1. Read everything and anything. Read books, blog posts, news articles, newspapers, magazines, posters, candy wrappers, pamphlets and more. An inspirational book on creativity is Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. “You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.” And always attribute information to its source. Want other book recommendations? Join Goodreads.com — a community for book lovers.
2. Write every day and “Keep sentences short, and keep to one main idea per sentence.” From The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula LaRocque. Other helpful pieces of advice to avoid “Gobbledygook, Jargon and Clichés.” The book is filled with excellent advice on clear writing and I highly recommend it.
3. Most journalism articles answer the 5 Ws and a H — Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?
4. To construct a 500 to 750-word story, use the inverted pyramid form of journalism writing by starting with the most important information at the top. Journalists use a lead sentence to interest the reader. Then they sum up the article in a nut graph. The rest of the information flows from there with quotes from expert sources and supporting information.
5. Buy an AP Stylebook — now available online and as an iOS app. It makes sure your writing conforms to news standards.
6. “Activate your verbs. Strong verbs create action, save words, and reveal the players” — from Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark.
7. Carry a notebook with you to jot down ideas, observations and other information. You never know where inspiration might strike you. It’s good to have a pen and paper. You can also use your camera phone to capture details and color for a story.
8. Keep a creativity file of ideas, stories and sources of inspiration and innovation.
9. Include a photo with your story. Stories with photos are read more than stories without photos. Take your own photos with your phone or invest in an expensive camera. You can also get photos for free online using the creative commons license. I tend to buy a license for a photo from iStockPhotos.com. You can make a professional looking slideshare video using a site like Animoto.
10. Fact check everything especially names. Run spell check but also look to make sure you’ve used the correct words. Cut all unnecessary filler words like “that.” Edit for clarity and conciseness. Edit. Re-read again. Publish!
Other books for advice on writing: Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writers, On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.