Saturday, May 7, 2011

Advice for journalists

For years, I covered sporting events, usually auto racing, although you'd see me covering football, basketball, baseball, golf and even bodybuilding. I wrote features and game stories, and it was a battle for me. If I hurried, my writing was a mess. If I had time to edit, it could shine.

Which means that I am a typical professional writer. Sometimes I'd be 30 or 45 minutes ahead of time, but, usually, I'm fighting the clock and the editor in my head "looking over my shoulder."

I just start writing; I don't have time for writer's block. I need a lead, of course. I'll put a so-called Associated Press lead (Joe Schmoe scored 24 points, including the last five, as So-And-So beat...). I'll often find a better lead in the middle of my story, so I'll move it to the top, and work the old lead into the story.

I always write by the number of words. If a story needs to be 500 words, I write 550. Then I tighten it to 480 and write some more. Then I cut it to 500 again. I'm always adding more information and finding ways to tighten and improve. If I have time, great. If not, well, I'll do my best.

Two things: Be on time, and get your facts right. After that, everything else will fall into place.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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