As a follow up to my post on How to Conduct an Interview I thought I would do one on how to write up the article afterwards. In my case I am writing articles for a magazine called 'Gippsland The Lifestyle', but for you it could be writing up a report, a case study, an article for a newspaper or even writing words for your blog.
As I mentioned in the other post I record my interviews on a Dictaphone, which saves me the hassle of writing down everything the interviewee is saying, and also means that I don't miss anything, and I can focus on asking the right questions. Therefore the first step, once I get home, is to listen to the recording and type up a list of rough notes of what was said during the interview. I make sure that I take note of anything that is said that can be used as direct quotes within the article, as I find this personalises it and adds more weight to the story.
Once I have typed up the notes I print them out, which gives me everything I need to write the article.
Here is a photo of the recent edition of the magazine with the cover photo for an article I wrote on my husband's shearing. This is him hard at work.
For me I find the introduction is where I will sit and ponder the longest. Usually I have some idea of what tone I will use to set the scene, and often have this worked out at some point on my drive home from conducting the interview. The introduction, as you can probably imagine, is a vital part of the article as it needs to capture the reader from the get go and really lure them in. If you don't grab their attention within the first paragraph you really have lost them and they might not continue to read the article. It doesn't always come to me easily, however. I have been known to stare at my screen for a good half an hour, typing in a bit of rubbish here and there...hitting the back space button...and fiddling around on Pinterest for a while before I come up with something decent....but thankfully it doesn't happen too often.
More of the shearing article...
Now it comes to the juicy part of the story. Here is where I will refer to my pages of notes taken off the interview, and really it's a little like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. The secret here, I find, is to make my original notes as detailed as possible so when I go to write the article I just need to rework what was said and put it in the correct order. I'm certainly not copying word for word what was said in the interview, but I stay true to the information the interviewees gave me which is important for ensuring that I get all the facts straight. I make sure that I insert the direct quotes into places that are logical, but I don't just use them for the sake of having them. The quote should be powerful on it's own but also tie in with the text around it and enhance that section of the article.
This does sound like I have simplified the process of writing the article, and in a way I have. Having the notes there does give me something to work off. I do, however, find writing easy, it is my major strength. Everybody has a talent, and this is mine, and I know that some people do struggle with it (for example, my husband can hardly string a sentence together when writing...but he sure can shear a sheep! and can fix anything which I'm insanely jealous of,)...so perhaps it might not seem as simple for everyone.
I also keep in mind the photos I have taken to accompany the article and make the writing relevant to the photographs, if that makes any sense!
I try and keep my articles within the 1000 word limit and generally find that they are around the 800 to 900 word mark. Any longer than this and apparently the graphic designer goes in to melt down as he has to fit in the photos around the words while he is sorting out the layout for the article. For the conclusion I will aim to finish on a positive note and often a direct quote works well to tie it all together. Sometimes concluding with a paragraph about what the interviewees plans are for the future with their farm/business/shop/café/hobby are. This leaves readers thinking beyond what I am writing about in the article itself and might push them to seek out the person or business in the future to see if they have come through with their plans.
Proof Read and Edit
A vital part of writing an article, you must proof read what you have just written. Look for typos as well as spelling mistakes because it's not guaranteed that the editor will pick them up. Also look for ways to improve your article and cut back anything that seems like it is waffling on a bit. Succinct copy is better than long winded explanations.
My last step is to get the final word count, which I write at the top simply so the editor knows how long it is, and then I come up with a title. Sometimes this is easy, such as the heading for my article 'Shear Hard Work', but other times I will stew on it for a while. Your title needs to be attention grabbing and straight to the point because it is the very first thing that a reader will see and this will help determine whether or not they will continue reading.
Anyway, this is how I go about writing an article, I hope this has been helpful. Let me know if there is anything you do that is different to help you write!