Sports Writing 103 | How to write a feature? | Nikki Parsons | Skillshare

Sports Writing 103 | How to write a feature?

Nikki Parsons, Digital Marketing Manager

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8 Lessons (32m)
    • 1. Class intro

      2:43
    • 2. Steps involved in writing a feature

      8:16
    • 3. Step 1 - Choose a topic

      1:35
    • 4. Step 2 - How to research effectively?

      3:28
    • 5. Step 3 - Create an outline

      4:34
    • 6. Step 4 - Start writing

      2:46
    • 7. Bonus interview: Sam Leveridge, Freelance Journalist @ Marca

      7:40
    • 8. Conclusion & Key takeaways

      1:11

About This Class

If you love sports and are looking to get paid for your passion, this course is for you!

Nikki is an Editor and Senior Sports Writer at La Liga News UK and freelance sports writer for It's Round & It's White. She'll teach you the key elements that make up any sports article.

In this class you'll learn:

  • the steps involved in writing a feature
  • how to research effectively
  • how to create an outline
  • tips to start writing

Plus, we have a bonus lecture with Sam Leveridge, a freelance journalist with Marca.

For any follow-up questions for Sam, you can tweet him @samleveridge.

This course is the third in a series on "How to become a sports writer".

The series is for people who are looking to get into sports writing, whether you are passionate about sports and want to get paid for your passion as a full-time career or as part of your freelance side hustle.

I recommend before taking this course, that you take the first course in the series which reviews all the sports writing basics.

Class project

You'll be writing your own feature in the project of this course. 

Ready to move on to Sports Writing 104?

The next course is all about how to improve your writing quality. Hope to see you there later on!

