How Freelance Writers Use Perspective

Freelance Writers Must Write To Perspective-
But Whose?

By Kathy Coogan

Free-lance writers must always be alert to opportunity. Daily news events offer immediate fodder for articles. Sometimes the news events affect us directly, giving us a unique perspective as both a writer and a participant. Free-lance writing requires an understanding of perspective and tone.

“Just the facts, Ma’am,” is a journalistic requirement that even the pre-eminent daily newspapers have trouble implementing these days in the open-news, reality TV, paparazzi-driven reporting environment.

Readers today, in an ever-evolving phenomenon, are more and more comfortable with news colored by commentary. They seem to be asking not, “Tell us what happened,” but “Tell us what to think about what happened.”

This evolution from hard news to creative non-fiction is a boon for the free-lance writer, which marginally makes up for the loss of hundreds of financially-strapped daily papers and weekly/monthly magazines. But it forces the writer to make a choice: whose perspective and tone will my writing reflect?

Option One: You can write from your own perspective. You certainly have one. As a writer, you should be comfortable enough to employ it subtly or more openly as the topic dictates. This choice reflects a “Write first, sell later,” scenario. The topic arises because you are interested in something, you write about it and then start searching out potential publication possibilities.

Option Two: You can write to the perspective and tone (and need we say content?) of the forum to which you hope to sell your piece. It is your job to know what that is. You would hardly submit your well-researched report about Asian carp endangering the Great Lakes to Phenomenal Flowers Monthly. (There’s the content discrepancy.) Nor would you, less obviously, submit your left-leaning political theory to The National Review. It’s up to you to know who wants what.

Author’s note: Read on for an example of Option One, a personal essay that I wrote about the historic 1997 flooding of the Ohio River and its tributaries. I sold it to a daily newspaper where it was printed on the Op/Ed page. Human interest that is immediate, with a personal twist, is appealing to many editors. Flooded with Memories: A True Story.

Now see an Example of Option Two