Getting extra mileage from an interview by writing multiple articles on the same subject, each with a different slant, not only nets bylines and paychecks, but also helps freelancers develop a more intuitive, multi-dimensional approach to interviewing. This may sound like a no-brainer. But, sometimes a writer gets so caught up in pursuing exciting new topics it becomes incredibly easy to overlook the many additional stories that a past interview might provide.
When interviewing a subject for the first time, make your discussion as in-depth as possible. Include questions about all aspects of the person’s life. Getting the biggest picture possible right from the start generates more ideas, and saves you time in the long run.
One of my quirkiest and most salable subjects was a one-dimensional dog named Stinky (and his creator, Samantha McCullough). After stumbling upon the artist’s eccentric Stinky Dog Store, I formulated questions about Sam’s childhood, her artwork, sources of inspiration, past and present pets, her store’s God-driven purpose, and her husband and three sons. One lengthy interview and a few short follow-up phone calls led to six different articles with six unique slants: a national adult publication (GRIT/rural artist); a national girls’ magazine (Hopscotch/pursuing compassionate dreams); an upstate New York glossy (Saratoga Living/quirky canine artist); a downstate New York mag (Hudson Valley Parent/juggling art and family); a weekly newspaper (Adirondack Family/fun autumn destination), and a newsletter (Stinky’s spiritual side).
Diversified writing on a single-subject has many advantages, but it also has some drawbacks. Once, when I knew I was burned out and needed a break from a subject, I disregarded my instincts and powered on. When my piece came back, rejected, I was mortified. My query had snagged an editor’s interest, but my finished product wasn’t fresh, inspired, or compelling. Not only had I failed but, worse yet, I’d let my subject down. Lesson learned? Trust your instincts. If you need a break, take one.
Editors appreciate exclusivity, and timing is everything. Avoid pitching to overlapping markets, and always watch your time frame. When same-subject articles by the same writer appear in competing publications within a short period of time, editors become irritated, and a writer’s reputation and income may suffer. Branching out with one subject is a great way to maximize interviews, exercise creativity, and rack up bylines. Just select markets carefully, watch your timing, and know when to stop.
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Wendy Hobday Haugh, a freelance writer from upstate New York, writes stories and articles for a wide range of magazines, including Highlights for Children and Woman’s World. Three of her cat stories appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s My Very Good, Very Bad Cat, published in February 2016. Currently, she is hard at work on a middle-grade novel.
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