Anonymous asked:

I just started a freelance sports writing gig for a newspaper. Do you have any advice and tips?

thewritingcafe answered:

  • Deadlines: Pay attention to deadlines. When you have a job, you need to meet these deadlines if you want to keep that job. Get your work done early to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts.
  • Statistics: Sports is all about statistics, facts, and name. Double check all of these if you use them. Triple check them. I’m assuming you have an editor or a fact checker to look them over as well, but get in the habit of getting it right the first time around. It’ll save everyone time.
  • Objectivity: Try to stay objective. This might vary based on who you are writing for and what they want you to write, but you don’t want to piss off all of your readers. Stay objective where you can. If you’re allowed to give your personal thoughts and opinions, do so after you give an objective overview and explain why these are your thoughts.
  • Editor: Don’t fight with your editor if they want to change something. Work alongside them and negotiate in a professional manner if you disagree with something.

Five Examples of Great Sports Writing

Sports Journalism

Sports Writing

Writing Sports Articles

Eight Tips for Writing Better Sports Stories

What Hits a Home Run in Sports Writing? (podcast)


How Do I Make This Different?


I get a lot of questions from writers who think their story is too close to its inspiration or too similar to another story. I can’t give you direct answers because it’s your story. I can’t write it for you. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t help you find a way to make it different.

Step One: Similarities

Is your story too similar to another story? Or is to too similar to the inspiration? Make a list of all the similarities between them. This includes, plot points, dialogue, characters, back stories, fight scenes, world building, settings, sub plots, and character interactions.

  • Characters: Make sure names, appearances, back stories, personalities, and roles of characters differ. I can’t give you a number of “how much is too much” in terms of similar characters because it depends on cast size. You can have characters who share some similarities, but try to make those similarities a little bit different too.
  • Character Roles: If you can match up all of your character roles or archetypes with the characters in the other story, you should change things around a bit. You don’t want too many parallels.
  • Back Stories: These can be unique to characters more than appearances or names. Make sure these are different. If your characters have the same or similar back stories as characters in another story, it’ll be difficult to make these characters original.
  • Major Plot Points: Stay away from the major plot points and major parts of the story you’re trying to distance yourself from. Did the other story have its opening scene in a school? Put your opening scene elsewhere. 
  • Specifics: This is mostly in relation to world building. Make a list of everything that is specific to the inspiration source or the other story (for example, the word muggle and its usage from Harry Potter is specific to that universe). You cannot use any of these things. Stay away from them.

Step Two: What Can’t Happen?

Make a list of things that are specific to the inspiration or to the story that yours is similar to. An example is a boy wizard with an odd scar. That’s obviously Harry Potter. That’s something that you can’t do unless you separate it from Harry Potter so much that no one thinks of Harry Potter when they learn about your character. This is an example of what you cannot do.

Continue making a list of everything that you cannot do or don’t want to do in your story. Do you want to write a dystopian that is original? I can tell you right now to get rid of any sort of system in which people are separated and assigned a career or are associated with one particular thing because of that. This has been used in the dystopian novel since before any of us were born. Getting rid of that will lead you away from most dystopian novels right from the beginning.

If you find that one of your plot points is too similar to that of another story, take note of what happened in that other story. Your story can’t do that. Do something else. However, you should do more than just change the outcomes of the plot points. The whole story should go in a different direction due to this change.

Step Three: What Never Happened?

If you find something that never happened in the inspiration source or the original story and if it works with your story, put it in. Make it as different as you can. Adding the new and taking away the used can help you do this. If you’re writing something similar to Percy Jackson, don’t use the same myths. Use different myths. Take away some of the used myths. If you’re writing something similar to Harry Potter, use different magic systems and different magical creatures.

Step Four: There Are Still Similarities!

Yeah. There’s going to be a lot of similarities to lots of other stories too. You’re going to have tropes in common with most of the stories within your genre. Pure originality is impossible. Some stories have the exact same premise (The Hunger Games and Battle Royale), but have different settings, characters, plots, outcomes, and are different overall.

Step Five: It Takes a While

This is not going to happen overnight. You need to put effort into your story and it’s going to take a long time if you want to get it right. Don’t give up after a week.

Over time, your story will evolve on its own. Writers rarely end up with what they first imagined their story to be. It will naturally go off on its own road. Follow it and stick with it.

Step Six: The Test

Find a beta reader who has read/seen the inspiration source or who has read/seen the story that is similar to yours. Don’t tell them that you’re trying to distance them. Don’t mention the inspiration source or the other story at all. Have them read it. If they say nothing about it being similar to those other stories, you should be okay. However, you should still ask and see what they say.


YOLO: 10 Books on Learning to Love Your Life



I know we live in a “spoiler alert” culture, so I feel I should alert you: I am about to spoil something. If you’ve somehow managed to get through life without a single unhappy day or difficulty, then, please, click away now. I’ll give you a moment.

