Habits of Good Writers

In chapter 4 of “Coaching Writers,” Clark and Fry identify 15 habits of many strong writers. Strong writers:

1. see stories everywhere.
2. prefer their own ideas.
3. report voraciously
4. agonize over leads.
5. immerse themselves in their story.
6. “bleed” rather than “speed.”
7. take time to organize.
8. rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.
9. trust their ears and feelings more than their eyes.
10. love to tell stories.
11. remember the reader.
12. take chances.
13. devour books and movies.
14. write too long — and they know it.
15. guide the reader to the end.

Carefully reread Clark and Fry’s descriptions of these habits. Do you recognize yourself in any of them? Which ones? Are there traits on this list that you wish were a habit of yours? How would they make your writing life easier/better?

Post your response by 6 p.m. Sunday. Then, return to the blog discussion before class time Monday morning to read your colleagues’ posts and respond/comment on them.

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41 responses to “Habits of Good Writers

  1. I do recognize myself in some of the traits listed. I usually see stories a lot, I don’t think I would say everywhere. But when I’m out and about, I do pay attention to things, and sometimes I’ll see something and I’ll be like, “that would make a really good story.”
    I do immerse myself into stories. I get myself wrapped up into all the information. A bad thing about this though, is sometimes I seem to get too attached to the story, and then I have a hard time writing it. Since I am so attached, I want the article to be perfect, and I seem to be extra hard on myself, and because of that, it makes it hard to write it. I do try not to be so hard on myself, and I know that if I back off a little bit then my writing could potentially improve.
    I absolutely love to tell stories. If something major happens during the day, I just can’t wait to find someone that I know and tell them about it. I also love watching movies, and I like discussing about the movies as well. I have some sort of attention to detail, that is something that I am working on. I want to have enough detail in my writing so that the reader can see what I’m writing. I want them to feel like they’re there.
    I’ve noticed that sometimes I write too much/too long. If I have a good story in front of me, and I have a lot of good quotes, facts, and descriptions, it’s hard to shorten it up. That’s another thing I need to work on. Fitting in the important stuff, paying attention to the detail, and getting all the facts in, while keeping it at a decent length.
    One of the traits that I think I definitely need to work on, and that would extremely help me is reporting voraciously. I need to go beyond interviewing people, I need to also take a look at what happened, where it happened, stuff like that. I do need to work on rewriting my stuff. I’m not the greatest with editing, so I need to improve on that, and I think that’ll help me with rewriting my stories, and then improving on both of those will help my writing all together.
    I also need to help guide the reader to the end. It takes me some time, but I do come up with a good lead, and the middle flows together, but sometimes I do struggle with the ending.
    Out of all those traits up there, I do realize that I have many of those, but I also do realize that there are many of them that I need to work on, and improve on.

    • When it comes to getting too attached to a story, I experience the same issue you do. I develop too strong of a relationship with my sources and the subject, and I want everything to be portrayed perfectly. I’m currently working on a story about the lack of support LGBTQ students receive from the government and from school administrators, and I’ve become very emotionally attached to such a difficult subject. I’m also very hard on myself when it comes to my writing, and I agree that loosening up, relaxing, and “taking a chance,” as Clark and Fry put it, will help.

  2. I found this chapter to be really interesting. I think I related to a number of those writing habits, but the two that relate to me the most would be “rewrite and rewrite and rewrite” and “devour books and movies.” Whether I am writing an article, essay or even an email, I am always rewriting. I like writing whatever it may be in advance, giving myself a few minutes or even a day to go back and edit it again. I am very particular in the way I like to word things. I always ask myself: “Could I say this better? Make it less wordy? Less confusing? Is it on track with where I want it to go?” I think it is a good thing to have these questions flowing through my head, so that’s one thing I’m proud of possessing. I am also an avid movie lover. I will watch any movie, no matter how old or new. It’s always interesting to see not only how the films are created, but also what themes they bring up and how these themes can be found in the world today. The relationships between characters in both movies and books always intrigue me. I love the way authors bring situations to life, and their writing techniques and description give me ideas and ways to make my own writing better.