Transcripts

1. Class intro: in this section, we're going to take a dive into the world of sports feature writing. Now I want to talk about feature writing. This encompasses a couple different things. It could be an opinion or editorial work. It could be a tactical analysis. It could be a biographical work, or it could be an investigative story. So although they sound like very different things, the skeleton of these types of articles is very similar, and the process of thinking and writing these articles is virtually the same. My name is Nicky Parsons. I'll be your instructor for the skill share course. So my background in sports I'm a pundit on the local TV chat show here in Barcelona, the week in football where we talk about our local teams, which means Barcelona, Gerona on Espanol. I also participate on the 90 minute football vlogs on YouTube. We have over 70,000 subscribers, and basically we do little flogs from inside the stadium s. So you get a fan's point of view off the match, which is really fun. And of course, any excuse to go to camp no is definitely up my street. But of course I have a very strong background in sports writing. I'm the editor and senior sports writer at Lonegan News UK. I also contribute, as a freelance writes it to its round, and it's whites and other sports things. On top of this is I have a mobile app here in Barcelona where we help people find a bar to watch football. So what are we gonna talk about in this course? Well, we'll talk about steps involved in writing a feature, how to research effectively, how to create an outline and some tips to get started and in addition, will have a bonus interview with a freelance journalist for Marca. Sam Leverage. The only prerequisites for this course are now have an understanding of basic English spelling and grammar. And just to note that this is the third course in the how to become of sports writer Siri's , so we may mention some of the key concepts we have in Class one. A one on one or two. I do recommend that you at least watch the intercourse wanna one because it's just gives you an overview of all the basics. But if you can also watch 102 I think it will just give you a good progression as we go through the Siri's on the final project in this class will obviously be to write a feature . So do you have your pen and paper ready? It's time to get started. 2. Steps involved in writing a feature: writing a feature piece can see much more daunting than writing a match report. It takes longer to prepare requires more research, more writing time. But feature pieces are usually the best showcase of your ability. The stars of your portfolio. On the reasons why fans will full of you and your writing, you need to know how to write a good feature piece. So what are the steps you need to take? The first step is choosing a topic. This is really wide open for you to choose an interesting topic to explore. You could pose yourself a question and try to find out the answers. You could investigate the origins of a player, team or club. You could offer an opinion and see if the fax support your hypothesis, etcetera, etcetera. But choosing a topic sounds way easier than it actually is. For me, choosing a topic is typically the hardest step. That's because it's not just selecting any old topic. There is already work involved in this stage. Ask yourself the following questions about your proposed topic and if you contents there, yes, toe one of them that it's probably best to think of something else first is this topic interesting to you? Consider that you will be spending at minimum a few hours on the most a few days or weeks in this topic. Ask yourself, Is it an interesting subject? You don't have to be passionate about it, but you do have to be interested so that you can enjoy the writing process. Secondly, will your audience want to read about this topic? This answer depends on the type of publication you're writing for. It might be interesting for you to analyze. How about playing style? Event. This has evolved over time, and there might already be in depth books on the subject available. But if you're writing for an Inter Milan shine website, your readers firmly are gonna get better. Know your audience and try to pick a relevant topic for them. You can always write about the event of subject on your personal look, but probably if you pitch it to the Inter Milan fan site editor, they're going to shoot it down. And finally, do you have enough content to write on the subject? And is that content credible and interesting? Many times I wanted to write on the subject, and I just couldn't find a lot of information on it. For example, I wanted to try and write more about the women's game. It's something I don't know a lot about, and I would like to try and learn through article research. But there just isn't a lot of information out there on these players in their backgrounds. Unless I attend matches in person, I'm limited to being able to write profiles and only the very popular women's players. So even if you're interested in a topic taken initial search of whether you can find a lot of credible sources on the subject. So remember, before you start scribbling away in your rough draft, make sure you ask yourself these questions. Is the topic interesting? Is it relevant to your audience on? Is there enough credible background information available? The next step in writing an analysis piece or feature piece is to research research research. If this really is an analysis piece where you're looking to back up a hypothesis or research a hypothesis as opposed to verify my hypothesis, an old cost, then you wanna research as much as you can. You should have an argument that you want to research along with your paper on you should be open to changing your mind about your hypothesis as you go along. This process, how long you will take to research depends entirely on how much you already know how big the scope of your topic is. And again, how easily can you find credible recent sources of information? For example, if you're making a tactical analysis of a specific match, you might simply need to watch the match and re watch key moments as part of your research . If you're analysing the midfield strength of a team after the summer transfer window closes , you'll probably need to individually research and compare the midfielders involved not just in that team, but in others. Or, if you are investigating a player's roots, you need to read through past interviews and learn about their journey. The length of research you need to do can vary wildly, and as the research job down useful information you find into an open text editor or your notebook, remembering always to note the source of the information you're collecting Before moving on to the next step, you should have collected a wealth of information, so take your time with this process. Now it's time to start organizing all of this information into sections for your article after the last section on match reports, which was so structured this process here and feature pieces consume a lot more daunting because you have a lot more flexibility in how he want to structure your featured piece. It really depends on what your topic has bean, so there's no one correct way of doing things. First, I would suggest you separate your content into interesting content and content that is no relevant. This way you can eliminate some of the information you don't need to include next group the remaining content into