Okay. For those of you who are still with me, here’s what I wanted to say: Life is hard. Sometimes it’s a walk in the park — then, all of the sudden, a death or break-up or natural disaster will swoop in from seemingly nowhere to make life hard again. Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with a list of “10 Books to Make Life Easier.” I cannot even provide you with one book that can do that (though plenty of self-help authors would beg to differ). What I can do is provide you with 10 books that will help you learn to love yourself, a skill that does not make life easy, but can make it easier. These 10 books will teach you how to start over again, how to love your difficult family, how to tackle your vices. Above all, they will teach you how to be content with the life that you occupy, so that when the next disaster — personal, national or natural – hits, you’ll be fully prepared.image

1. On Learning to Start Over Again: Wildby Cheryl Strayed

Everyone has had a moment when it feels as if they’ve hit rock-bottom. All of the elements that once made up your life have fallen away, and seemingly overnight, nothing in your world resembles anything you recognize. Strayed was only 22 when she found herself sitting on the cold, hard floor of rock-bottom. Her mother had died, and her marriage was in process of crumbling. Four years after her mother’s passing, once her marriage had finally ended and her life still felt over, Strayed made the impulsive decision to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. This would be an impressive feat for anyone, but it’s even more inspiring when you consider that Strayed had zero experience or training. Don’t expect a happy-go-lucky story, though. Strayed does change on the trail, but it’s not the sentimental, mawkish change that so often makes up the memoir genre.


2. On Learning to Stop Yourself from Being Your Own Worst Enemy: Still Points North by Leigh Newman

After her parents unexpected divorce, Newman’s life was turned upside down. Suddenly she was spending summers in Alaska with her father and the school year in Baltimore with her mother. But a geographical change isn’t the only thing that shifted in her life: She responded to the divorce by never letting herself get attached to people, often leaving those she cared about before they had the opportunity to leave her. Still Points North tracks Newman’s navigation of love and marriage, and how, as an adult, she overcame the plights of childhood.


3. On Learning to Find Inspiration from Unexpected Sources: Nine Rabbitsby Virginia Zaharieva

It wasn’t until Zaharieva turned to her family’s culinary traditions that she was able to break a decade-long writer’s block. Sure, the connection between food and writing isn’t immediately apparent, but once you read Nine Rabbits, you’ll understand how Zaharieva found inspiration in her favorite recipes. She uses these foods to illuminate her transition from childhood into adulthood and to explain how she has carved out an extraordinary life for herself. Even if your idea of cooking is adding milk to cereal, Nine Rabbits will show you how inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places. Bonus points: It might even inspire you to do some real cooking. (Not to throw shade at Lucky Charms.)



Understanding Pacing


This week I wrote about 5 common story problems and how to fix them. I talked about pacing, but didn’t really go into how to fix pacing issues. If there seems to be something wrong with the “flow” of your novel, it probably has something to do with your pacing. The pace of your novel can be VERY important because there needs to be a proper order to the things that happen. There has to be some sort of connection from event to event and it has to make sense to your readers. I’m not saying you have to do everything “by the book”, but the structure of your story has to have an order to a flow to it that keeps your readers interested. You can’t have the first two pages full of action and then nothing interesting for a very long time.

Here are a few ways to create an intelligently paced novel:

Make sure your opening scene has some “bite” to it.

You want your readers to immediately be interested in your work, so your first chapter must catch their attention. The opening scenes are crucial and they deserve a lot of your attention. You want your readers to be interested in what’s next. If you can’t hook your readers from the beginning, it will be hard to keep them reading. I wrote a lot about first characters, so check out these posts.

Know every story needs some ups and downs.

Not everything in your story should be the end of the world and not everything should be GREAT all the time. If your story has no conflict, there’s no point in telling your story. You need to space out ups and downs in order to create tension and keep your readers interested. Pacing also depends on what type of story you’re telling. The pacing of a thriller will be different from the pacing of a dystopian novel. Know what you’re writing and become familiar with the genre.

Delay the outcome of some events.

You do not want to present a problem and then have it resolved two pages later. This DESTROYS all tension. Your story thrives on your readers wanting to know what happens next and they will not stay interested if you tell them right away. Prolonging outcomes actually creates tension and interest because your readers will keep going so they can find out what happens. They will NEED to know what happens before they can put your book down.

Choose your words wisely.

Shortening your sentences and getting rid of unnecessary adverbs and adjectives will help quicken the pace of your novel and make your readers more interested. Using language that bogs down your novel will kill the tension and ruin the pacing. Only use the words you need and don’t be afraid to cut scenes that bog your writing down. You’ll see a huge improvement.

-Kris Noel