    One of the things I really need to work on is taking chances. It’s hard to step outside my comfort zone and do a story on something I don’t feel as comfortable with or one that challenges me more than anything I’ve done before. It’s not necessarily the work that scares me as much as the idea of failure. I’m willing to put in the work, but it’s hard to put in the work if you don’t know if the work will pay off. I want to try to get rid of this fear while at college. Now is the time for me to step outside my comfort zone and take a risk. I would also like to work on my leads to make them clearer to the reader. I think working on that will help me in other areas, especially guiding the reader throughout the story all the way until the end. Really, working to improve all of these skills will help me a lot in my writing. It is important to constantly be looking for stories. Keeping an eye out for things will help me stay up to date on things that affect me as both a reporter and world citizen, and I think that is as important as anything.

    • I am right there with you on taking chances; it’s a terrifying prospect. I mean, in board games where you have the option of taking a risk, I usually pass. Truth or dare? I will almost always pick truth.

      I’m not sure what I’m afraid of in terms of taking chances. For me, I think it’s more of a fear of the unknown outcomes of a risk. I tend to jump to the worst conclusions before thinking logically about taking a chance.

      Maybe weighing pros and cons of the risk might help.

  3. In terms of my strengths, I potential for stories everywhere. I was recently at Worlds of Fun, and went on a ride that spun high in the air. While I don’t mind spinning, I absolutely hate heights and the feeling of my stomach when a ride swiftly drops. (I can’t handle going “down” on an airplane, either.) I have a list of possible story ideas, and the one I came up with was inspired by that moment. (I want to write a story that involves a mixture of dragons and a fear of heights.)

    I love to write stories more than I like to talk; it’s gotten to the point where writing has become an easier way to communicate with other people. I don’t talk much in person, but throw me in a chat and I can be really silly and outgoing. I find myself able to express myself better in text rather than speaking aloud.

    I have a tendency when reading a book or writing something original (or fan fiction) to the point where I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m really picky about diction; I might spend a good chunk of a time choosing very specific words. I read as much as I can get my hands on when I have spare time.

    I can improve on length, which is hit or miss with me. In order to write a lot, I need to be passionate about the subject. There was one time I was supposed to be writing a 500 word essay, but ended up writing a 314 word reply about a book series and things that should have happened in them in about 10 minutes or so. (The 500 word essay took an hour or more.) So I bleed and speed to a degree. I can write my heart out, but I can be speedy if needed.

    I also need to improve on reporting. I’m introverted, so talking to new people is difficult for me. I’ve gotten better, but I need to work on that. I need to dig deeper and not be afraid to ask the big questions. On that same note, I need to take chances as well.

    I need to improve organizing my stories as well. I don’t plan them out, which is not beneficial to me or the reader. I also have a bad habit of starting a story and not ending it, or struggling to find a solid ending to what I was writing.

    • I’m so jealous of your ability to see stories everywhere. I think it’s a great skill that you were able to come up with a creative idea, just from one amusement park ride. I hate heights, too, and story ideas probably would have been the last thing going through my head on a thrill ride.
      I’m like you in the fact that I write much better than I speak. I’m much more comfortable communicating to people through writing than in person. Some might argue that this is because, with writing, you have time to edit your words, tone, and syntax–a luxury we don’t have when we’re speaking on the fly. However, I like to think that I’m better at writing simply because it’s my job, and communicating this way is what I want to with my career.

  4. To me, this chapter was very useful as a writer. As I was reading, I made connections to some of the points. Being a journalist, I am very nosey, which is why “seeing stories everywhere” relates to me. If there is something going on and I want to find out more, I have every right (or most, depending on where I am) to do that because it may end up as a story. I like to try and find stories that will interest people, which is why I need to constantly be looking for story ideas when I am out. I also related to “prefer their own ideas”. I think that for me personally, it is easier to write about something that I came up with or have interest in. If someone is telling me what to write about or a certain style I need to write in, I struggle more. I feel like my ideas get shut down and my flow of thoughts is slower. I learned the habit of “rewriting your rewrites” in my J59 class last semester. Lindsay Gilbert emphasized redoing your writing multiple times, why settle when you can improve? I am glad that I picked up on this trait, even though it was later in my writing career. Although you may think your writing is perfect, there is usually something that needs to be fixed. Like the chapter said, you can always switch around words or replace words with stronger verbs, etc. One final one that stood out to me was take chances. I used to hold back on writing something “big” because I was afraid of the risk. Now I’ve learned that if you hold back, you may be missing out on an opportunity. I am not where I want to be with this trait, but I have improved from where I began. Again, in J59, I learned to go out of my comfort zone and write about things I would not normally write about. Doing this, I got more praise on my writing and taught myself that in order to be a good writer, you need to go above and beyond. What if every writer held back? The stories we would read every day would get repetitive and we would not get the news we need to get.

