Fear of Water

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I’ve been drawing all my life and drawing comics most of my life. My stories are often born on the quirky oddities of everyday life, something funny or weird.

Fear of Water by Susan Wilander

Fear of Water came from the very uncomfortable feeling I’ve so often had swimming in the sea or a lake where the bottom is invisible. Although my reason tells me there’s nothing to worry, the monsters of the imagination create a force that seems to drag me under the surface…

Fear of Water under the surface by Susan Wilander

In Fear of Water this experience comes to a creature, who’s supposed to be at home in even the murkiest of waters. And the question really is, whether it is any safer on the dry land for him?

Fear of Water fish by Susan Wilander

This is my first Kindle e-comic. It was a pleasant surprise to create the e-comic with Kindle Comic Creator. It is easy to use and it offers plenty of options on how to build the e-comic. Fear of Water is available at Amazon.

Susan

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Why an Interview is a Writer’s Best Friend?

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An Interview is a Writer's Best Friend?

Ever wondered why there are so many interview based articles in newspapers? Why journalists want to make interviews?

As an editor of small publications, I receive mainly articles without interviews from potential contributors. I wonder why. I’ve always preferred an interview as a means to gain knowledge and content for my writing. Yesterday I talked with a fellow journalist, who teaches writing. She had a similar experience. It is very difficult to get non-professional writers to do an interview. But why?

Let me tell you a secret. Journalists love interviews and for a very good reason. It’s easy, quick and interesting – by spending half an hour with an expert of the subject in hand, I’ll have plenty of information to spread to my audience and, in an interesting format in this particular person’s own voice. Not to mention, that the interviewee has basically written the article for me by telling everything I need and want to know. Beats researching any day.

So don’t coward from interviews, they are the absolute best way to do an article. And there are 3 main reasons for this:

Learn from the Interviewee

You can research your subject to infinity, but there’s no better way to learn than to meet the expert herself. If you want to convey to your audience information, emotions or an impressive story, get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

You’ll save plenty of time on research and most often the interviewees will lead you to new information you wasn’t even aware of. While you’re asking questions from your interviewee, you’re not only gathering material for your article, blog or writing in general, but you’re learning about the topic.

Are you afraid you won’t have any questions? Prepare a set before hand, but don’t forget to follow a lead, if the interviewee offers you a gold nugget on a silver plate… I have very seldom been in a situation, where it was difficult to come up with questions. I’m endlessly curious, as most/all journalists are/should be, so asking questions is kind of given. You also get into the mode with some practice. After a decade or so in the job, it is your second nature.

Liven up Your Text

If you’d like to write about e.g. a certain hobby, you can usually find plenty of information on it in the web and in books. However, this information tends to be general in nature and often also a bit outdated at best. What’s more, it might not deal with the specific viewpoint you’re interested in.

Let’s say you want to write about starting to practice parkour as a middle aged woman. All the basic information is certainly available in literature and you can even watch parkour videos in YouTube, but how could you get the feelings and opinions of a middle aged woman about what it was like to begin the hobby? There’s only one way to really know – you have to ask a middle aged woman! (Or try it out yourself, if you happen to be a middle aged woman!)

The voice of real experience will give the writing an element of authenticity, which would be hard to attain otherwise. An interviewee will also tell about the topic in ways and use a vocabulary, which will differ at least a bit from yours. This will bring variety and interest to your story.

Meet the People You’ve Always Wanted to Meet

Perks of being a journalist – it’s an easy way to get to meet interesting people. Sure, it might be a bit of a struggle to get an interview from the Queen Elisabeth on how to maintain a life balance as a career woman, but if your aim’s on a realistic level, it shouldn’t be too difficult. People tend to like talking about themselves and topics they are passionate about. As a writer this gives you a chance to open doors, which would stay closed otherwise.

An interview is the easiest way to get content for an article. So, get out there and interview!

Susan

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Facts, no Fiction

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Popularizing science has become increasingly popular among researchers. Not only is it important to share the knowledge, but it may also help to find funding, if the general public comes to understand the significance of the research. A professional science journalist is driven by the love of science and telling about it. Popular articles on scientific research help us to understand the world and ourselves.

Lazy Fox by Maija Karala (Eurwentala at DeviantArt)
Lazy Fox by Eurwentala (at DeviantArt) a.k.a. Maija Karala.

It is a form of art to write about science. How do you simplify complicated issues and talk about them in a language everybody can understand?

-A good article on science evokes interest in a reader. The article mustn’t alienate readers and it souldn’t feel too difficult to understand. The balance between facts and popularization has to be just right. You should avoid difficult terms, but not difficult topics! science journalist Maija Karala says.

Otherwise a good article on science is like any good article. A great beginning will draw in the reader, narration and humour will keep him/her captivated. Don’t bore the reader! The reader should understand the significance of the topic and why the article was published after reading it.

Maija began writing on science in 2009, when she launched her blog Erään planeetan ihmeitä. She had given up her dream of becoming a researcher after having firsthand experience of scientific work at the third year university courses.

Writing, on the other hand, seemed to fit perfectly. Her stories found their way from the blog to newspapers and magazines. Now Maija has been published in Helsingin Sanomat, Keskisuomalainen and Aamulehti, among others.

Too much or too little knowledge?