possible sections. Try to group them by sub topic and remember that certain content might overlap into sections. This might later be the perfect content to help transition the article Notice. Now, if any section is weak, perhaps one section has the vast majority of your research, but arguments two and three have only one point of peace. This is a good moment to go back to Step two and re research. These topics add more content, more meat to these arguments. Otherwise, the final article will not seem well researched or convincing after adding some additional content and having powerful arguments, think about the best order to present these sections. Which section is your strongest because you should lead with that one after completing your outline. It's just a case of beginning the four more writing process. You already have your ideas clear and organized from the previous stages. So now it's time to go. Argument by argument, elaborating with your own words and thoughts on other research you may have accumulated. A sports analysis article is not like writing a critical analysis. Paper paragraphs will not be long detail ing the entire argument. You still need to keep things short and sweet, so as a result, you may have several paragraphs supporting just one point in your argument. Make use of subheadings to group these together. The first sentence after each heading should include the topic of the section, telling the reader what this section is covering. These should help your article have a flow and remain clear to the reader, especially as this is a longer piece of writing than a match report. I would aim for at least 500 words, not including any quotes or other sources you might include. So I would say this is the minimum number of words just to make a simple argument. The next skill share class in this series is actually going to be entirely on improving your writing quality. For now, just focus on simply proof reading through your article to try and catch some basic spelling and grammar errors on and look for a good flow and that the article makes sense. 3. Step 1 - Choose a topic: it's time to create your own future. The goal of this activity is to choose your topic. Remember, that was not just arbitrarily pulling an idea out of the air, but it also involved some preliminary research for this activity. I've provided five possible areas to write about in five different sports. I know, I know you want to write on a topic you already thought off. There will be time for this later in your writing career by choosing something related to these articles I've selected. It will help me and your fellow students provide better feedback, as will know how much information is available on these topics. Weaken better critique your level of research on the article as a whole. Holly's topics pique your analysis. That's up to you. I've offered some possible questions you could ask yourselves based on these topics, but you can think of something else as long as it's related to that topic. So spend some time now thinking about your topic. You should create a project in skill share and tell us which of the five articles piqued your interest. What question topic are you going to research and justify why you're gonna research that topic question so reference What we discussed in the last lesson is this topic interesting to you? Will your audience want to read about it, and do you have enough content to write on the subject? 4. Step 2 - How to research effectively?: in this lesson will talk about some tips to ensure that you can effectively research information for your article. First things first. Maybe you have your idea, but you're not sure how or where to get started. Make a quick list of possible sources that you could look into. This will help give you a starting point on some direction. Possible sources. Could be surge engines, trustworthy Digital publications, books. Yes, that's still a thing. Books, print newspapers or magazines. Databases. You know those things that you used in high school or maybe in university. If you went often, they had paid access to these databases. Maybe you can use some of those social media interviews or surveys, and you could even consider creating your own source of information so you could conduct your own interviews or create your own survey, depending on what you're researching. And how can you tell if a source is credible? We're living in the era of fake news, and it is your responsibility. Is a writer to tell the facts? Of course, you can have your own thoughts and opinions, but good original thoughts come from digesting the fax and doing your research. Looking at an online source. There's no set answer as to how credible it is. But Georgetown University has come up with a really nice guide on how to evaluate Internet content. Ah, link in this article because it poses interesting questions to writers as toe who the author is, what the contents purposes, how objective, accurate and reliable it is. I strongly recommend that you take a look, and it might even be worth printing this guide and coming back to it as a reference. When you do your research and Wikipedia articles fall into this category, please be aware when you're using Wikipedia content. Also link in the resource is an article that Wikipedia has on its website, which offers insights into when an article on its website is considered bad quality and so more likely to contain inaccurate information. How do you know you have done enough research? Well, you don't actually want to do too much research. Otherwise, your article would just be a patchwork of other people's ideas. So you need to find this balance between enough meat to make the article credible. But then enough space to add your spin on it. You will usually have a gut feeling when you have enough research done. And if you're taking notes as you're going along. Ah, quick scan of how Maney notes you have will tell you if it's time to move on. In the next step, you'll be putting the outline together, and this will be the definitive moment when you realize that you might have to come back and do some more research. This is totally fine and in fact, often better to be creating her outline and realize that you need to add some additional research or re research a specific point. To formulate your argument. Check the resources of this lesson for a downloadable worksheets, which you can use when you're taking notes and researching it will help you just to make sure that you right your point. You write the type of content it is on the source so that later when we're doing the outline, you have all of this information easily accessible 5. Step 3 - Create an outline: The next step after finishing your research is to create an outline. Placing your work into an outline seems like a simple step, but it can be challenging. So sometimes I feel like I don't want to go through the effort of creating an outline, and I want to jump right into writing my article. But don't make that mistake. Writing an outline helps you to organize your thoughts. Assess the level of research you have so far on ensures the article is going to flow concisely and coherently. Overall, creating an outline will typically save you time. We'll take a look in this lesson at how to create your outline and lay out your arguments. First we have the introduction. You have flexibility here to start how you want, but make sure it hooks the reader in. This could be through a famous quote, a controversial