    A habit that I wish to better is agonizing over the leads. The leads are where I struggle the most. I either sit and stare at my computer for hours trying to think of something to say, or I come back later and put a lead in as an after thought. The lead should be my first thought because that is what captures the leader. I could improve on this by improving on another trait I struggle with: reporting voraciously. If I do that, I may end up with more information that I could put into the lead. A writer should never leave an interview or place feeling like they did not get all the information they want. I have had that happen to me many times, I will get back to my dorm and think, “I wish I got this.” or “I forgot to ask this.” In the real world with big stories, you can’t do that. The people you interview may not have time to meet up again, or the setting may not be the same as the next time you go.

    Something that stood out to me in the reading was the middle of page 38, “By understanding how to support the good habits of strong writers, editors learn how to teach these habits to weaker ones.” This stood out to me because it shows that everyone can learn something from each other. Although the editors are correcting the writers work, they are also learning from it as well. The editor is helping the writer, but the writer is also helping the editor.

    • I completely agree with you on agonizing over leads! It is my greatest weakness. I think a lot of writers struggle with this aspect of writing because there is so much pressure that comes with it. For as long as I remember all of my English teachers have taught me to “entice the reader”, “hook the reader”, “make the reader’s jaw drop”. For a writer this is a lot of pressure placed on one aspect of a story. I also agree with you that a way to improve our ‘lead abilities’ is to work on our reporting skills, the two go very much hand in hand.

    • idreamofdreaming

      I struggle so much with leads well. If i start off a story with a lead, it is horrible. I normally have to write the story, and then come back later and add the lead. I also tend to have to go look back at my notes, and find the little descriptive details that will make a good lead. #4 is definitely a big issue for me. Because it is the first bit that either makes a reader continue reading, or stop.

    • Leads are my nemesis as well! I totally understand what you said about feeling nosey as a journalist. My interest is captured easily and then I want to know more. Curiosity is not lost to many and I like to think that helps me as well. Other nosey people want to know what is going on in the world but impatient people want it quickly. I try to think of leads that are short, sweet, and display information quickly and effectively.

  5. I really enjoyed this chapter because it made me reflect on my own writing habits and made me recognize some that I should start doing. While reading this chapter I recognized that I, as a writer, do almost all of this habits; there were only about four that I do not do, but realized I need to start getting into the habit.

    The first is seeing stories everywhere. I have never been one to hear something or observe something and think automatically, “This could be an article!” I tend to just take in my surroundings and go along with them rather than going out and looking for a story.

    The second habit I do not do is to remember the reader. When I start to get into an article it becomes very hard for me to consciously remember who I am writing for. I forget that the reader is the sole purpose to my writing. That is something that I genuinely am trying to work on as a writer!

    Taking chances is another aspect of being a good writer that I do not really do. I always lean towards stories about topics I know about or stories that I can interview people that I already know. I am still at the stage where I just don’t want to leave my comfort zone, but it has and still is one of my goals for this year!

    The last habit that I do, but have difficulty with is guiding the reader to the end. I have always had issues with the beginning and end of stories. It is the hardest part for me to try and entice the reader then also giving them a well-rounded close that sums up the entirety of the piece.

    I think that if I practice my writing, specifically these habits, my abilities and skills will improve immensely! Which will then give me an advantage of being able to write better, faster, and for more tailored outlets.

    • Guiding the reader to the end is also something that I struggle with. I tend to just cut off my stories because I can’t think of an appropriate way to end the story other than the final details that I feel are important to include. However, I think bringing the story to a satisfying end for both the writer and the reader is important in creating a well-rounded story, and it’s something I hope to work on and accomplish as well!

