun of a paycheck. Be sure to send book publishers, people you have interviewed, etc a link to the online article. One special kind of article is particularly fun for me and that is interviewing other authors, especially those I admire!

Interviews. I love to interview other authors. I do this for a couple of places—my own blog, and, in the mystery genre, with OMBD.com. This online mystery magazine has published a couple of my mystery shorts, but more of my author interviews and book reviews. Interviewing is not for the faint of heart. You need to first approach the editor of the target magazine, then if you have a “go” ask the person you want to interview if that is all right. For this magazine, I write in Q and A style, posing the question and then giving the verbatim answer of the author. I chose this style of writing because of the audience. The readers are mystery lovers. They do not want my analysis of the famous people I interview. They want to hear what the famous author has to offer, not my opinion. Sometimes I interview, often in fact, completely by email with follow up on the phone and or email. This is very convenient if you want to do an overseas or cross country interview where time zones are involved and generally speaking, authors are comfortable writing their answers.helena fairfax, joan leotta, writing short articles

The most difficult part of this exercise is thinking up good questions. What has not been asked before? (If you want confirmation of facts, make sure you put them down and ask for confirmation, letting the author know you have done your homework and are not wasting their time). The rest of the questions should include not just what you might want to know but also what you think the readers of your target publication will want to know. Audience! Audience! Audience!

Be polite when you interview. Give the author time (and a deadline) with options for extending if he or she has to do so. Ask for everything you want up front—photos (format e.g. jpg) so that when the material is returned you can review, reformat and submit all of it in time to meet your deadline. Thank the interviewee at the end of the interview and send a copy of the link to the article when it is published. The job’s not done until the digital paperwork is done.

Be accurate. Be brief

Blogs: Blogs are simply online articles of your own. Not really like a diary entry because they are written for others to read. While my own blog is not a shining example, since I have yet to figure out a photo placement within the blog that I find pleasing, writing a blog is always an exercise (or should be) in writing something under 1,000 words. A blog entry opens you up to a new audience. Offers an opportunity to each blog reader to peruse the rest of your site where you may have work samples and information valuable to your readers that will make them return to the blog again and again.

helena fairfax, joan leotta, short articles* * *

 Joan Leotta is a poet, performer, journalist and author. Her fourth romance with Desert Breeze, Secrets of the Heart, is forthcoming in 2015. Her mysteries are in many anthologies including the 2015, Fish or Cut Bait by SINC Guppies. Her own ecletic collection of short tales is forthcoming with Cane Hollow Press in 2015. She writes, cooks and walks the beach for shells in Calabash, NC with her patient husband, Joe. You can learn more about her at www.joanleotta.wordpress.com or simply google her name.

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Thanks so much for coming by and sharing some of your experience, Joan. Your post has spurred me on to try my hand at submitting more shorter pieces. And it will make a nice break from editing my novel!

If you’ve enjoyed Joan’s post, or have any questions or comments at all, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

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8 thoughts on “Author Joan Leotta on writing short articles

  1. Hi Joan, Great article. I love that term “cereal-box-trained.” I wrote freelance articles for ezines, magazines, and newspapers, then turned to fiction for something different. My article writing bled into my fiction writing because I write out my mysteries in quick fashion and have difficulty making any fiction into novel length! Thanks for the great ideas for writing short articles!

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    1. Hi JQ, how interesting you should say that. I have the opposite problem – I started out writing novels, and now I struggle to write a short story. My short stories turn out more like the synopsis of a long book than an actual story. It was an interesting article from Joan. Thanks for calling in!

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  2. Great post, Helena, as always. Thanks, Joan, for sharing this info. My difficulty has always been to write short.(Even in responses to blogs. LOL As a retired educator, I’ve written lots of articles for newsletters, etc. To tell a story, I like to go long. (Not as long as my first book, which was 145 K!) Didn’t know much about craft them. LOL I’ve FBed and Tweeted.

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    1. Hi Marsha, loved your comment. I share your difficulty in writing short stories. I see in epics :) Although the trick should be to capture an epic in a short, I suppose! And I agree, there’s a LOT of craft to be learned for writers. I still haven’t got there, by any means. I wish! Thanks so much for your support – it’s much appreciated!

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  3. Excellent blog. So much more goes into writing than writing. Your comment that today’s readers are cereal box trained hits home. I never could write flash fiction, but you can’t deny the popularity of it.

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    1. Hi Kait, great comment. It’s amazing how popular flash fiction has become. Personally, I find the shorter the story, the harder it is to write and get everything across that you want to say. Thanks very much for dropping in!

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    1. I struggle, too, James, although I’m getting better with practise. I find it helps sometimes if I set myself a specific word count. Then if I go over, I go back and ruthlessly cut. Glad you enjoyed Joan’s post. Thanks for dropping in!

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