| I knew I wanted to be a writer in the sixth grade when I composed a many paged story in response to a prompt that required a more brief answer. But I had created a character, and I wrote what I saw happening to her in her world, which was in my head. Writing fascinated me from that point on.
I majored in English at the University of Texas and taught English (every grade from 6-12), English as a Second Language, and social studies for 13 years before I burned out. I've been adding to my portfolio here at Writing.Com for over fours years. This is home.
A couple of months ago, I ran across a site in an Internet search for "writing". The site was referred to as one for "citizen journalists" to submit articles, and get them published at the site. Since most of my published work has been poetry entered in a contest, I decided to venture off my beaten path, and take a stab at writing interesting news.
Being a teacher of English and ESL for 13 years gave me a very good background for writing. Writing according to standards is a big part of being a successful writer. Adhering to standards is not a challenge to one's creativity. Getting it right, like capitalizing "I", spelling correctly, and using apostrophes as necessary are basic writing skills.
If you make a mistake, learn from it, and teach someone else if you can. Don't be shy about making suggestions when you review another writer's work. You can improve not only your writing, but also the writing of others. Another important part of writing is knowing your audience. Until recently, my audience had primarily been readers and writers at Writing.Com. Generally, we are a very kind audience to each other. Reporters aren't necessarily so, because their stories are grounded in facts.
I enjoy writing philosophical poetry, but I've come to realize that specific genre has a limited market. I enjoy writing fiction, but I've started far more stories than I've managed to finish. I like writing editorials and reviews of movies and books, but opinion writing is more subjective, and consequently even more prone to attack for what you say as much as how you say it. Editorials can be tough on a writer, especially one who hasn't developed a firm grasp of necessary skills, and the many styles of playing with words to produce a tone the reader likes, even if he doesn't like your opinion. Anyhow, it's easier for me, to produce an essay of a factual nature. News reporting is mostly fact reporting.
I've been writing at www.italknews.com/PatRice since February of 2006. I'm slowly remembering journalism skills I haven't used since college.
Journalism tactics, or journalism style writing, requires front loading all your information in the beginning of the article, instead of say, a nice balanced 5 paragraph essay with an introduction and conclusion. This is because readers skim information, reading perhaps the first sentence in every paragraph, to see if it's a story they want to take the time to read all the way through. Many people use the same reading tactic on a multi columned web page. People seldom read every word on a page. This is why the thrust of the information needs to be given when the article leads off.
There are a few other things a citizen reporter should know when writing articles. This particular article should have a supplemental section in a few days. It's embarrassing to say that beause everyone can be a citizen journalist, not every citizen journalist is a good writer. I learned the hard way that one needs to be very careful when editing another journalist's work.
A very interesting point about www.italknews.com is that this web site community is world wide--and all the articles are written in English, though that may not be the writer's native language. I was surprised to find out that one journalist, who was having trouble using articles (a, an, the) correctly, was a 17 year old living in Russia.
I've corresponded with correspondents all over the world--including Paris, India, and across the United States. When you feel comfortable with the writing message that comes across in the many articles published every day, you can ask that writer, officially, to be your friend. On the other hand, if someone is so obnoxious you don't want to have anything to do with them, you can block them off of your interaction, so that there is no more conversation. Generally, being a citizen journalist is something that I'd suggest giving a try.