Showing posts with label feature writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feature writing. Show all posts

Monday, 19 November 2012

Liz Jones and her instinctive feel for dividing opinion

Liz Jones sparks more controversy than any other journalist I can think of.

She’s infuriated virtually the whole of Exmoor with her excoriating columns about the unfriendliness and the cold and shops closing on Saturday afternoons and she hit the headlines again last week with a piece about the bloggers she met at the recent Mumsnet Blogfest. Just to give you a flavour, she wrote about being in “a tangled teepee of virtual knitters, spinning yarns so they can remain inside their cupcake-scented world.” Oh dear. And completely wrong.

But despite the brickbats that get thrown at her on a regular basis, she’s just been named Columnist of the Year at the British Society of Magazine Editors awards.

Announcing the award last week, BSME chairman Kitty Finstad said she’d been chosen “for her instinctive feel for personal narrative and for dividing opinion – as a good columnist should.”

The BSME are right, I reckon. Liz Jones maddens me more often than not, and I’m a bit sick of her writing about her cats, her horses and RS, her rock star boyfriend (despite all sorts of rumours no one has a clue who he is). But, and it’s a big but, I still turn to her column in the Mail on Sunday’s You magazine before I read the rest of the papers.

Actually, this week I felt a bit sorry for her. Writing in the main bit of the paper, she said she was feeling nostalgic for Exmoor just a week after selling her stunning house. She’s now moved back to London, but is missing the country already, the wildlife, the space and the peace and quiet.

I know how she feels. I love the city, but even now there are days when I yearn to be living in the middle of nowhere once more. It’s fantastic to be able to walk into Oxford to meet a friend for a coffee or to see the latest (brilliant) James Bond movie. But I still miss the autumn afternoons when we strode up Pendle Hill (above) and saw no one at all apart from the odd fell walker and countless sheep.

PS. Back in the days when Liz Jones was features editor of the Evening Standard, she asked me to write a freelance piece about living in France. I never met her (we only spoke on the phone) but she was easily one of the most charming, appreciative editors I’ve ever been commissioned by.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

How to write a feature that works

From Emily Carlisle to Sarah Duncan, fellow bloggers have given me loads of fantastic advice over the last few months. I’ve gleaned tips on where to go in New York from Liberty London Girl (the High Line and the Strand Book Store were just two), picked up delicious recipes from Eat Like A Girl and kept up to date with life in France from my old friend Colin Randall at Salut!

Desperate to think of something to offer in return (well apart from the best pubs in Oxford and must-read books), I’ve realised that just about the only thing I know about is journalism. So, if you’ve got an article to write, here is my five-point crash course on the basics of feature writing for newspapers, magazines and websites.

1. Structure. All publications are aimed at different readers and have their own unique style – so your piece must take account of that style. If you’re unsure about your writing, use concise sentences and short paragraphs. Be consistent when it comes to tenses and avoid clichés, waffle and long, convoluted sentences that are tricky to understand.

2. Introduction. The first paragraph of your feature is probably the most important of all. It should grip readers’ attention immediately and compel them to read on.

3. Body of the text. Although your intro is crucial, the rest of the article must fulfil the promise of your stunning first paragraph. Develop your theme, message or argument step by step and make sure, too, that each paragraph flows logically to the next.

4. Quotes. Admittedly some people are more quotable than others, but strong, accurate quotes help to bring a feature alive.

5. Ending. A good ending should tie up any loose ends. But remember that a feature isn’t an essay, so avoid simply recapping all the points you’ve mentioned before. Don’t finish the piece too abruptly or let it tail away either. If in doubt, a good quote often works well and rounds the piece off in style.
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