    • idreamofdreaming

      I really agree with you on the first one, finding stories everywhere. Last year, in J54, I would never come to class prepared for a story because it never occurred to me until I got to class. So, afterwards, I would go wander campus and look at posters. I would ask my friends, and then I would get a story idea. I think that after this class though, I began to see stories everywhere, and now I cant stop. Everywhere I go, I see story ideas. All of the posters on campus, and the random posts I see online, I want to write a story about. I think once you become used to finding story ideas, it just becomes second nature to you.

  6. Courtney Fishman

    I found this chapter really interesting, because I definitely see some of these habits in my own writing, but never thought they were necessarily a good thing.

    I find myself to be very hard on myself. This applies to my writing, as well as just in every day life. Being hard on myself, forces me to be a perfectionist, but sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist. Agonizing over ledes is a great example of my perfectionism. I always have trouble nailing down a lede that is creative, interesting, while also informative. I also find it difficult to continue writing until I nail down that lede, which can be stressful when I get anxious about the lede being incredibly strong.

    I would also agree with the saying of “bleeding rather than speeding.” Sometimes I get very overwhelmed with a story. I have a lot of interviews, or angles to take with the story, but none of them seem to fit. One of my best and worst qualities, is my ability to work under pressure. I usually need the fire of time under me, in order to perform my best work. I work really well under stress, and usually come out with a good story, because I love the adrenaline rush.

    But if I have too much time looming on a story, then I over think how it will turn out, and ultimately enter the “rewrite, rewrite and rewrite” habit. I become very particular about my word choice, and even highlight sections of my article that seem misplaced or awkward. It’s very common that my first draft is practically a new article by the time it reaches print.

    One place that I need improvement is in my risk taking ability. It usually takes the advice and council of an editor or classmate to take a big risk in my stories, and that’s a place I hope to improve as I advance in my writing career.

    • I have to agree with you when you say you think over a story more when you have more time. I am constantly reading it over, changing little things here and there when I know I have time to edit my article before turning it in. It’s good and bad at the same time. I want to turn in my best work, but I think it usually ends up with me turning in something that’s way over word count because I want to pack as much in as I can since I have the time and resources to do so. I think writing under a time crunch stresses me out a bit–I need to find that perfect middle that will let me turn in a good piece without doing constant rewriting of what I’ve already written.

  7. I can certainly relate to some of the habits Clark and Fry identify. I most definitely agonize over leads. I take my sweet time crafting them over and over again until I get them just right. I used to try to write them first, but I’ve found it’s easier for me to tackle them at the end once I know how my piece plays out.
    I’m still really bad about setting aside time to organize. I know it’s a crucial step before writing, but I have a habit of diving right into writing. I like to put words on a page, so it’s tough for me to to step back and take time to plan. That’s something I’d like to get better at because I think it’ll make the writing process more smooth and I imagine I’ll be able to identify problems in the story before I even start writing.
    While I like to think I’m good at telling stories, that’s probably something I could use work on. In writing classes we’re told time and time again to get the 5 W’s in the piece, but it’s true that the strongest writers’ primary goal is to tell stories. My work would be better if I could balance the information with anecdotes and narrative bits. Readers appreciate that too. That’s Clark and Fry’s next point: good writers remember the reader. I get so caught up in writing for myself that I don’t always keep the reader in mind. Good writers “treasure the reader and want to reward and protect and inform them.” When you put the reader first it’s easier to tell the whole story and tell it well.

    • I agree with your statement about setting aside time to organize. I also just go at it and start writing rather than planning what I want to write about. I think as writers, organization is a crucial step and should not be something that is skipped. It is easy to put all ones thoughts on paper right away rather than taking time to think what you write about. In the end, skipping out on organization makes for a longer writing process since you will have to go back and organize your writing after it is done.

    • Leads are really difficult for me too. I liked your idea to write them after you have an idea of what your story is going to look like, because then the lead can really help you to tie together all the pieces of an article! I think leads are also a key step in organizing an article, because once you identify everything you need to include for the reader to get a clear picture of the story, the lead just serves to draw the reader in while giving them enough information to understand where the story is going.

    • I also really love to dive into the writing. My initial writing style is very much flow of consciousness and then I go back and read it to make revisions. Sometimes, though, I wonder if my writing could be helped by organizing my thoughts, outlining a story and setting a good lead before diving in. However, I enjoy the initial rush of putting down a story and all the little rituals I go through while doing so. I guess that is one of my idiosyncrasies like the authors discussed in the reading.

