Turn Interviews into Wow-Worthy Articles

How to Write Interview-based Articles

 We’re picking up the interviewing process at the point where you have all your information together and you’re ready to write the article. Later in this blog, you’ll find a link to a magazine that consists soley of interviews, and a link to a video that reveals a “secret” method to construct wow-worthy personality profiles based on interviews.

In your article, depict body language, gestures, mannerisms and surroundings to portray a person. This example is from an article by Angela Lambert: “In a light-filled, graceful room tumbled with cushions, rugs and sofas, Doris Lessing is talking. Even though her conversation flits and strays there is – as there is in her writing – an immense concentration of energy in every word.”

To prevent articles from becoming impersonal, add personalizing details, even if (especially if) you never met the person face to face. How did the interviewee sound during phone conversation? “Helen’s voice spiraled angrily when she talked about milk-fed veal.” What has the interviewee done, seen, thought? “Dave gazed out his office window toward the capitol, most likely wondering, ‘Can I win the next election?'”

Before composing your article, study your targeted magazine for style preferences. Do published articles use past or present tense (said or says)? Does the magazine present people in a flattering or controversial vein? Do articles cover one view or several sides of an issue? What percent of each article contains quotations versus narrative? Who is the audience and how does that affect your article’s slant? Does the editor require written releases from interviewees? Model releases for photographs?

Read and learn from world-class writers whose articles based on interviews are published in Interview Magazine.

Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_AQuGgqCtc for a winning process to construct the article.

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The Novel Ken’s War stands out for its appeal to young adult and adult readers, males and females. With a blend of restrained pathos and quiet humor, the tale follows a boy forced to live in Japan with his stern, pre-occupied father.

The novel by Beth Fowler is slated for publication later this year by Melange Books.

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The Art of Interviewing by Cindy Kalinoski

Cindy Kalinoski

Cindy Kalinoski

Guest blogger Cindy Kalinoski edited the non-fiction book Leg Up The Courage to Dream, a 2013 Award-Winning Finalist of the USA Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News. Cindy provides writing, editing, copywriting and proofreading services as The Word Helper. She also created. The English Makeover Cindy has written for National Geographic,  Dale Carnegie, YORK International, Penn State University, and Susquehanna Style magazine, among others.

The Art of Interviewing

Journalism—whether it’s for news or for a company piece—is about getting the real story. The story behind the story. What we writers call “back story”.  That, along with good writing, is what makes reading an article interesting…or not.

Suppose you are writing a profile about someone. How do you know what to ask? How do you find out what really drives him? How do you get her really talking? First, consider that the art of interviewing is about more than just the interview; it’s also about research. It’s about asking questions and listening and recording, but research will take you a long way toward an article people can’t put down.

So research your subject. Google her. Find out everything you can from the person who asked you to write the article. If your subject is less than forthcoming, tell her thank you and that you’ll call her back with more questions in a day or two and maybe a third time. She may become more responsive and will have thought about what she can share with you. Meanwhile, ask for the name of a friend or colleague and get some quotes about your subject from that person, and ask him or her what topics you should raise.

Next, you’ll want to generate questions, some of which will surface from your research. If he has done something extraordinary, like invented an app that made him millions, learn what you can online. If she has volunteered at a homeless shelter, look up the shelter and find out whether their rules make volunteering there challenging. Look at where the shelter is located and check out Google maps’ street view to see if she’s putting herself in danger every time she goes. Come up with some open-ended questions. Ask, for instance, what or who has influenced her. What are his favorite life experiences? What does she do when she gets off work?

This will lead naturally to passion. What really drives a profile article is communicating a person’s passion, and first you have to find out what it is. When you go after this, use different words. We’ve all heard people say, “It’s my passion”. Get creative. Ask if she thinks it’s her calling. Her purpose. Ask why he likes doing it. Prompt him to express it in new ways. That goes for every answer you get; try to encourage the person to say something quotable by rephrasing what they say and asking if that’s what they mean. Ask questions in fresh ways. If you’re lucky, you can feed her a quote and she’ll repeat it.

A note here about listening. Most of us—at least Americans—spend a lot of our time talking or at least me-too’ing when people talk. Resist this with every cell you have. If you insert your own experience, it can knock your subject off his train of thought and stop him from talking. You can insert little sounds of agreement, but do not steal the narrative.

Hand in hand with listening is recording. Don’t depend on your memory. Have a method of recording—heck, have two if possible. Use your cell phone’s voice recorder app, take notes by hand or bring your laptop (or slap some headphones on for a phone interview) and type like a fiend. Don’t worry about spelling, and throw punctuation out the office door. Just close your eyes and type as fast as your poor fingers can fly. Later you’ll be able to piece together what you typed. One advantage to this method is that you won’t have to transcribe your notes, and you’ll have great word-for-word quotes.

