Professional Feature Writing
by Bruce Garrison (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ, 4th ed. 2003): 528pp (pbk), £49.99 (5th ed.), ISBN 0 8058 4766 9.
Reviewed by Louise Bolotin
Garrison's book is useful both for beginners seeking to start a career in journalism as feature writers and for experienced journalists. For editors dealing with periodicals, it provides a useful insight into the journalistic processes involved. Although it's written from a US perspective, what he says applies to any writers anywhere.
The book is divided into a number of sections, starting with an overview of feature writing in today's markets – the basics of feature writing, finding ideas, researching topics and the process of writing. It goes on to explore a wide range of different types of features such as travel pieces, human interest stories, seasonal articles and technical topics. These are all covered in enormous depth – the different styles of writing and types of publication (e.g. newspapers, magazines and online) – with emphasis on the different skills needed
Each chapter includes extracts from published articles by known writers that serve to back up the points the author makes. Perspectives from new and established professional writers offer insights into the mystique of feature writing, and there are thousands of useful tips. The final section looks at marketing yourself and surviving as a freelancer.
Despite the length of the book and the sheer amount of detail, the writing style is straightforward and the information given is easily absorbed. The author has managed to provide a highly comprehensive tour of the world of feature writing, including a number of appendices on professional conduct, good practice, setting rates, pitching and related matters.
For anyone contemplating moving into journalism as an additional string to their career bow or simply wanting to build on existing writing skills, this is an essential reference work.