By Vivian Warby
I love writing feature stories. I love the collecting of data, the connection with humans and their stories, and the gathering of information and then breaking it down into ideas that can be presented to the reader.
The whole process feels like an adventure, an act of love not only to the reader but to those I’ve interviewed. The process, an art.
Here’s my 10-step plan to writing a feature. I’ve added and adapted this since last I wrote about it. Hope it’s helpful.
1. Get an idea either from a gut feeling of what’s going to start trending or from conversations or from what I’ve read.
Often though, a previous story I wrote opens the way for another.
Networks are hyper important as they can lead you to your next story.
Also, keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening in the world. Read everything not only the lead stories. What’s being said between the lines? How are people reacting to what’s being said in their social commentary? Be a detective.
2. Start researching and locating people to interview to take the story further. Again pick up the phone and talk to colleagues, friends, your established network. Follow leads. In other words be lead by the story. See where it takes you.
3. Set up and do interviews, site visits, one interview may lead me somewhere unexpected and so on, more research, more calls, some dead ends, interviews.
4. Returning to my workstation with a lot more info than I may need, I then start the process of reviewing interviews and my research, transcribing videos I’ve taken or audio, and in meantime gathering the Gold from all my intel on a separate page/pages. Ultimately there always seems to be a golden thread between all the information gathered.
5. A relook at what I have sieved out from everything I’ve gathered
6. A lot of walking, hot drinks, discussing info with someone I think may have an interest (I like to see if someone sees what I see or if I have any blind spots), and also some sitting in sunshine. This may look like I’m doing nothing from the outside but it is where the gods of stories are helping me assimilate it all.
7. An aha moment, maybe while I’m chatting to a colleague, or chatting again to someone I interviewed in an earlier stage, or while I’m basking in the sun, or walking, that moment when I get the intro to my story, when I see unfolded in front of me - like a big tapestry - the reason my muse, my news nose, took me on the journey
8. I scribble it down or I know it will be lost. If no paper and pen is available I write it as a note on my phone or as a voice note.
9. I rush back to my desk and start writing on a clean sheet, copying and pasting from my original information-gathering notes as I go. I always feel when I have the intro - which basically means I have the gist of what’s been told to me, that I get the why of the story - the rest flows.
10. Then it’s the editing process, taking out repetition, ensuring correct spelling of names, and doing fact checking till VOILA I press the send button.
DEADLINE made! (Steps 4 to 10 can in fact take less than an hour...)
Each type of writing I do has its own flavour and steps. Hope you get something from these.
Oh how I love the craft of writing. ❤️
* Vivian Warby is, amongst other things, a writer, an editor, a writing coach and a lover of words. She initially began Wordwarrior.co.za as a way to bring her love of words to the world and help others write their stories.
Want to become a better writer? Or hear your muse more clearly? Contact Vivian on firstname.lastname@example.org