statement, perhaps introducing an opinion that you will support throughout the piece or just jump right into the topic. If it's interesting enough, as is play around with this and learn what works best for you, Then I want to present the main topic of the article, whether it's an argument, opinion or claim, and this is similar to a thesis statement. If you've done those types of essays, though, of course, this is much more informal. And lastly, any good intro needs to transition into the next section. In fact, each section will discuss has a transition at the end, and that's why it's so important. Toe Outline your peace so that you can check that arguments work together and flow logically. The first section of your article will be introduced by a subheading and then a topic sentence toe outline. The main point that's going to be discussed in this section. This first section needs to be your strongest point of the article. Keep readers engaged by presenting your best argument. You'll then dive into the details of this argument, providing examples, facts, quotes, interviews, eccentric sentia to support your analysis. And, of course, all of these examples will have your own explanation and opinion to tie them together. Remember original thought and after concluding all the examples on exhausting, the argument concluded nicely with a sentence at the end of the section and then transition into Section two. Now, Section two is the same format a section one except now you're going to present your weakest argument. And if your article has going to have more than three arguments in total, then you'll want to keep adding additional week sections here in the middle of the peace. The last section for the body of the article will be your second strongest argument. So always your strongest point. First on your second strongest point last, and put all of these weaker points sandwich in the middle for the conclusion. You should represent your argument opinion or claim this thesis statement you've been discussing. Then you should quickly recap the article and how your statement is supported by the evidence. And lastly, as a final conclusion, you can choose to discuss wider contacts or implications. Make a broader connection. You could discuss how your piece could change someone's mind. Consider how it could impact the future. All number of things and an outline is not supposed to be very time consuming, but it can be mentally taxing. If you've placed your research into sections and you realize it's not enough to support your argument, maybe you change your opinion altogether or you choose to go back and do additional research at this time, and in this case, creating an outline will have saved you a lot of unnecessary riding time because imagine if you had prepared half on Article two suddenly realize your point makes no sense or you don't have enough evidence to back up your claim. And this has happened to me before. It might happen to you if if you're not doing your outlines, so check the resources of this lesson. There's a checklist there just to make sure that your outline has older requirements we talked about today. And in the next lesson, we're going to continue the process of writing your feature piece by taking the time to do your research on creating your own outline. 6. Step 4 - Start writing: it's Step four and finally time to start writing. If you've loved her this process step by step and created a detailed outline, it's actually no longer a daunting process. Is really just gonna be a matter of filling in the blanks on developing further your arguments into a logical, interesting read. Now you know you have enough content to provide readers with some quality meat, so now you can experiment with the cooking to present it to them in an easily digestible piece. My top tip, if you don't know where to start, is to start in the middle. Don't start with your intro or your conclusion as new things might pop up along the way and change the flow of your article, start in one of the body sections, or even with your strongest point as your feel more comfortable writing about that, and it can help you get in this flow. Give yourself a deadline, an article like this, perhaps to take you on an hour. But perhaps you want to spread that work time over several days. Commit to finishing it by Friday or by next week on X date. Deadlines can help you stay motivated to complete your article. Otherwise you'll be tempted, especially as we have future sections remaining in this course to just move on. But putting the theory into practice is keep. Another great tip is to get feedback early on. No, I know feedback is the last step in this process included in the step of editing, but you don't have to wait until you've completely finished your piece to start getting feedback. You could choose to ask your family or friends or co workers for feedback on just a specific section or what their initial Phillips are on your very first rough draft. And they might also come up with interesting ideas on where to take your article. So if you're still in the middle of the piece, you're much more willing to want to go there as opposed to. If you have the article finished, then you're not as motivated to do a rewrite. If that's kind of what they're suggesting, you'll just be looking for cosmetic fixes at that point, and you're not really inclined to follow up this great idea, perhaps that they've contributed to you. Now if getting down to writing is really difficult for you, than trying mixing it up. Change your space of work, try and work from a coffee shop instead of from home, or go for a walk and clear your head in. The next lesson will put these tips into action as we begin writing our feature piece. 7. Bonus interview: Sam Leveridge, Freelance Journalist @ Marca: all right. Thank you so much for joining us Sound today, everyone, we have sound leverage here on, so just go ahead and introduce our to introduce yourself. Give us a little bit of a background. This is who you are, what you're doing at the moment by everyone. So I'm Sam. At the moment, I'm working on a freelance basis for a few different publications. Primarily that the boot groom on market in English and then also involved. It's mother projects within the legal news and Real Madrid analysis is another one, but a runny dog. Media, if you've heard of them. Andi. Yes, I'm doing that as on a freelance basis. And also working in PR and communications as well on the sides around it. Find a career. So how many hours would you say you do put week doing like freelance sports, right? Think man. Freelance. Where most evenings and weekends. Really, So it can vary from one week to another, depending on how busy I am, but just as much like can, usually for about an hour or two in the evening, every day and then through three hours each day at the weekends alerts up in total copy about 20 hours. Something around that. And for people who don't know the publications that you listed, Are they all La Liga football related or their other sports mixed in there? No. So there's a range of them, really. The brute room is wrong, which is very Premier League base for a UK Premier League and the Scottish leagues as well , so as a lot of mixed there. And then also, if the motivations like market, it's not just football, but it's four schools, really, from tennis to athletic, exciting, ever been everything. Call the generals use. So are they all paid unpaid? How is that working out most of the pay? The