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So you want to write a brilliant blog or newspaper article? Help is at hand, in three easy stages.
First: decide your message, and make sure people want to read about it. Part 1 of this series, 7 tips for writing the perfect article, explores how to ensure your piece will land well (links in bold italics are to other posts on this web-site).
Next: structure your article. Part 2 of this series, Nut-grafs and Cosmic Kickers, sets out a simple 4-step template to write your piece – including how to get started.
What else? Practice makes perfect. Read pieces critically. Understanding how others use these techniques will help you do the same. Here, in Part 3 of the series, are two more worked examples. I hope you find them helpful. If you do, please feel free to re-post this series, or draw it to the attention of others.
Nut-grafs and cosmic kickers: two worked examples
The following article appeared in the Financial times of 22 October 2004. It includes all the four elements – Lede, Nut-graf, Body and Cosmic Kicker – set out in Part 2 of this series.
Where even experts fear to tread
The Valluga II cable car above St. Anton is one of those boxy, old-fashioned affairs that sways from one mountain peak to another across a gulf of nothingness. At the entrance is a sign showing a pair of skis, crossed out. Next to it, to avoid any confusion, the words: NO SKIS.
“What’s that?” I ask Willi, a fellow skier with whom I am about to enter the six-person cabin.
“It’s OK,” he says. “It means no skis unless you have a guide.”
For skiers who have mastered the basics, the benefits of skiing with a guide are not always clear-cut. Holidays are all about freedom to do what you want, when you want, and to escape the workplace hierarchy. So it seems perverse to yoke yourself to someone who’s going to tell you where to go and what to do when you get there, especially when you have to pay them handsomely for the privilege. But a good guide can raise the quality of a day’s skiing from enjoyable to sublime. That’s why, when I make my next annual pilgrimage to Lech, in the Arlberg region of western Austria, I’ll be joining Class 3A (or maybe 2B) for at least half my stay to be guided around a resort I already know intimately.
Looking up the hill after the passage of a 3A class in Lech, February 2019 (more…)
A writer stares at a blank page, sweating. How to get started? If only there were a simple guide somewhere to writing articles for the Internet, newspapers or magazines!
So you want to write the perfect article? Welcome. I’ll tell you how.
The essential starting point is to have a clear central message. What are you trying to say? What’s your point? Clarity on this makes everything that follows much easier.
Start by reading part 1 of this series “7 tips for writing the perfect article” (links in bold italics are to other posts of mine on this website). It shows how to decide on your message and make sure what you are writing is relevant. Later, in part 3, How to write great Nut-grafs & Cosmic Kickers, you can see two worked examples based on the model set out below.
Once you are clear on what you want to say, it’s time to get started. “The best way to start work is to start work”. Structure is everything.
Many journalists use a simple template. There are lots of ways of doing this; but the following, based on advice from a US journalist friend, has worked well for me in numerous feature articles during my time as a freelance journalist. A worked example is at the end of this blog.
For more writing tips, follow this blog (hit the blue “click here” button top right)
Your article should consist of the following elements. I’ve set them out in the order in which they will appear (more…)
So you want to write a non-fiction piece for publication as a blog, newspaper article or in other media. Let’s call it “an article”. Where to start? Here.
1. What is your message? A clear message is the most important – and difficult – element of writing an article. If you don’t know what your message is or why you’re communicating it this way, stop right now. The good news? Once you’ve decided your key message, the article is already half-written. Check out this piece, where the message is “if you’re going ski-ing a ski-guide may help you have more fun“. That message must be newsworthy and interesting – are you or the editor confident people will want to read it?
2. How to decide on your message. So what is “newsworthy and interesting”? Two possibilities:
i) a news peg. Something has happened out in the world. People want to know about it. You’re going to tell them. It could be an anniversary, a local or national event, or a personal angle on something people know about. My piece about Berlin traffic-light men, for example, reports on how images designed for East Berlin began to spread into West Berlin in 2005.
ii) a news line. Maybe you have something to say which is newsworthy. Invented something new? Got an announcement to make? Published your new book? Developed a miracle diet? If it’s of wide interest, (more…)
Good news: I’m planning lots of writing and new material for this site over the next few months.
I recently published my fourth “Hotel Story”, Britches, featuring a Scot in a kilt; a hotel owner who bullies and abuses his staff; and a link between the two which leads to an immensely satisfying resolution. Check it out for free.
Istanbul sunset – Photo Robert Pimm
I’ve been working hard on my new novel, Istanbul Rising. I’ve begun to link the powerful, myth-flavoured opening set at the time of the Conquest of Istanbul in 1453 with a modern-day thriller. The first draft is complete – watch this space for more details. (more…)
Brilliant news. Here in Istanbul, I’m doing lots of writing.
