There are a few basic rules to follow for structure and then there’s the content.
The Basic Rules*
Use short sentences.
Use a short first paragraph (The Lead)
Be eloquent and energetic
Be positive not neutral or negative
*These are also known as Hemingway’s rules
About the lead
The lead is the intro to a story. This needs to stand alone and inform the reader about the most important parts of the story. If someone reads the lead and it’s peaked their interest, then they’ll continue reading the rest of the story.
Bones of the Story
This is the main content and it’s where many writers/journalists get stuck. The easiest way that I have found to get the story down, is to break it down to the: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
Who is the story about
When did it happen
Where did it happen
Why did it happen
This is a pretty basic structure and once you have these written, the rest is easy.
While the above structure is important for the gist of the story; the flow is what allows you to move from one point to another and easily guide the reader. Make sure there’s a logic in your story that will allow the reader to stay interested and keep reading.
Use Quotes for Authority
Quotes are a nice break in a story. Quotes bring credibility and authenticity to your story. Using quotes shows a higher authority than just your words. People like to know exactly what was said.
Stay on Target
After getting your story down on paper, check to see if there’s anything you can cut. Is there a sentence or even a paragraph that doesn’t quite fit right or add to your tale? Get rid of it. Don’t be afraid to cut stuff out. Oh, and on that point, always make sure you speak in an active voice, never passive.
Tie it all together
Once you’ve made your points, don’t try to push through and make it too wordy. Draw a conclusion from what you’ve already written and be done with it.
Don’t edit while you write. Get all the information down and then edit. This is a fantastic way to avoid writers block. Personally, I like to read the story out loud to see if it flows smoothly and if it sounds right.
Other important writing points
Use words that your readers are familiar with; don’t alienate them.
Say what you want to say in as few words as possible.
Use strong verbs instead of adjectives or adverbs.
Get higher responses to your stories by giving them a current trending news story angle. It doesn’t have to be about that topic, but you can stand out by tweaking your topic.
Also, people don’t like to fish through stories to find the main point, so don’t ‘Bury the Lead’.
Try and put a human angle on a story. Readers love to put a human face to it, so don’t hide behind Company names, make it personal. Make it people first if you can.