How to Write for Rapid Publication and Headlines on OEN
Whether you are a first time Op-Ed contributor, or have already been
you will find value in this very simple and direct formula for
so that a strong story almost writes itself. But more than that, these
will help you earn rapid publication, and favorable placement.
about writing for the reader and editor.
News readers tend to scan. They scan headlines, they scan the first
if the headline hooks them, and they read the whole piece if it flows
builds logically from a basic concept. The last paragraph clinches what
out to communicate.
That's what it's about isn't it? -- getting your point across
fail if the headline fails to interest, or if the first few sentences
draw the editor and the reader in. The formula I'm advocating here is
not a set
of hide bound rules, but rather a model, one that you can modify
suit the subject. But using it it will let you make a very good first
one that makes any needed rewrite easy and obvious.
How to Begin
I like to take a blank sheet of paper and map out the ideas and how
connect. I pick a word or two symbolize the core idea, and write it in
middle of the sheet. Around that I cluster other words to
main arguments, facts, questions, players, etc. In other words I
the elements of the story around the center theme. For very
stories, I might redo this process, grouping and connecting words with
Tony Buzan calls
this "Mind Mapping." Nothing is better to break
writer's block and get the creative juices flowing.
Although this doesn't take long, an interesting thing happens. Without
a complete sentence, that mapping process forms the embryo of the story
mind. It's organized there with all the concepts, leaving only the
word-smithing to make it real.
"Lede" is the newspaper term for the first paragraph of a story that
tells what it's about and entices the reader to continue. You
need to disclose your whole point, but you want to entice the reader
the scope of your article. To begin your article, write the lede
to polish it much; the final phrasing will be easier after you complete
The paragraphs following the lead should develop only the essential and
important elements that make clusters in your map. Each paragraph
should be a
complete idea. Use a series of paragraphs to develop the theme
to your conclusion or call to action. If there are several such themes,
find that sub-headings will help the reader get the over-arching
you are presenting.
The close is where you repeat the essence of what you want the reader
away from reading your article. It answers the question: what was the
about? It could be very literally a succinct two or three sentence
it could be something that evokes the main point: a rhetorical
question, a call
to action, or a logical conclusion. By reading only the lede and the
should have a pretty good sense of what the story says.
In the early days of newspapers, reporters phoned in their stories and
to a "rewrite desk" to craft the story. The editor who did the
rewrite would create the lede, the body, and the close. Often another
would write the headline. You need to be your own rewrite editor.
are some criteria:
- Verify that each and every paragraph
informs or develops the theme in the lede or it supports the close.
Kill the ones that don't - they are flab.
- Check the logic for obvious unanswered
questions and/or the need to addressa likely contrary point of
view. Avoid triggering
skepticism by errors of omission.
- Fact check your assertions, and add
sources where possible. Be rigorous if it controversial. The facts must
be right, your opinion is what it is perceived to be.
- Direct quotes enliven the writing. Use
them and attribute them. If the quote is essential evidence for your
conclusions consider verifying it with the source.
- Add photos and illustrations. Always
attribute them properly.
- Rephrase the lede to increase its
- Rephrase the close to make it more
- Rephrase the title. It not only
needs to hook interest, it should have keywords you want search engines
No serious writer expects to publish the first
draft; and many discard it altogether. The real craft lies in the
rewrite, not the creative explosion of the first phrasing. Compact,
well crafted prose will reach more readers, and affect them more deeply.
at all practical, get someone to read your draft and make comments.
Fresh eyes see things you missed.
Why All the Bother?
Editors at OEN approach submissions in the queue much as readers
front page. They scan for something interesting to edit. Then they
the lede or the description of the article. If it looks poorly written
uninteresting, they ignore the rest and move on to something else.
you can get the editor to read the whole submission, the odds of her
the publish button are greatly improved.
Graphics and photos also add to the publish-appeal
of your work. Look here for
tips on how and where to get photos if you don't have original work of
If the story seems interesting, the editer looks at your bio to see why
your point of view
is credible or authoritative. If a bio is too scanty or vague it
may cause rejection of an otherwise acceptable piece. You bio should
show your respect for your reader.
Once an editor has read the story he or she decides to accept or
accepted, the title and the description (blurb) gets edited, the tags
category are verified, and then its published. Finally the editor
about headlining the story. "H1" or the top of the front page of the
site is first prize. If it is an important topic with a strong lede,
you have a
good chance. Making the headlines is the payoff for crafting a good
article. Writers that consistently submit high quality articles
in the queue, and their articles get published faster. No surprise here
articles build the reputation of the site and draw visitors to
All it takes is a good lede, a compelling and logically developed body,
memorable close. With ruthless elimination of the flab that doesn't
theme, your article will stand out from the 30 to 50 others competing
It really is that easy.