Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creating Great Articles for Web and Print with Lee Fleming

Speaking of "great articles," check out the details on Lee Fleming's upcoming workshop:

Creating Great Articles for Print and Web” is based on the idea that fine writing is fine writing—whether your piece is fiction or nonfiction. The same principles of focus, organization, color, texture and balance should apply as much to blogs and articles as to short stories and novels. In the ideal world, we would astonish readers with our gem-like style and unique insights. But even experienced writers forget to take the time (or just don’t have it) to delve deeper into the elements that take good writing to a higher level. Helping people do this is where I come in.

As a successful freelancer and award-winning editor who has been both side of the writing/editing fence for more than 30 years, I know what sells, what won’t—and why. Giving participants my professional editor’s perspective on story ideas, article organization, blog topic interest and the rest adds another dimension to a workshop exploring publishing’s realities.

How do you begin, if you have never really written articles or blogs before? And how do you take your pieces to another plane, if you’re currently creating articles for print or Web? These questions drive this workshop. It takes nothing for granted, whether you’re a beginner who only writers papers for work, or a seasoned pro looking to brush up your skills or make a transition from one medium to another.

For example, the first session tackles that most persistent of problems, choosing one aspect of a broad subject that will make the best story idea for a particular site or publication. I like to tell participants about a friend who once proposed a history of Latin America to his editor. Luckily for him, the editor responded, “Not Latin America—just Noriega,” and a bestselling book was born. We aim for that in the workshop—breaking an overwhelming topic into facets that can become differently angled stories.

Later sessions touch on timing story pitches and negotiating fees with editors. After all, they’re people, too—grumpy in the morning, harassed by their publishers, but always looking for the killer idea. It’s easy to forget this, thinking of a Web site or print publication in monolithic terms rather than a something put together by people who might not have had a good morning when you call them. So we discuss how to approach editors, even down to what time of day to call someone on a daily versus a weekly, or how long to wait before following up on an e-mailed Web story idea.

And all along, we revisit and refine the basics: how to choose a subject, how to narrow a huge idea so that it becomes a manageable article or blog concept, how to pitch the story, how to organize and balance a piece and make it declare its message with your voice. Henry James, that consummate stylist, once said that style is defined not by what you can do, but by what you can’t—which makes perfect sense: if you shine at dialogue, it may be because you’re weak at describing, and vice versa. We work to discover your stylistic strengths and capitalize on them.

This is a tall order for a relatively short workshop, but somehow, the approach works. Over the years, participants have been published—often for the first time ever—on Web sites such as Slate and, and in newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Harper’s, The Nation and Washingtonian. They’ve been kind enough to tell me that the workshop helped. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

Lee Fleming is teaching "Great Articles for Web and Print" Mondays at 7:00 P.M., starting October 3. You can register here.

Lee Fleming has been writing, editing, and teaching for more than two decades. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, City Paper, and The Washingtonian, as well as other national newspapers, magazines, and Web sites. A former senior editor at Museum & Arts and Garden Design magazines, and managing editor/editor in chief of Landscape Architecture, Fleming has received a number of fellowships and awards for journalism and fiction.

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