One final hint: don’t put your pen down (or stop typing) until you have actually hung up the phone or gotten in your car to leave. People tend to get more quotable when they think the interview is over. Don’t miss these gems.

You’ll get at the heart of the matter best by researching, listening, and asking compelling questions. Best of all, you’ll find that a good interview—or several—will make writing your profile a whole lot easier.

Before You Write Your Book, Read This

Julie PolandGuest blogger Julie Poland is founder of  SummitHRD and President of the York, PA Chapter of SCORE.  She wrote an e-book, Secret Messages, and self-published the business book Changing Results by Changing Behavior. 

Writing seems to be on a par with networking and speaking engagements right now in popularity – about every other person we talk to has a dream of writing a book.  The process isn’t for everyone, and we’re not even talking about the quality of the writing that you’re capable of producing.  There’s some strategic work that needs to be done at the outset.
A few months ago a panelist in a workshop for would-be writers said, “The only person who should plan to make money writing a book is the person who has already made money writing a book.”  Perhaps this sounds cynical to you.  Perhaps you DO have the new information, the gripping story or the unique twist that will beat the odds.  But you might not – and you need to think about that.  You will invest time, energy, emotion, ego, and some money before you’re through, so in order to go into the project with both eyes open you want to answer a number of questions before you start.

What is your goal for your book?

  • Source of passive income?
  • Marketing tool?
  • Reason for groups to ask you to speak?
  • Credibility builder with prospective clients?

What is your topic or genre?

  • Non-fiction: biography, history, self-help, business, how-to, etc.
  • Fiction: thriller, mystery, humor, romance, historical, etc.

When do you plan to do your writing?

  • Instead of doing other work
  • At night or early in the morning to fit around other responsibilities
  • As fast as possible
  • Over time as information is collected

Are you writing this on your own?

  • By yourself
  • With collaborators
  • Using research
  • With public domain book as foundation

Who will publish it?

  • Mainstream publishing house, with an advance paid to cover costs
  • Vanity publisher
  • Self-published print-on-demand

How will it be marketed?

  • By the publisher
  • Online through Amazon or other avenues
  • By local bookstores and gift shops
  • Given to prospects, not sold (the book itself is not the intended revenue generator)

 Pros & Cons of Self-publishing


One advantage of self-publishing is the control you have over the project.  There is no executive telling you what spin to put on your concept, or mandating a certain length, style, etc.  The flip side of the control issue, though, is that you have responsibility for far more than the writing.  You’ll need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), cover design, page layout, editing, artwork, recommendations from pre-readers to use for marketing, placement in retail locations, transference into multiple formats like audio, e-reader, and so forth.  When you self-publish you’ll lay out the funds for these pieces as you go along, as opposed to the publishing house route, where the house covers the costs and connects you to the resources.

Vanity publishing means that you’ll go through these steps and deliver your product to a publisher with an order for a certain number of books.  The books will be delivered to you and it will be your responsibility to get them to your desired distribution channels.  The more you order, the lower your cost per book.  But you will lay out a chunk of change in exchange for a stock of books that will last you until  ______?

Print on demand enables you to avoid having a stack of books in your closet or in your garage.  Create Space (a division of Amazon), for instance, enables you to upload your book package.  You approve a proof, they give you your ISBN and place your book on their Amazon site.  You can buy a supply of books at a certain cost if you want to have some on hand, and if somebody orders your book on Amazon, the site handles it and mails you a check later for your cut of the sale.

Parting Thoughts
As in any business venture, there’s a difference between working IN your business and working ON your business.  If you are writing with the intention of making money from it, the actual writing is only part of the equation.  You can choose to be more writing-focused if you outsource the production and marketing to a publisher, but for the most part it’s them choosing you rather than you choosing them.  Your story or concept or writing is going to have to give them a compelling reason to invest in you.

All that being said, if you have something you want to say in a book, make your decisions, plan it out and go for it.

So You Wrote a Book – Now What?

Follow guest blogger Melissa March’s (http://www.melissamarch16.com/) 5 lessons learned, and you won’t get blindsided. Melissa includes great links for writers.

So you wrote a book.

Now what?

Besides the incredible urge to shout it out to the masses, what do you do next?

I had no idea.

So I did what I do best, research.

I never expected that writing a book would be the easy part of getting published. Getting published is hard but you can do it. I’ve listed the five things that were the biggest surprises to me when I blindly started out.

#1: Lather, rinse, repeat.