A new Hotel Story is in the works. Want to know how Tatiana and Ms N first met, and whether Tatiana really comes from Ukraine? You can find out soon in Britches. As always, the story is not for the faint-hearted. But lovers of kilts; travellers who stay in luxury hotels; professionals who have anything to do hotels, or with organising events in them (especially St Patrick’s Day and Burns Night Balls); and all those who dislike men who use their power to harm others, should enjoy Britches.
I’ve also started work on my new Istanbul novel. The working title is Istanbul Rising. 6,000 words down so far. Istanbul Rising combines myth-flavoured events around the Conquest of Istanbul in 1453 with a modern-day thriller. I won’t say more as the project is under wraps. But if you fancy a refreshing new take on how Fatih Sultan Mehmet really conquered Istanbul and why that matters for the future of this fabulous city in the modern age, watch out for Istanbul Rising.
I’m thinking of changing my nom de plume to something else. That will be a big job, and would include renaming this blog. If anyone has good ideas on how to choose a good writing name or has experience of switching from their real name to a nom de plume, along with its benefits and pitfalls, please let me know. A contact form is below or you can hit “leave a reply” on the “Best of?” page. (more…)
Anything listed under “Fiction” is a work of fiction. None of the police officers, journalists, diplomats, politicians, military types, terrorists, assassins, hotel customers, waitresses, clowns, alligators, tycoons or any of the other characters who appears in the works in this category is in any way based on anyone I’ve ever met, heard of, or seen on TV.
For example, the “wonderful, feminist and dark” Hotel Stories do not depict an actual hotel, or a real hotel manager with occasional homicidal tendencies (read them now to learn how to kill someone with a white blouse, or with an iPhone in the hands of an innocent onlooker).
Nor do any of my works of fiction, whether novels or short stories, contain any information which I think might endanger the security of real people. Indeed, I may lightly morph some descriptions of security procedures, government organisations or layouts of buildings to avoid compromising security.
I hope that’s clear.
P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, feel free to friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button). Check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.
This is a selection of my journalism. Because most of my FT articles from 2003-2006 are now archived, I have reproduced them here. For other newspapers, there are still some live links. NB the titles were inserted by the sub-editors.
– 1 August 2003, Financial Times, “Behind every great woman…” (the challenges of being a male partner of a famous or successful woman)
– 8 August 2003, Financial Times, “Where the wall came down” (a walk around the Berlin Wall)
– 6 September 2003, Financial Times, “Island with well-hidden treasures” (Lundy Island)
– 13 December 2003, Financial Times, “A tale of two all-in resorts” (German vs French holiday resorts)
– 7 February 2004, Financial Times, “Rag’n’bones to riches” (birthday of Mary, an 80 year-old from Arsenal)
– 27 March 2004, Financial Times, “When dinner becomes the last supper” (the joys of German waiters)
– 30 April 2004, Financial Times, “Enough Buddhas for today” (Bangkok)
– 10 July 2004, Financial Times, “We’ll soon all beg to fly business” (how airlines plan to make us upgrade)
– 17 July 2004, Die Welt, “Im Dienst Ihrer Majestät” (women’s diplomatic careers)
– 31 August 2004, Financial Times, “Balmy breezes and beach bars in Berlin”
– 23 October 2004, Financial Times, “Where even experts fear to tread” (guided ski-ing in Austria)
– 23 October 2004, Financial Times, “Sole mates” (Strolz ski boots)
– 7 November 2004, Boston Globe, “New Zealand at a crossroads” (NZ tourism)
– 20 November 2004, Financial Times, “The Penguin’s Distressed. We’d Better Go” (NZ eco-tourism)
– 29 January 2005, Financial Times, “The Joy of Roaming the English Countryside” (long-distance footpaths)
– 29 January 2005, Financial Times Magazine, “All the Rage in Berlin” (Little Traffic Light Men)
– 19 February 2005, Financial Times, “From Tears to Triumph” (Lech ski school)
– 19 March 2005, Financial Times Magazine, “All the Rage in Lech, Austria” (heated ski lift seats)
– 20 August 2005, Financial Times, “Rattle and Roll to the Alps” (night ski-trains)
– 21 January 2006, Financial Times, “Charmed By the No-Frills Alternative” (basic Austrian country hotels)
– 5 February 2006, Boston Globe, “A flaming end to Carnival and winter’s woes” (Cologne Carnival)
– 24 April 2006, Financial Times, “When Tourist Reinvention Spins Out of Control” (the over-development of Barcelona)
– 25 June 2006, Boston Globe, “A Temple to Faith, Time and Resolve” (Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia)
– 8 July 2006, Financial Times, “Nice Buildings, Shame About the Events” (Can hosting sporting events give you good PR?)
– 3 September 2006, Boston Globe, “When hush, crowds descend” (Vienna Zentralfriedhof)
– 2 September 2007, Boston Globe, “History in the Tropics” (St Helena)
Anyone who can identify the buildings in both pix on this page – let me know.