Non-fiction Article Choices

By: Pamela White

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Non-fiction Writing Choices by Pamela White

Non-fiction articles are based on research, interviews, experiences and opinion. Look around your home and bookstore and you'll find non-fiction writing opportunities in every bookshelf and on every table. Newspapers also look for feature articles and news stories. Your next feature article could be about a place (amusement park), person (blue ribbon winner for pickles), or event (state fair).

How many magazines do you subscribe to? We subscribe to 13 magazines. Some of these are professional magazines: "The Writer," "Saveur" (I'm a food writer), and "Society of Professional Journalists" (my husband is a journalist).

Some are for fun and hobbies: "Disney's Adventures" and "YM," "Family Handyman," Golf Digest," "AARP," and "Money." These are all national magazines, cream of the crop and are
harder to break into than smaller markets.

Stat by opening your Writer's Market and turn to regional publications. Look online for regional and tourist-type websites for which you could develop an article.

Whenever I go on a trip whether it's a day trip, long weekend or a flight across the country, I hit the local newsstands and bookstores and gather up all the local and regional publications I can find. A bonus is that many of them are free publications; others may be given away by hotels as a bonus to customers.

This magazine collecting habit of mine serves two purposes: I can study the publication and the area while I'm there, and come up with article ideas to pitch the editor. I can also use the articles as inspirations for stories for other publications. A magazine in Ohio may have an article on the restoration of covered bridges in Licking County. I can take this idea and transpose it to my region and pitch a story on the restoration of covered bridges in my home county.

Magazines are divided into two categories: consumer and trade.

Consumer magazines can be purchased in shops and bookstores, and are published for the general public. They include women's, men's, health, parenting, food and drink, religious, and education magazines.

Trade periodicals are written for a specific audience of professionals be they equipment manufacturers, entrepreneurs, retailers, restaurant owners.

Non-fiction writing includes pieces that move beyond articles.

Critical writing is a specialty. Write book, movie, theater or restaurant reviews.

Writing critically requires analytical reasoning, research and experience in the area of which you want to write. A review places the reviewed book or play in context by comparing it with other books or plays, or previous works by the same author. Theater critics know the background of the plays they critique. Restaurant reviewers must understand food, its preparation and new trends in culinary arts.

Writing op-ed pieces for newspapers is yet another option. Opinion columns are found on the editorial pages. Writers comment on life and politics today, strongly stating their opinions, often in an effort to sway the opinions of readers.

Creative non-fiction is another style you can adopt. Ever read Dave Barry? That's creative non-fiction. He takes real people and real situations and then twists and tugs them until we are presented with the humor of any person, place or thing. Maybe you’ve already written creative non-fiction. Think about the letters you write to family and friends about your child’s antics or the woes you’ve suffered at work. As you craft an event to entertain readers, you are writing in the genre of creative non-fiction.

Have a long attention span? Write books! People are hungry for information. Do you know how to train a puppy, open a pet grooming business, decorate cakes, raise children who love to laugh? Write a how-to book or a self-help book. It's not just PhD's that are published for their wisdom. Many average people have decided they have something to say on overcoming tragedy, living simply, surviving divorce and eating healthier.

The Internet offers a seemingly infinite number of markets that seek content.

Sites hire writers to provide the information in understandable language that will generate business. Other sites need local information - which restaurants and tourist attractions are worth seeing and why. Others offer guidance to parents, or religious groups or those in need of health information - all of these sites need someone to write the content.

Non-fiction markets provide solid work opportunities for writers, no matter where you live and what you like to write about. Find them in Market Guides, in newsstands and online.

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