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The Journalist's Guide to Getting in the Times


by fenshae

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You've been thinking about it for months now. Every week, you excitedly scamper to the news page to read the newest edition of the Neopian Times, voraciously poring over the editorial, articles, comics and stories. You see people with so many shiny Neopian Times trophies in their lookups, and you aspire to that: you want nothing more than to see your name in print.

Sound familiar? Well, if you've always wanted to get into the Times but just aren't sure how to go about it, this article is for you! You won't become rich or instantly famous, but you'll definitely feel the satisfaction of knowing that you're contributed to Neopia--and seeing your name in print just never gets old.

Step One: Find a topic.

It's hard to get published if you don't even know what you're going to write about, so do some brainstorming. Here's some ideas for topics that never go out of style, to get you started:

How-To Articles:

Neopians love reading tips, tricks, and guides. Play to your strengths; are you a master Cheat player? Write a strategy guide for how to win every game! Are you a master restocker? Give advice to the rest of us!

Current Events:

Is there a new plot brewing in Neopia? Has a new pet recently been introduced? A new world? Keep up with the times and write an article about it! It can be anything from a general strategy guide to cracking codes, to a light-hearted examination of Sloth's addiction to mini-golf.

Spotlights:

Is there an item/pet/world that you think is really awesome, that hasn't gotten as much attention as you think it deserves? Well, the easiest way to solve that problem is to let the world know why it needs some love!

Answer the Question YOU Want to Know:

Do you have a burning question about Neopia that you've never seen anyone address? Instead of sitting around waiting for someone to write about it, take matters into your own hands. Figure out the answer yourself, and then spread the wealth of knowledge with your fellow Neopians.

Step Two: Put a Unique Spin on It.

What will really make you stand out against the thousands of others who are writing for the Times is your "spin", or the original angle you approach your topic from. Face it--everybody has a "10k a day" program these days, but that doesn't mean the topic's off limits. Write an article about how to make 10k a day without using Flash, or how to gamble your way to riches.

You can also give a new approach to a tired topic by changing your tone or method of presentation. Try writing a satire, or writing from the POV of one of your pets. Write "A Pirate's Guide to Getting Rich" with the top ten ways to get NP on Krawk Island, or do a travel piece on the most under-rated vacation spots in Neopia. Once you can figure out what YOU, and only YOU, can bring to a topic, it's guaranteed to be fresh and interesting.

Step Three: Do Some Investigative Journalism.

Unless you're trying to write a rumor mill or gossip column (a fine venue in its own right), good articles cannot rely on conjecture alone. Go out and get your hands dirty! If you're going to do a comparative analysis of different strategies for Dubloon Disaster, be sure to play it using all of them--exhaustively--and take notes so you have hard data to support whatever claims you make. If you're writing an article on what it takes to compete in the Beauty Contest, interview past winners and look at the winner's archives yourself to investigate trends.

But don't stop there! There's a dozen resources at your fingertips, filled with information that the average Neopian isn't even aware of. Pore over the tomes in Brightvale, leaf through the Neopedia, and take advantage of Neopia's myriad of help sites. You never know--you might just be able to combine all of these sources and read between the lines to figure out if Brain Tree really IS the Money Tree's bitter older brother.

It's this investigation that'll really separate an OK article from a great one. For example: a so-so article about matching Neopets with perfect Petpets would look at pet images and match them aesthetically with petpets. A much better and more interesting article would read up from as many sources as possible on a given petpet's personality, look at prior PPL winners to see what species are the most popular owners for what petpets, and do a public opinion poll to see other Neopian's perspectives.

Step Four: Write the Article.

This sounds like the easy part, but don't let appearances deceive you--this is where all that hard work can go terribly, terribly wrong. Be sure your article is spell-checked and grammatical, first of all; if you have a hard time with that, send it to a word-savvy friend to proofread.

Also, make sure your article makes sense--it's well-organized, clear, not too wordy, and consistent in its tone (you wouldn't want your satire to turn into a serious expose halfway through!). It might help to write an outline first so you can be sure to touch on all of your main points. After you're all finished writing, set it aside for a while and go do something else to get your mind off of it; return to the article fresh and read over it to make sure it all still makes sense to you.

Once you're satisfied, send it off to the Times. As soon as you click "submit," try to resist the urge to writhe with impatience and obsess over whether you got in. Instead, focus your journalistic mind and skills on finding another article to investigate and write--c'mon, I KNOW you have more than one idea!

If, on that magical day, you click on the Times and you're not there... don't burst into tears just yet. Maybe yours was one of five articles on the same topic that were all submitted at once, and Neopets just doesn't have a need for it right now; maybe your article just didn't quite jive with the rest of the paper. Who knows, they might still publish it later. But no matter what, just because you've been rejected once doesn't mean you should stop trying--just keep writing the best articles you can, and sooner or later it'll pay off.

Until next time, this is Fens signing out--I have a new guide to investigate!

 
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