    • I struggle with my leads as well. I’ve never tried writing them at the end and it’s an interesting idea. However, I’m not sure I would be able to write that way because usually once I have a lead the rest of these story comes pretty naturally. It’s a cool method though and I may try it some day just to see what happens.

  8. Since I just wrote an article for the Times-Delphic, I might as well see which traits came through in that writing and which I need to work on.

    Immediately, #4 (agonize over leads) jumped out at me. I probably spent more time on the lead than any other part of the story. Do I go with a hard lead or soft lead? How do I get the wording exactly right? And when I say exactly right, I mean EXACTLY right.

    I think #5 and #6 kind of go together. When I become immersed in a story, the writing just seems to bleed out. But it bleeds out quickly, too. It’s not that I’m trying to write fast. It just typically happens once I get into a story and get on a roll

    I definitely relied on #11 (remember the readers), but mostly just for story organization. And as for #14 (write too long), well, I think I was supposed to hit 500 words and I went over 600. I’m curious to see what the editors cut.

    There’s still a lot I need to work on, too. I need to become more disciplined and rewrite more often- I’m usually too happy with the first draft. I’m not great at picking out stories (#1), and I definitely need to improve that aspect of my writing. Hopefully, J54 will be able to help me out.

    When I write my next Times-Delphic, I’ll probably take this list out (and all the Writing Tools we’ve covered) and make sure that I try to follow them as much as possible.

    • I absolutely agree with you on all your points! I took J54 last semester and it helped my writing tremendously. After reading this article and having someone specifically point out all those habits, I can remember going through each and every one in J54. We really broke it down and weeded through these habits.

  9. As I mentioned in my first post, I consider myself much more of a writer than an editor. For this reason, I noticed I had a lot more in common with this reading than I have with our past assignments. I definitely recognize myself in several of Clark and Fry’s habits. For example, I always write long. Always. It was running joke on my high school newspaper staff that if a page needed more text, I was the person to call. Stories I’ve worked on for class or for my internships have always clocked in at least 50 words over my designated word count. I also see myself as a voracious reader. An editor I worked with once told me that the best writers are also the best readers, and I completely agree. I thoroughly enjoy studying a specific author’s unique style, tone, and voice. I’m currently tackling a stack of Chuck Klosterman pieces, thanks to Inman’s recommendation.
    One technique that I struggle with is seeing stories everywhere. Brainstorming is a weakness of mine. I would much prefer to be told what to write than face the daunting task of coming up with my own idea. However, this is something I’m working on. I’m trying to be less shy and more open to talking to people and asking them questions. I believe everyone has a story, and it’s up to us reporters to find it.

    • I like what you said in the end trying to be less shy (something I’m trying to work on too). I think it’ll be much easier for me to just throw myself out there and if I’m curious about something just to go for it. There are so many times that I’ll witness things and want to know more but freak out a bit at the last second because I’m nervous someone will think I’m “prying.” I am starting to realize that the only way you’ll get what you want is by asking–the worst thing someone can say is no, so I might as well give it a shot! I think encouraging myself to take a leap and go for an idea is what will help me formulate better story ideas and in turn become a better writer and reporter.

  10. I really liked this chapter because even though it was stating what the habits are of strong writers, it also kind of acts as a guide telling us what traits to adopt in order to become strong writers. I could relate to a few of the traits this chapter talked about, specifically “rewrite and rewrite and rewrite” and when writers “write too long – and they know it.” Whenever I write a story or a paper for a class, I usually write a rough draft, and then completely rewrite that draft, and then fix the final draft. Sometimes I rewrite a draft three times before I settle on a draft I can edit into the finished project. This is mostly because I first get my ideas on the paper, and then I formulate these ideas into coherent thoughts. Usually this habit results in my tendency to write too long, because I add details into my rewrites that I think are essential to include in the story so the reader can imagine and understand the story. It’s hard for me to decide what is absolutely important in a story and what serves as non-essential descriptive details, so I end up getting too wound up in the story and including unnecessary details that end up obscuring my message to the readers.

