1. Professional writers never learn to write; they continue to learn writing all their professional lives.
2. Writers need colleagues, test readers, editors, and sometimes a writing coach who, like the opera star's coach, does less teaching than reminding.
3. You are not an expert. You are a reporter.
4. Remember that people want to read about people.
5. Change your point of view. Drive to work by a different route. Go to a familiar place at an hour when you're not usually there. Shop in a supermarket patronized by people on welfare. Stand in line at an unemployment office and listen to what people are saying. Sit in a waiting room at a hospital clinic. Watch the ballgame from the bleachers.
6. Buy a different magazine each week.
7. Look for stories that have no event.
8. In writing a descriptive scene be aware of the dominant impression you wish to convey. Descriptions are not written effectively if they move from left to right or top to bottom. The details should lead someplace. You can make the reader see the pol, the cigar, the face, the belly, the left hand on one person's shoulder, the right hand grabbing another person's hand, the eyes focused on a third person. Everything in that description should reveal the dominant impression of the politician as a superficial gladhander.
9. It is a principal responsibility of the artist and the journalist to make connections.
10. Point of view does not mean opinion. Think of the writer standing beside the reader and pointing out the story. The point of view is the place from which the reader can most effectively see the story. It may be on the street corner, in the police car, before the judicial bench, in the cell, beside the victim at the hospital, at the funeral home, in the parents' kitchen.
11. The lead is vital, for it captures the reader, but the greatest point of emphasis in the story is the ending.
12. One hazard of writing endings, however, is the danger of "writing" them.
13. Artists talk a great deal about negative space, about what isn't in the picture, and art students are trained to draw the edge of what shouldn't be in the picture as well as what must be included. They are trained to leave out, to use white space. Writers should be trained the same way.
14. In writing endings we have to remember to leave some room for the reader. We can not tell the reader how to think or feel; we can deliver information that will make the reader think or feel. Once we have done that it's all over. The ending works or it doesn't work. Nothing you can say will make weak information strong. Deliver a solid piece of information — and stop.
15. The reader asks questions that do not appear in the text. Your text is an answer to those questions.
16. Transitions are always clumsy; try to find an order that makes them unnecessary.
17. Time is the thread that holds the story together.
18. An editor at Time told me you could tell a good story by the amount of interesting material that was thrown away.
19. We should remind ourselves that we write not with words but with information.
20. Readers like to read about people. They are far less interested in issues and ideas than in personalities.
21. Dialogue. This device is rarely used in newspapers, but it should be used more often.
22. Fiscal stories are still people stories.