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Arresting Articles
by Shaunna Privratsky

Any writer can pen a publishable article. It doesn't matter if your expertise is fiction, personal journaling or poetry. Writing articles boils down to relating your experiences and sharing your knowledge with others. It's the oldest advice in the book: write what you know.

If you've never wanted to write articles for profit, consider this: both print and online magazines are highly lucrative markets. The national magazines pay over $1 a word and even "little" magazines pay a respectable $.10 word. Compare that to "professional" rates of selling fiction stories at only $.03 word.

Selling articles can give you credibility and promote your work. After you sell fifty or so articles about different aspects of farming, you will be an expert on farming. It's amazing how much respect you gain from editors when you have several published pieces on similar subjects.

Look around your home for inspiration. My first feature article was about coupon clipping, of all things. I'd kept a year's worth of receipts and discovered I'd saved over $1,000 by using coupons. The editor of Simple Joy was eager to share my secrets with her readers and that first sale has led to steady work.

Use your hobbies or special interests. Write about collecting old-fashioned bottle caps or flying remote-control airplanes. Do you own a cat or perhaps a Chinese box turtle or a giant monitor lizard? Write an article about pet care or humorous stories like the time your dog ignored your rust-bucket and peed on Uncle John's brand new Mercedes.

What if you haven't a clue how to write an article? Here are some basics to get you started. Articles are designed to deliver information and outlines are the framework holding up the information.

When creating an outline, list all the major points and any subtopics. You'll notice if you have any gaps or weak areas you need to research before you begin to write. An outline also keeps you on track so you don't lose the thrust of your subject. Outlines are valuable when sending queries because the editor sees at a glance the topic and slant your article will cover.

With an outline in place, you're ready to write an article. Just like any other form of writing, the first sentence and paragraph hooks the reader. The title is part of that hook. It's the first thing anyone sees and should convey subject, tone and why it's necessary to read. Would you read an article titled "Chainsaws" or one called "Buzzing about Wood"?

The hook can be a famous quote, an anecdote, a surprising statement or a statistic. You can ask a question and go on to answer it. The carefully honed hook sets the tone and slant of your article.

The second paragraph shows the reader why the subject matters to them, whether it's how to do anything better or faster or why getting your taxes done at the last possible moment can save you money. Show a direct benefit to the reader and she'll enthusiastically read the rest of your article.

The body of the article relates the information you promised in your lead. Provide facts and explain them. Spice it up with personal stories, examples and lists. Editors and readers love lists and sidebars. Many magazines use them as a basis for their layouts.

Sidebars and lists break up the text and make easy reading out of the most complicated subject. Key points are the staples of sidebars. You can often form them directly from your outline.

The conclusion wraps up your work and summarizes the key points. The reader's questions should be answered and they should take away something valuable. Tying your ending back to your lead sentence or title is time-honored because it's effective.

No matter what your subject is, tailor the tone and slant to your intended market. Writing for kids? Keep sentences short and simple and packed with information, yet don't talk "down" to the reader. For a more sophisticated audience, go into more detail. Inject zeal and knowledge in your article and editors and readers will be compelled to read it.

Articles can become the backbone of a freelancing career. Each piece sold adds to your portfolio for promotion, profits and credibility. When you spot a likely topic, remember there is money in arresting articles.

© Copyright 2004, Shaunna Privratsky

Shaunna Privratsky writes fulltime from North Dakota, in between shoveling snow. Please visit The Writer Within at http://shaunna67.tripod.com. We are looking for new writers and we are a paying market.

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