Tips on writing long-form journalism from AAN

by H.G. Watson

It’s not often you get to sit in a room with three people who have, respectively, lived with and written about crack gangs in Los Angeles, exposed the financial crimes of some of the most high profile people in America and played a round of golf with former President Bill Clinton.

But at the 2013 Association of Alternative Newsmedia conference in Miami, FL July 11-13, the three writers who did – Mike Sager, Writer-at-Large for Esquire Magazine; Matt Taibbi, regular Rolling Stone contributor; and Don Van Natta Jr, an investigative reporter for ESPN and Pulitzer Prize winner – came together to present a panel on how to write long-form journalism.

It’s for good reason that so many writers dream of penning 7,000 words or more. “Long-form is the most gratifying work you can read and do,” said Van Natta Jr. “It’s a chance to flex those writing muscles.” The entire crowd, which included editors and writers from some of the biggest alt-weeklies across North America, nodded their heads in agreement. But it can also be the hardest style of writing to learn because of the complexity and length of the story.

Though the three writers certainly have different writing styles, they offered some common advice for aspiring literary journalists.



The key for any writer is finding your voice. Sager suggested that the process is not that different from how a musician finds his or her own sound. “Listen to a lot, moosh it all together and create your voice,” he said. For writers, that means you get to read a whole lot – another side perk of deciding to make a career of literary journalism.


HG Watson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Cord Community Edition in Waterloo, On.


Posted on July 24, 2013 at 9:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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