How to Write Feature Articles

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on November 30, 2009 in Magazine Writing, Writing
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One of the most lucrative projects for freelance writers is writing feature articles. Of course, this is not always true. There are some clients that don’t pay as much as the industry average; this is to be expected. But overall, I have found that writing feature articles is a great way to increase income while having a great time along the way.

For the sake of this post, let’s consider feature articles for print publications only, such as consumer and trade magazines. Most freelance writers who I speak with really want to break into this market, but have no idea how to get started or what to do if they ever land a gig.

These five details will help you become better acquainted with feature articles and what you should be thinking about:

  1. Who is the audience? When you pick up a feature article project you must first know who you are writing for. Is it a sports publication focused on basketball? A wedding magazine for brides? Finding the audience is usually as simple as picking up a back copy of the magazine or heading to the appropriate website for additional information.
  2. Length. The length of the feature will be specified by the editor. While most feature articles are at least 500 words in length, the editor may decide that they need something a bit shorter due to page layout. Also, don’t be surprised if some of your features end up being 2000 words or more. The best thing you can do in this area is take advice from the editor you are working with.
  3. Facts are important. In most cases, a feature article is going to be full of facts and not much opinion if any at all. For this reason, it is important to make sure all of your information is 100 percent accurate and backed up by reliable sources.
  4. Interviews. Speaking of reliable sources, most feature articles that are assigned to me come with the specification of interviewing at least one authority on the subject. This is not always the case, but be ready to conduct at least one interview. Not only will this please the editor, but it will round out your piece.
  5. Revisions. I cannot remember ever writing a feature article and getting it perfect the first time around. With most features you will be asked to complete at least one revision, if not more. There have been times when I worked with an editor for days on end, revision after revision, until the article was perfect. If you are going to get involved with writing feature articles you should be ready for revisions and plenty of them.

Think you're ready for feature article writing? Then start networking with editors and preparing some pitches. And check back later today for our "Getting Started" series interview with established magazine writer Linda Formichelli.

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Chris is a full-time freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He specializes in web content, sales copy, and many other forms of writing. Chris has two books in print, as well as hundreds of articles in local and nationwide publications.

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3 Comments

  1. Carol Tice November 30, 2009 Reply

    Interesting…features to me mean pieces over about 1,200 words, by definition. I think of 500 words as an article. Features signifies longer, in-depth pieces, I always thought. The feature pieces I’ve written in recent years are usually 1,500-3,000 words long.

    Carol Tice
    http://www.caroltice.com
    http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites

    • Jennifer Mattern December 1, 2009 Reply

      Any article can technically be a feature. A feature simply means it’s evergreen in nature (as opposed to news — something that will last). Features of a single page are very often sent to publications from PR firms (they don’t only come from staff and freelance writers) when a news release wouldn’t be appropriate. The assumption that they must be longer probably comes from the fact that many print outlets require longer pieces when freelancers pitch them, but that’s only one side of the feature spectrum.

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