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Author Topic: Lesson 8  (Read 2580 times)
numbneykid
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« on: September 14, 2009, 03:32:18 PM »

Hello again everyone,

I am currently on a leave of absence until December.  I would still like to work on my assignment but am having difficulty on where to start.  Should I begin with the outlines or write the story/article first and then do the outline?  I think I have come up with a couple of article ideas but am not feeling confident with any choice.

Choosing a magazine market is also a challenge.  This assignment has me stumped!

I appreciate any advice... T
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2009, 06:10:10 AM »

Why not start with magazines and work backwards? For example, pick a time to visit your local library and see what magazines are in the children's section. Curl up in a chair with one and read it cover to cover with a notepad beside you. As you read ideas will come to you -- they'll just be fragments, but that's okay -- write them down. Even if they feel silly, write them down.

Then after you read the whole magazine (letters to the editor and ads too)...go on home and look at your list. Do any of the ideas sound especially fun? Then flesh it out and *boom* there's your first "plan" with one market match already done. Once you have ONE market match, it's easier to have two more. If you read HIGHLIGHTS for example and came up with ideas...and one idea was...oh, an article on the first White House cars. Then you ponder...who else might be interested in White House cars? Well, Cricket maybe. Or Cobblstone if they have a theme that would match. Or someone like Stories for Children would love it -- lively fun and history, yum.

I actually do this a lot when I'm sure I want to do a few magazine pieces to keep my resume balanced. It always results in solid plans for me. And it always results in easy market matching.

I don't do the article or the story before I plan...because I *always* prewrite before I write. That's because (for me) every piece needs to end up publishable without a total overhaul. Organic writers (the ones that sit down and just write) can end up with great stories and many do -- but they virtually always require a total overhaul to be publishable (you have to find the plot in the flood of writing and then revise to bring it to the forefront) and sometimes you chase rabbit trails that end up not producing a story or that run on and on and don't come up with a real plot.

So, if my "idea" list said something like "What if a beaver had a wood allergy?"
Then I would think up a plan for that...Chewie is finally old enough to begin helping his family build a bigger lodge, but when he tries to gnaw down a tree...his mouth feels all funny and itchy. Then his cheeks swell. He's allergic to wood! At first, he tries hauling it but not gnawing it down but discovers that carrying is as bad as cutting. He tries trimming branches -- no good. Clearly he has to keep his mouth off the building. Then he tries being the beaver who fills in the cracks with mud and he's great at it! With Chewie doing all the mudding so well, the family finishes way ahead of schedule -- yay, Chewie!

And that would be my plot plan. Naturally that's not the whole story, just a squished down synopsis of the story but it's the kind of pre-writing I work from and would make most instructors pretty happy. At that point I could list the characters, setting, time frame, etc.

Now, with nonfiction, it takes a bit more. I have to research a bit to see if there are any fun stories tied to early White House cars. Then I have to think how I would organize this:

The First Motoring Presidents

Open: Funny story of one president's automobile mishaps.

Outline:

When did the White House begin switching from horses to cars? (side question -- were there chauffers before there were cars?)

What were the first official White House cars?
Who was the first president who could drive?
What kinds of wild modifications have been made to White House cars?

Close: Go full circle and comment on how changes in White House transportation have also reflected changes in the president's status (and maybe separation) from the citizens.

That's not really a "traditional" outline and I might flesh it out a bit more if I actually was doing fresh research...poking around a bit. This is just based on some things my husband told me and something I ran across. But the plan doesn't have to be some perfect school outline, just ideas of what I'm going to do, what my focus will be, and some directions I plan to go with it.

I hope that helps.
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numbneykid
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2009, 12:58:05 PM »

It absolutely helped, thank you.  I'm going to carry this advice in my back pocket. 

Off to the library I go...
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2009, 02:47:37 PM »

Jan is right, of course. One of the key bits of advice we always give students is that if you don't already have something written, look for magazines that interest you and find out what they are looking for. If you write something tailored to the magazine you are submitting to, your chances of being published definitely increase.


-Jamie
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2009, 08:06:39 PM »

Good luck with lesson 8.  I note that some people start at the end and work backwards, some in the middle, and some do an outline and then fill it in.  I like Jan's advice of searching the magazines, then coming up with an idea.  I did assignment 8 the other way around and it's twice the work to match a pre-written piece to a magazine fit.

If you have trouble with generating ideas, I often use the tool called mind-mapping.  As you go through magazines you will have an idea or two pop into your head.  Put the idea in the center of a page, draw a circle around it, with arrows pointing out to blank circles; you will soon find that you will fill in all the empty balloons.  By looking at the balloons you can gain additional ideas but more so hone in on what angle you want to work your idea from.

Although I can't draw in this post, an example would be I am reading an article from a local Bird magazine and see an article on ducks.  So I put ducks in the center balloon.  From there I mind map or jot down ideas as they come.
Ducks
 colors
 kinds
 migration
 human uses
 cartoons
 food
and so on.  From the list above (each item listed would be in a balloon) I already have information to include in my outline as well as how I might angle my article.  E.G. I could write an article on the migration of ducks around the world or I could write an article on all the different kinds of ducks, or ducks that become famous, like Donald Duck, and so on.