Many writers advise authors with new manuscripts to fuhgettaboudit. Shelve the masterpiece and don’t obsess over it. Put the newly finished book on the back burner.

“Focus on getting an agent,” they say. “An agent is what it is all about.”

They’re the experts, right?

So, I focused on getting an agent.

BAM-BAM! It was a one-two I didn’t see coming, rejection after rejection.

After a bit of pouting—okay a blubberfest—I went back to my book. Wow. Talk about typos and grammatical black holes. No wonder I couldn’t get someone to read the manuscript.

Know your book!  Know it front, back and inside out. You can’t read it enough.  Better that you find the misspelled words and grammatical errors than the person you’re hoping will represent you.

Oh and a few beta readers would be nice too. You know the kind: The ones who will be honest and tell you if your book is polished or still in the need for more tweaking; the kind of people who will help you by giving you positive critique. They are priceless!

If you don’t have anyone try Critique Circle, a website devoted to writers helping writers. http://www.critiquecircle.com

 

#2: In or Out of the Box.

Define yourself. What kind of writer are you? What’s your genre?

Are you contemporary or mainstream?

Are you fantasy, romance, mystery, young adult or sci-fi?

Even if you think you know your genre, it doesn’t hurt to make sure. AgentQuery.com has a list with good descriptions. http://www.agentquery.com/genre_descriptions.aspx

Searching for an agent or publisher will be a smoother ride if you determine your place in the genre world and it will help you find the needle in the haystack of agents/publishers looking for your kind of work and the best options available to you.

It’s wasted effort if you submit your work to someone who isn’t remotely interested in what you wrote. And no one has time to waste.

A good website for sorting through the many agencies and what they are interested in is Predators and Editors.  http://pred-ed.com/pealt.htm

#3: Introducing…

Get cozy with everything literary. Google til you can’t see straight! There are plenty of sites— including this one: Writing for Writers—that are hand holding helpful as you dip that toe into the publishing waters. A personal favorite of mine is Miss Snark’s First Victim.  http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com

Miss Snark is a writer who stays anonymous in order to create a safe place to issue lots of tips and advice and contests that help you tweak and polish not only your work but your perspective as well.

#4: Query On.

I loathe even typing the word. Q-u-e-r-y.

For me writing the query letter is the unknown level of hell in Dante’s Inferno and the bane of most aspiring writers. The paper cut, the stubbed toe, the bee sting, the appointment for a root canal, the—never mind, you get my point.

It’s a necessary evil that most of us never know about until we have to write one. Honestly, I never knew about them.  And it was an unwelcome surprise.  But I’ve learned that a well written query letter is your foot in the door.  So do your homework!

However, you can write the best query letter in the world but if you don’t know your genre or what the agent is looking for (first three points above) it won’t matter—at all.  If Mr. Agent wants the next big dystopian story and you wrote a western he’s gonna send you the ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter.

One website offered me some great examples that finally showed me what I needed to catch the eye of a publisher. http://www.charlottedillon.com/query.html

 

#5: Do I Know You?

 Get noticed!

Join Facebook. Twitter your heart out. Join groups.

Meet all the other people who love all things writery as much as you do. Don’t be afraid to get personal.

I’m a hermit—born and bred for my own company above all else. But I found that it is impossible to promote my work if I don’t make myself available. Tell your new friends how you love to bake or how you have ten grandkids or how your dog likes to chew the remote.

Don’t rely totally on Aunt Bea’s knitting club to get the word out.

Promote yourself!

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Melissa March is a fiction writer. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and young son.  She’s a quasi-klepto when she sees a great looking smooth writing pen and loves almost anything plaid. (It’s the Highlander in her.) She drinks too much diet coke and maintains a love/hate relationship with all the social media in her life. Her newest hobby is experimenting with her hair color.

Her first published novel Love You to Death will be released this spring. You can read all about her on her website www.melissamarch16.com

She is on Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/melissa.march.963 and Twitter https://twitter.com/MelissaMarch16

Write a Winning Query Letter

What about query letters to magazine editors?

Query letters are previews to coming attractions, therefore, I write query letters after I’ve gained adequate knowledge about the topic. This enables me to insert enticing tidbits. I also list my interviewee list so the editor knows whose expertise and experience I will incorporate in my article.

I consult my query letter as I write the article to ensure I deliver the promised goods.

For more sure-fire tips that have helped me convince hundreds of editors to request my articles (and pay for them), listen to Paul Lima of the University of Toronto.

In a future blog, I’ll share the query that landed a deal for my novel, Ken’s War.

The novel highlights Ken’s attempts to find his place in a world turned upside-down. Exquisitely portrayed characters play indelible roles in Ken’s rocky journey from boyhood to manhood.