Five steps to a winning story package

Great stories happen when editors consider all the pieces early on.

But we rarely talk about what may be an editor’s toughest job: taking a story from its conception and figuring out what it will look like on the page, in all its glory. How long should it be? Is a sidebar in order? And most important, how can I add some compelling heads, graphics and photos that will entice people to read the damn thing?

This task is a crucial one for editors, for we no longer have the luxury of thinking just about words on the page. Too many words, and no one reads the story. The right number of words, poorly arranged, won’t grab anyone’s attention, either.

Let’s take these building blocks one at a time and see how you can turn a half-baked idea into a eye-catching, readable story.

1. Story conception. Who thinks up your stories? If it’s you, then make sure your writers know what you’re looking for. And what better way to do so than with words? Assignment sheets don’t have to be formal documents or fancy forms, though many who use them say they work quite well. The point is to write down, in an e-mail or a memo—somewhere—what you’re expecting from this assignment.

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