    I wish I had more of a habit of taking chances. In my writing, I tend to be very detail-oriented and I don’t include many descriptions of the scene because I am afraid of overshadowing my message with details of the environment. I usually stick to the guidelines and essential facts to include in a story and resist taking liberties with my writing because I’m afraid it won’t seem professional. However, I’m realizing that taking chances is one of the only ways I will discover what works and what draws in readers. While it’s tempting to stay within my comfort zone, taking chances will allow me to experiment with a different writing style that will paint a picture of the setting for the readers and maybe even give me new insight into a story in the process. Sometimes I also have trouble “remembering the reader” and focus on what I have to write to get my message across. I concentrate on the details and not how entertaining the story will be to the reader. However, I think that if I add more colorful descriptions into my writing when appropriate and establish an atmosphere for my story, it will help keep readers interested enough to read the entirety of the article.

    • I wish I had a habit of rewriting! Even though you have a tendency of writing too much (who doesn’t, really?) it’s great that you are able to work through different drafts. Having multiple revisions is great for reference when you do have to go back and cut words because you look back and determine what details are critical and what details are unnecessary. I think if I were better at rewriting I would be more confident in my work.

    • I have the same problem with taking chances. I have a tendency to stick to the essentials and I usually avoid embellishing on details or descriptions. I have a hard time deciding when it’s ok to stray from specific details and when it’s not. As you said though, taking those chances is the only way to find out what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully a good editor would also be able to guide you through taking those risks.

  11. I found this to be a very interesting chapter and I definitely relate to some of the traits that Clark and Fry describe. I have always preferred to write stories based off of my own ideas rather than someone else’s. It’s not as much that I can’t write a story when it’s not my idea, but that I’m less invested when I didn’t come up with the idea. I’m more likely to dig into a story when I’m the one who’s been working on developing it from the beginning.

    Another one that I see in myself is agonizing over leads. As Clark and Fry mention I feel as though my lead has to be the best part of my story and so I’ll spend too much time trying to perfect it. Last year in my JMC54 class the lead always took me the longest time to write. On my first couple of articles I would spend an hour writing it and rewriting it until I felt it was good. Although it got easier to write them as the year went on it’s definitely still a piece that I struggle with. This also connects with the point of “bleed” rather than “speed”. Writing my first draft is always a slow and tedious process. I always want to change things and reorganize my article. The first draft is never right and it usually takes me a while to fix it.

    The other habit that I see in myself is devouring books and movies. I absolutely love to read and watch movies. I’m always trying to keep up on the latest books that are released and my family goes to movies all the time. Since I was little I’ve enjoyed seeing all the different stories and characters and the ways that they get adapted.

    One of the areas I could work on is writing too long. I’ve had a lot of teachers who always told me I needed to get to the point and that short and sweet was better. That’s led to me often just including the most important details. It would be helpful to write longer because that would mean the editor would have more choices about what they wanted to cut.

    I could also work on taking more chances. It can be terrifying to try something new with knowledge that it could fail, but those kind of risks can also lead to the best stories. This goes along with another thing I could improve, which is seeing stories everywhere. I began to see them more last year after taking JMC54, but it’s something that I can work on. I often only see the big stories, but there are little things that I don’t think about that could be unique articles. It’s a great list and I think working on these points would help me improve my writing and reporting.

    • Haha- I see that you’ve used the word “adapted” in there. I wonder how much experiences in creative writing- like with our FYS last year- affect news writing. How many of those habits we fall into when writing the news are things that we’ve carried over from creative writing? I want to continue pursuing creative writing along with journalism (and write that next great American novel which I promise I’ll start next week. Or maybe the week after…). How difficult is it to separate the two styles of writing?

  12. It makes me feel good seeing these traits and recognizing some in myself, but I know I could always improve those traits and pick up others that are listed. Whenever I go to a concert, a bar or just out for a walk, I always look around and notice little details about things that make them “cool”. I always want to take in the whole experience of being wherever I am. I think that is what the author means by seeing stories everywhere. He is talking about noticing the details that make a place or experience worth while. The minute things that a lot of people may miss as they pass through. These are the things that make events or places or people story worthy and I think they can be found in almost everything. I run sentences through my head, trying to figure out how I could fully explain what I’m seeing, hearing and feeling to someone who had never done what I’m doing at the current time. I want to be able to make them feel the same way I do at that exact moment.

