Thursday, March 1, 2012

Seth Mnookin: The Importance of Wasting Time

Seth Mnookin, who visited in March of 2011, interviews Pulitzer-winning science journalist Amy Harmon about the challenges of writing long journalistic pieces.

The blog interview is titled, "Long-form narratives, crappy first drafts, and the importance of wasting time."

HARMON: There are different types of long-form narratives, so maybe it’s worth explaining first that I tend to do what are sometimes called “story narratives.’’ They have a plot and they are told through scenes and dialogue. They also have an argument, or at least a point, embedded in them, but it is often not explicitly stated, or perhaps only stated briefly in two or three “nut graphs” near the top. Like in a novel or a movie, the payoff comes at the end, so you need to make readers care about what happens to these characters, and if you can’t, you’re kind of screwed, because you then you have nothing.

These are different from explanatory narratives, which weave a story together with direct commentary by the reporter and/or experts the reporter has talked to; or essays, where you strive for a provocative argument; or profiles, where the point is to provide insight into an individual at a particular moment; or investigations. More.