boot room and marker in English there were paid at the moment and then also some unpaid work for legal news and for Real Madrid analysis. Okay, it's about just so that we get an idea, and I think it's a bit more interesting than when we hear. So maybe we're as we took in the section about feature pieces a lot. Do you ever outline some feature pieces when you write them, or do you just kind of start writing and see what comes to mind, or do you need to write things down and kind of investigate? How is your process in that? No, I usually start by picking a few key points and then voting those down there thinking, right, these the points that I'm gonna look at me as I'm going through a tough to find their links between them that I haven't thought off to again with. Or there's another point, which when I looked at the statistics or something, at one point, I think that's actually a really good point to make on his own. So I was doing a piece last night, which was about Thibault. Courtois are for Real Madrid. And then I realized that it's something like six months and see misplaced part for sure. So they made that another point entirely about how beauty is on the ball, which we weren't planning to include in the beginning. So it's all kind of about developing as you go along, but starting up with the key points identify. So you've got that spying on that basis, and then you can go and build on that and work from there and build on it and get to a longer article on body in debate you with thousands of words. You trying to cut it down in the editing operations on and speaking how important it is to do your research and get the statistics. Do you have a go to site that you trust for these statistics? Yeah, well, the transfer market is a really good one for appearances, and goal was assists that kind of thing and then do sport is another brilliant free one, which is really good for the more detail statistics about past in tackle shops, that kind of thing. Beyond that, there's also stats own, which is an app that you can download on IOS. I think, which is really good. There's a lot of the after stats and things on there, and then a further level. It also why scout, which is good. That's paid, and it's not the cheapest rule, but it gives you some really good stats on. There are extra, and you can't get back into the video highlights nor stops that you can use toe really help your analysis system. I used to draw on top of the images and things to show you tactical, buoyant sermons some gets access there. The muse. Cool. Thanks for sharing this. I will make sure to make a note of them for the students. How? How about we're still about kind of your process. But what about maybe brainstorming ideas in general? Because at least you have to think of what is a initial idea before you can think Maybe, what's potential key points? Do you have? Ah, maybe you know, parts of people with a joke kind of run them ideas? Or do you just sit at the computer? Think what could be interesting to write about today? Yeah, I know. I just got a nose up on my phone so that whenever I think of something, even if I just on the train or something and my Deka was into my head, I dropped it down in the note on my phone, and then I look back at it when it comes to actually writing the article and do that quite often. It's like a match analysis piece or something. I'll be watching. The game will be at the game and be thinking about what their is that actually write about who's playing well. He's not playing well anything strange or unusual that's happened that it could be worth, think came out later and coming back to you. But it's really just keeping an eye out on re doing other people's work as well. If you see something that might inspire, you know, even necessary to copy the same kind of idea. But you might see a piece about Christiano Ranaudo anything that's great. But I could do a very similar piece about how Messi is doing well in Spain. Will run out of a well, initially or something like that. And then you're gonna get the structure ideas and get some inspiration from that and you and apply yourself to your own twist. Andi. So in addition to just kind of getting inspiration from reading other people or having it hit you on the train, maybe How do you do with the publisher So they ever give you, like I need you to write on this specific topic right feature piece related to this topic. I don't really care walked. It is, but you know you need to go from in that angle. Do you ever get that kind of stuff? Where did they tell you? More specifically like this is the headline. Just fill in the content. Yeah, they usually they're quite free to your suggestions and toe make your own ideas and come up with suggestions and kinda build it yourself. Sometimes they do go into more demanding areas where then they could just be a bit of a question of negotiating and saying I like that idea. But how about if we do it with a different twist, a different slant on it and trying to get it so that you can fit it into the way that you think is gonna be the easiest, um, the best way to writing. Okay, Perfect. Um, maybe just finishing up here. Do you have any advice? First, budding sports writers. Maybe you have some lessons learned that you want to share maybe things that have happened to you when you first started out and you wish you had known Brown everything in advance when have read back some of the articles I wrote when I first started off, it just seems like I just threw everything up onto the page and on, then try to sort it in some kind of order afterwards. But now I think is I've learned that is crucial. Really Have the key points identified? And then you were with the basic tour ruler formatting and everything you can do before you start before you get writing. So then you can just get flowing, and then you can write everything within the structure and you don't lose track of way. You're right. And you suddenly 3/4 of the way through thinking, going on. How do I get to this conclusion that I want to drag him and have that clear structure wife from the Yeah, well, that's over for the section with outlining. That's great. All right, well, thank you so much for your time. It's It's good with you. Are will link in your Twitter handle so the students can reach out and ask you questions in case they have loved. Perfect. Well, thank you so much. 8. Conclusion & Key takeaways: We haven't really looked at this last step in the writing process just yet, but editing is crucial. If you really want to see an evolution in your writing ability, practice makes perfect, yes, but so does reviewing some basic grammar and understanding how to edit effectively. And as editing is so important, we're actually gonna dedicate the entire next class in this series about improving your writing quality. So we'll give you some editing tips, will give you even an editing checklists and simple Seo tips and tell you the most common errors that we see in sports writing. So in this class, I'll just add in. The resource is for when you're doing your project are editing checklists. You can run through it, but we'll discuss that much more in detail in the next class, which I hope you'll join us for. On. I want to just thank you so much for taking this class. I really appreciate it. Please follow my school share profile because we will be releasing more classes in this Siri's every week on. I really look forward to having you in those as well and seeing you develop as a writer