    Along with that, I love to tell stories. If I find something interesting, I want to tell everyone I know about it if I get the chance. I find great pleasure in relaying a cool or strange experience to people and having them say “Wow, that’s really amazing!” or “Jeez. How did you end up in that situation?” It’s a great experience for me and I hope that those reactions are conveyed through my writing as well, even though I may not be there to see them.

    I also love books and movies. If I hear about a strange new movie or old one I’ve never seen, I immediately want to check it out. I love watching blockbusters and movies that never really made it, just to examine the way they are put together and how the storyline flows. The same goes for books. I love to dissect other writers’ prose and see what makes it extraordinary or not so extraordinary.

    Lastly I would say that I write too long. I always want to pack as much into a story as I can so that I can deliver that “full experience” feeling to the reader. Word counts on assignments always feel like a burden that I can’t help but ignore. However, editors have always been very good at helping me trim down things to a point where I feel like I gave the reader the full experience without being so wordy and lengthy and I think it comes out better in the end that way.

    As far as traits I would like to have, I wish that I took more time to organize. I always feel like my thoughts are scattered all over multiple notebooks, stickies on my computer or just rattling around my brain. I think I could be a much more efficient and effective writer if I took more time to catalog and and organize information for stories. I’d also like to report more voraciously. I’ve had experiences where I’m not happy with a story and my editor has said “What would you want to know if someone told you the gist of this story?” or “Well, what color was the greenroom? Was it actually green?” much like Marlens did for Dim. I wish that I could incorporate more of these details into my story without the editor having to guide me to them.

    Overall, I’d love to pick up all of these traits someday and become the most effective writer I can be. Like the reading said, every writer secretly wants to have the best piece the paper or magazine has ever had every day.

    • Courtney Fishman

      I would agree, that I too, find myself looking to blab the latest story to all of my friends. I also do this through sharing articles on social media. I seem to spend a lot of time finding unique stories, and love stumbling upon a story one of my friends would love as well.

      Usually, I then think how I can localize this story and write my own version of it, or share it in the budget of the Times-Delphic.

      I agree that organization is key when it comes to writing, and it is something that we all could improve on. The area I need most improvement is in organizing my interviews. I typically take notes and also record the interview, but a lot of the times my notes become very scattered and I spend incredible sums of time transcribing.

    • I have to agree with you on the idea of organization. I will start to write, my mind will wander into another direction, and soon enough I’ll have a desk and notebook filled with ideas or directions the story could go. “Should I focus on this aspect? Well, this one could be good too…” I think if I sit down, look at the information I have, and figure out what I want to say before actually writing anything will make the work much easier instead of getting to the end and thinking I should have tried something else. I also need to work on trimming my work a bit too. It can be hard trying to figure out what is worth keeping and what isn’t sometimes, so it’s nice having a fresh pair of eyes looking it over to see what’s needed and what’s not.

    • Organization is a trait that I need to work on as well. I find that once I start writing I just need to get everything done regardless of whether or not the order makes sense. I have so many ideas and I often forget to write them done so once they hit me I immediately put it into my article so that I don’t forget it. While it’s simple enough to copy and paste paragraphs into an order that makes more sense, life would probably be easier if I took the time time to organize and write down my thoughts before I began writing.

  13. I don’t necessarily see stories everywhere, but I do see them quite often. This summer, I went to the DMV to get my license renewed. The woman at the checkout counter asked a series of monotonous questions,” Is your weight, height, address the same? Oh—and do you want to donate your eyeballs and organs to another individual if you were to die in a tragic car accident?” Maybe these weren’t her exact words, but I was shocked by the flippant way she asked the question. I awkwardly said yes—only because I was completely caught off-guard. I immediately started thinking of different stories I could write as to why states don’t offer more information on the topic.

    I am unbelievably anal when it comes to writing a lead. This is one of the habits I identify with the most. I usually write the lead last in a story because I know it will take a while until I’m finally satisfied with it.
    I rewrite frequently, and I love word processors. As a matter of fact, I’ve moved paragraphs and phrases around multiple times in this post because I haven’t been happy with the flow of them.

