Adding to Your Skills
Sometimes, improving as a magazine writer comes from learning additional skills. Your words, after all, are not the only things in the magazine's pages. There are headlines, pull quotes, photographs, captions, and more. Each of these magazine-article elements adds to the reader's understanding of your words, and each can add to your understanding of how to craft great stories as well.
The Power of Photography
Pictures are often the most dramatic element on magazine pages. Readers respond almost viscerally to images, while they have to take time to read and think about words before they can form an emotional response. What does this mean for you as a writer? In many cases, your words will be cut to make room for bigger and better photographs with captions. If you want to write the best story in a magazine, then it has to be written tightly
Even if you don't intend to ever take photographs to go with your articles, you can practice crafting pieces that work alongside visuals by assigning yourself a topic and then not just writing about it, but also photographing it. This exercise will help you to understand that sometimes, images really do convey information better. It will also help you see that you should save the precious word count you have for information that can't be told through accompanying pictures.
Whenever possible, ask your editor to show you a laid-out version of your article, complete with photographs and caption spaces. In many cases, you can use information that you had to cut out of your story to create powerful captions that readers will remember — essentially, mini-stories pegged to specific images that go along with your text.
This can be as simple as creating a story titled “My New Niece, Heather.” Snap a few different digital shots of Heather playing, sleeping, and eating, and then write a story to go with them. You'll soon find that instead of spending an entire paragraph describing Heather's adorable smile, you can instead show a photograph of her smiling and write about the toy or activity that makes her so happy.
What you'll learn in the end of this exercise is that you can be an even better writer if you learn to envision the entire story package, not just the words themselves. Editors will love you for it!
Practice Makes Perfect
If you do decide that you have a knack for photography, keep practicing. High-resolution digital cameras are coming down in price enough that many writers are buying them and using them to submit images along with their articles. In most cases, writers receive additional compensation when they offer editors photographs along with stories. Taking pictures is a nice way to earn an extra few dollars while still researching a single article.
Why do editors like writers who can also take pictures?
You save them time and money. They don't have to hire a separate photographer, and they know your photos will match your story. There will be no miscommunication between separate writers and photographers who turn in words and pictures that fail to work together on the page.
You'll learn more about adding photography to your magazine-writing career in Chapter 19. For now, think of taking pictures as being similar to the other creative-writing exercises discussed in this chapter. Simply trying to envision how your words will end up looking on the page will give you new and exciting ideas about how you can write them, or how you can suggest to an editor that they be packaged.