Features: The first draft

Photo: Sam Hood/State Library of NSW
Photo: Sam Hood/State Library of NSW

Writing, says our mate Jack Hart, is like organised thinking. Organising your information is the first step towards imposing order on the writing process, thereby disciplining the mind.

Continue reading “Features: The first draft”

Planning feature stories

Keep your eyes and ears open for the unique and unusual (Plastic face protection from snowstorms. Canada, Montreal, 1939. Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestad Photo / Het Leven / Fotograaf onbekend, SFA022813554.)
Keep your eyes and ears open for the unique and unusual (Plastic face protection from snowstorms. Canada, Montreal, 1939. Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestad Photo / Het Leven / Fotograaf onbekend, SFA022813554.)

So you have a great story idea. What next?

Continue reading “Planning feature stories”

Intro to features and longer stories

Photo: zetson/flickr, some rights reserved



Take a look at a few examples of non-fiction writing or extended audio or video features (please see the resources below, or of course you may choose your own). While you’re reading/listening/watching, make a mental note of how each story differs in respect to the following elements:

    • story purpose
    • audience types and requirements
    • style
    • any links between word length or duration, style, audience, publication, and purpose
    • note especially how each story opens, and how it ends (very different from the inverted pyramid story)
    • other elements, such as photographs, illustrations, captions, supers, subtitles, headlines, and standfirsts (a ‘standfirst’ is a short paragraph or precis that outlines the story to come)
Some stories:

Trent Dalton, The Australian – Islanders’ Deadly Inheritance

Chris Solomon, outsideonline.com – Feet Lost and Found in the Pacific Northwest

Ruth Pollard, The Sydney Morning Herald – Grief grips Gaza

N.R. Kleinfeld, The New York Times – The Lonely Death of George Bell

Jon Ronson, The Guardian – Justin Bieber: One day with the most Googled name on the planet

The Electric Typewriter – 10 great articles by Tom Junod (read especially ‘Falling Man’)

Another one by Tom Junod, Esquire Magazine – Have you met The Lips?

Sarah Dingle, ABC Radio National – The Salvos: A matter of trust (.mp3 download link is above the image)

ABC Radio National – Researchers fear our sense of silence is changing as our daily noise builds

BBC News Magazine – The girl who gets gifts from birds

upstart magazine – 100 articles that every journalist should read


Start to develop ideas for your own extended feature story and write an outline of each idea. The story you decide upon will be the one you complete for your assessment in this subject.

Your story outline should include:

    • the publication you’re aiming for, and a description of its audience
    • the purpose of your story
    • the voice, tone, and style you plan to use
    • the type of story, e.g. profile, background story (political, science, health, education)
    • the names or occupations of people you will interview
    • where you will conduct research for the story
    • how you plan to organise your information (i.e. how you will organise files and research, and how you’ll back up work as you go)

Please don’t write an opinion piece (e.g. commentary, review) for this assessment!

You will need to interview at least one person for your story.

When you’ve finished the story outline above, move on to here.


online writing SEO
Use keywords to optimise SEO when writing online

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Writing for online

Ways to make your writing clearer and more accessible

      • Write so people can scan
      • Keep your writing simple
      • Use “chunking” to group pieces of content – it helps to give readers relief from intimidating walls of text
      • Keep sentences short
      • Keep paragraphs short – a one-sentence paragraph is ok! Two sentences are fine too
      • Break up paragraphs with white space
      • Use subheadings to lead your reader through your story (also makes the story more scannable)
      • Think visually: use photos, videos, infographics, and maps to break up text
      • Use bullet points to summarise information
Write in 3D

Think about your stories not as two-dimensional pages, but as spaces your readers can move around, dive into, and navigate in the ways they choose.

      • Use links to related articles (on your site, or someone else’s)
      • Use links to original sources (documents, data, people you quote in your story)
      • Use links to credit visual material
      • Embed your links in key-word phrases – don’t use the full URL
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
The most popular search engine by a long way is Google, though there are others. Search engines look for a few key things when they’re ranking a page:
      • the page HTML header
      • the headline
      • body text
      • keyword tags

TIP: When you’re writing your story, think about the keywords you might use if you were looking for the story

Good things to read for more online writing tips:
Try this:
  1. Find an example of a good online article that uses all the techniques for good online writing and SEO
  2. Rewrite and post on your WordPress site one of your own stories or pieces of content using the techniques above and optimise it for reading and SEO.