    I wish I could do more to immerse myself in a story. It’s difficult for me because I am a double major (music and news/internet) so rehearsals also take up a large chunk of my time. I spend a lot of time organizing my notes and quotes from a story, but my writing would improve if I organized my time better so I could get more involved in my stories.
    I read all the time when I was a kid. It was a crazy, I would come home from elementary or middle school and read for at least 3 hours every night. My schedule has gotten a lot busier as I’ve gotten older. I wish I could dedicate more time to reading. When I have time to read a lot, I find it’s easier for me to develop a writing “voice” in my head.

    There are many traits that I easily identified with in this article. It was helpful and comforting to read this list because it makes me feel like I’m on the right track in my career decisions.

    • idreamofdreaming

      I love what you said in the first paragraph, about seeing stories everywhere, even in every-day occurrences like at the DMV. This summer, I wrote for a local news paper, and I had to find stories to write about everywhere. I wrote about a new garden in town, and a scavenger hunt. Its the little things like these, that you would never think about writing a story on, that you do once you become a journalism major. We start to notice things, we never did before.

    • At times I’ve found it hard to truly immerse myself in my stories. Like you said, we’re college students so it’s hard to find the time to dedicate to a big story. That’s why I try hard to write stories that I’m interested in. It’s easy to throw myself completely into a story if I’m reporting on something I’m passionate about. It sounds like you try finding stories that interest you since you’re always spotting them in your everyday life. That’s a great habit.

  14. idreamofdreaming

    “Good writers immerse themselves in the story. They live it, breathe it, and dream it.” This text (#5) from the chapter is something I can relate to strongly. When I am writing a story, I completely focus all I have on it. I think about every detail, ask myself questions, and surround myself with what is happening. If I go to an event, and cover it for a story, I 100% dedicate myself to it. I question all different types of people, and write down every detail so the reader felt like they were actually there. You cannot give 50% and get an amazing/publishable story.
    I can also relate to #8. I rewrite, and rewrite 3/4 times or until I think my story is perfect. I have my editor, and a few friends/family read it. So they can give me input. Everytime I write a story, it is initially missing so much detail. I feel like there will always be something to add to a story, because its the minor details that matter most, and you can sometimes miss them when you start out.
    #13, devouring movies/books… is my life. I am such a fan of reading, and watching movies. I think you can learn alot from them, about what people love/hate. You also learn alot about what keeps people interested. Reading books is such a good thing for writers to do, because you are the reader. NOT the writer, and you see it from the other side. You see whats funny, sad, or what sucks. And then you can write, according to what you learned.
    The one i am not so good at is the last one, #15. I have a hard time with this, because I tend to just go on and on and on. Which can be an issue when you are trying to find an end to a story. You need to cut yourself off, and lead the reader to a stopping point that helps the story to be wrapped up. Stories shouldnt just be a bunch of facts, thrown together into a paragraph. There needs to be a story — a beginning middle and end.

    • Courtney Fishman

      I agree with what you said about focusing all of your time and energy on a story. I often find myself worrying about my article even when I’m not writing — in the shower, before I go to bed. As I mentioned in my post, I also enjoy re-writing my stories. I find myself asking my family and friends to read my stories, just like you do, in order to get as much input as possible. I like to think that everyone has the potential to give great advice about something I’ve written. And if not that, it’s always great to get reassurance.

  15. I identify with a few of the points made by Clark and Fry in this chapter. Most notably, I am an organizer. I plan and structure everything that I include with my writing, including the research and interviews, and especially when I write the first draft. I think that’s one of my strongest qualities when it comes to reporting, and it’s been a great asset throughout my education.

    I also am very conscious about how I write the leads into my stories. To me, that can most of the time be the toughest part, and it’s something I have to pay a lot of attention to. As more of a designer than a writer, I’m not really in the habit of many of these tips, but I know that for the remaining reporting classes I have to take, they will be very helpful. Several of the points revolve around maintaining a certain level of detail with your writing, and I think that that translates well into any field. Take the time to do your project well, keeping in mind the audience, and you will produce a quality result that will effectively achieve its purpose and goals.

    • I completely agree that writing leads is the toughest part of the story. Most of the time I save it until last because it’s really difficult for me, and I always procrastinate harder activities.
      The more I immerse myself in journalism classes, I realize that good writing techniques pay off in any career.

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