I hope this helps and best wishes for a successful article.
bjb


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numbneykid
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2009, 12:09:38 PM »

Thank you bjb.

I know I said I'd go to the library and search through the magazines as Jan suggested.  Unfortunately, I live in the middle of nowhere and the libraries close enough have limited hours.  Weak excuse, I know.  Also, I am driving one hour each way to help my mother take care of my ailing dad three, sometimes more days a week.  (which is why I'm on my leave but only have a few weeks left). 

I came up with a few good article ideas and I believe they will be interesting... they interest me!  My problem is drafting the outline.  The sample in our instruction manual is pretty plain compared to what I've looked up on line.  What exactly is expected?  There are no other samples that I could find on this site. 

I realize the importance of outlining and thrive on organization.  I am having trouble with this "simple" task.  Will appreciate any advice.
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2009, 12:19:45 PM »

Hi, Numbney...

Jan posted several examples of outlines in two different posts in this thread:
http://institutechildrenslit.net/index.php?topic=2261.0

Did you see those yet? I think "plain" is all you need for this assignment, really... but read what Jan had to say and see what you think.

I wonder if you're just overthinking it--sounds like your life is on the stressful side right now. Hope this helps! And I hope your dad's doing better.
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2009, 12:25:09 PM »

The actual outline doesn't have to follow any rules. None. Zippo. All the instructor wants to be able to see is (1) what is your subject, (2) what is your focus, and (Roll Eyes do you have some sense of how you might organize information into a cohesive piece.

So, say, I was going to do something on...hmmmm..."Super Animal Dads"

I would probably do an outline-ish thing kind of like this:

In the animal kingdom, males often don't take part in raising young. The females build or find safe places for the young. The females feed the young. Sometimes the females even give their lives to see the young survive. But sometimes animal dads are really amazing.

1. The Sea Horse
-- Carries the eggs in a special pouch.
-- Protects the hatchlings by holding them in his mouth when danger comes.

2. The Emporer Penguin
-- Carries the egg through the bitter cold while the female goes searching for food
-- Both Eggs and Hatchlings are protected by resting on the father's feet while a flap of fat covers them like a blanket
-- Lose x-percentage of his body weight as he doesn't eat while caretaking the egg.

3. Male Giant Water Bug
-- Female glues eggs to his back
-- fiercely protects
-- sees to it eggs get enough air.

----------
See? As an instructor, I would actually be happy with something like that. It shows me you have a subject (animals) and a focus (good dads) -- it gives the opening paragraph (nice but not required) and shows how the body of the article is organized. That's really about all I would need. Now for a real bonus, if you give some of your sources...I might faint with joy. I know sources aren't required but for nonfiction, I really can't even guess at markets without knowing quality of sources.

But as far as the "kind" of outline you do. It doesn't matter a speck. Only that the outline shows enough of what you plan so the instructor can evaluate if it's a viable article idea.
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numbneykid
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2009, 12:36:06 PM »

I knew I should have read the string posted by Mexicanshedevil before I posted that last question.  Colorado, thank you, I was probably reading that while you were sending me the info...

Ok, I'll try plain.  Boy, will I be happy to get this assignment over with!  My dad has a degenerative disease and falls a LOT.  Right now he's got a humongous black eye and stitches over them both, but he's ok for now.  Thank you.

Jan, say I was going to do an article on a bug and everything I found was on the internet.  Would I list the sites for my bonus?

 
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2009, 01:30:18 PM »

Be careful about listing only resources on the Internet, and never, ever use Wikipedia as a source!

No, I'm not Jan, but I've learned the hard way that Internet sources are not all they are cracked up to be.  First, if you have a source you like, see if they list any of their sources, and if so, try to check them out.  That gives you a better feeling that your primary source is actually accurate.

Second, try to find journal articles and those from sites like National Geographic and other scientific magazines ( for the bugs).

Third, if you decide to submit your article, don't hesitate to try to find an "expert" in the field that you can interview.  I wrote a NF piece about dung beetles for an assignment, and later turned it into a published article for ODYSSEY.  When my instructor suggested finding an expert, I had no idea how to do that.  So I searched the Internet for all kinds of articles about 'dung beetles', and finally found one that had a quote from a professor of entomology at the University of...hmm, I think it was Michigan.  Anyway, I sent him an email, told him what I was doing and why, and asked if he would do an email interview with me.  He not only said yes, but he offered to critique my article for me, which he did.

I've found that the experts are very willing to give up a little time and a lot of information when you ask them, especially when they know that you are writing for children.

Mikki
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« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2009, 06:15:52 PM »

A source list made up of all Internet sources will limit markets -- Cricket, for example, insists on sources outside the Internet even if your internet sources are impecable. But I think Boys' Quest, for example, doesn't mind Internet sources as long as they're credible. So it really varies. But do stay away from Wikipedia...no one wants to see that.
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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2009, 10:10:32 PM »

Thanks for all the helpful hints.  Grin I especially like the outlines you posted for us, Jan. I find those kind the easiest way to go, starting off with a snappy, intriguing beginning sentence/paragraph and moving down into point a, b and c. I also like the hint about researching the different magazines and creating a piece FOR the magazine, instead of creating piece and trying to find a magazine.
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