The most challenging part of a science article is the facts. It is a problem when the writer doesn’t know the subject and it is a problem when she knows the subject like the back of her hand.  When you are too familiar with a subject, It might be difficult to limit the scope of the article or to concentrate on writing a beautifully flowing text. When the subject is unfamiliar, it might be challenging to explain it to others in a simple manner.

Maija prefers not to write about topics that raise a lot of passions in the society. She thinks it’s challenging for her to stay neutral enough in that kind of situations. Maija has a regular column in a newspaper in Uusikaupunki. She has written there about wolfs as well as cormorants – both very controversial subjects. However, the articles have been published without a murmur.

Spiny and Angry by Eurwentala
Spiny and Angry by Eurwentala (at DeviantArt) a.k.a. Maija Karala.

No Scoops for a Freelancer

Sometimes a science journalist can hit a real scoop. Maija received information about the deinotherium found from Suomusjärvi from her contacts before the official press release. However, in the end the press release came to the newspapers before she could finish her story and it was published as a small new’s article. It’s hard for a freelancer to compete on delivering actual news without the immediate flow of press releases that arrive at the newspapers.

If you want to read Maija’s science articles, visit her two blogs:

Erään planeetan ihmeet

The Humming Dinosaur

 

Susan

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Anatomy of an Article

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An article is like a living creature. It will flourish if it’s taken care of and suffer if some of its parts are neglected. All parts of a good article work in unison. But if the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, the feet get tangled and the head is spinning, then things don’t look too bright. So, keep your articles fit and firm.

Anatomy of an Article

Head: Title

Without the head one doesn’t survive. Neither does an article. The title can make the story fly or sink it into the bottom of the troubled media waters. A good title is catchy, witty and descriptive – and it doesn’t misdirect the reader. You know all those tabloid titles that promise a hurricane and deliver a stir in a glass of water. That kind of disappointments will eat your readers, so better not fall into the tabloid trap.

Heart: Lead

There’s no end to the importance of a good lead in a press article. The lead contains the main point of the article, attracts the reader to consume the whole story and what’s most important – is not redundant with the main text. The lead brings up the juiciest bit of the story, but leaves the reader still wanting more.

Right Hand: Beginning

The beginning tells what the story is about and why it matters. Go straight to the point here. Numerous articles I receive for the publications I’m editing start with background information. No, no and no. Please don’t make the reader yawn.

Left Hand: Subtitles

The subtitles are an often neglected part of an article. Many writers don’t seem to know what they’re for. However, subtitles are an integral part of the anatomy of an article. They divide the text into bite size pieces and thus facilitate reading. They should also tell a story of their own to those who only skim through the article. A good subtitle will catch the attention of a lukewarm reader and get him hooked.

Body: Main Text

The main text tells the story. Here you should include all the necessary parts that make your point and illustrate your angle to the topic. An interesting article is fit and nicely trimmed. Depending on the media, the allowed word count may be quite limited. Don’t flesh out your story unnecessarily. E.g. in a tabloid size newspaper no extra fat is allowed – the leaner and meaner the story, the better. An article is not supposed to tell everything about a topic, it’s supposed to make a point.

Knees: End

Time to wrap it up. The end is the last chance to make an impression on the reader. If you can make him go weak at the knees with your writing, he’ll certainly remember at least one thing from you article. So save one savoury bit for the ending of your story.

Feet: Captions

Together with subtitles, captions are the most misunderstood part of an article. If the article has wonderful pictures, they’ll easily draw the attention away from the main text. This is where great captions can lure the reader back to the main text. They are equally important with mediocre or worse pictures and can save the article. Make captions tell something extra you didn’t put into the actual article – it’s your bonus for the reader.

Susan

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How to Stay within the Word Limit?

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How to write a concise text?

I’m just between two publications – one is almost ready for print, the deadline for materials to the other is in a few days. Having edited a bunch of texts and returned a few for rewriting to their authors, I think it’s a good time to write about the art of writing a concise text.

All too often I receive an article with double the amount of text that was originally agreed on. And it’s quite understandable in the non-profit publications. Contributors rarely are writing for living, instead they most often are writing out of passion to the topic – they have much to say. I as the editor, on the other hand, have only limited amount of pages to offer. To make the equation work, cuts are inevitable.

This is not the perfect scenario for many reasons; the contributors often don’t like it, it increases the work load of the editing process and regarding some skillfully constructed articles it is difficult to cut any excess that really isn’t there.

Better to write to the correct length from the start.

3 enemies of a concise text

One simple rule to writing goes a long way: planning. Plan ahead what you want to say about the topic. What are the angle, scope and elements of the text – is there going to be quotations from an interview, for example. Then allocate space for all these within you text range and take care not to overstep the limit.

If you find afterwards there’s too much text anyway, check that you haven’t fallen victim to the three major enemies of concise text:

  1. Redundancy. This is surprisingly common in all texts.
  2. Excessive use of adverbs and adjectives. One modifier is quite enough and often you don’t need any!
  3. Rambling. Is everything you’ve written really within the topic?

With these three things in control, you should be able to keep your text in line. And if you truly have too much to say for just one article, consider turning it into a series!

Hungry for more detailed advice? Mark Nichol at DailyWritingTips has some sound advice for streamlining your writing.

Susan

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