What I'm Looking For...
March 02, 2011
Want to see your byline in Bowhunter? Then give me more than just a story.
In this, my second editorial, I want to cover what I'll be looking for in the articles we'll publish in Bowhunter Magazine.
The first thing we'll notice are good photos. We can fix words but cannot create the images. Gone are the stories with a single image of a bowhunter snuggled up to a buck in a pickup bed. If you want to sell Bowhunter a story, you'll have to do better.
Carry a digital camera at all times. Digital SLR cameras are best, but today's point-and-shoot cameras are also capable of producing very good images when set to the highest resolution possible. If you hunt alone, a small tripod is invaluable for taking photos of yourself.
Most bowhunters are getting better at taking clean "grip-and-grin" photos, but we need more. Take photos of your camp, the terrain, gear you used, game sign -- anything that'll help illustrate your story. If you're writing about decoying deer, take photos of you setting up the decoy. If your story is about ground blinds, take images of your blind set, inside and out.
Slow down. Take time to set up your photos, preferably when the sun is low or overcast skies limit shadows. Use fill flash whenever shadows are present, especially on grip-and-grin shots. Review your images before leaving the scene to make sure they're tack sharp and exposed correctly. There's no tomorrow.
Now to the story element. I hesitate to call them stories because I'm looking for more than a story. I believe our readers want the adventure and excitement of the hunt, but they also hope to discover just one nugget of wisdom that'll make them a better bowhunter. It may be technique, hunting strategy, destination advice or it could be gear related, but there has to be value beyond the story. A good writer can skillfully weave the how-to element into an already great story.
Your story must have a theme. If you simply write about you and your buddy both killing bulls on your first elk hunt, it's not good enough. Why were you successful as rookies? What made the difference? What did you learn? The answers to those questions compose your theme.
Now create your "lead." Your goal is to instill curiosity or build excitement with the first couple sentences. Force the reader to keep reading. Next, assemble your story with all the crucial parts but stay true to your theme. Finally, work hard on your ending. Tie it to the lead in some way and leave readers with something to ponder.
Once your story is roughed out, walk away. Go back in a few days with fresh eyes and read it from the beginning -- out loud. Pretend you're driving down a road in a Ferrari. If a word, sentence or paragraph causes you pause, you've hit a pothole. Smooth it out and keep driving. When you can speed through your story without hitting a bump, it has "flow."
Keep your word count around 2,000 words. One exercise that'll help you write "tighter" is to rewrite every paragraph until you eliminate at least one, maybe two lines.
Poor timing is one of the main causes of rejection. If you send us an elk story in March, you'll be too late. Think at least nine months ahead. If you're new to the game, send a printed copy of your story, along with a CD containing your images and a digital copy of your story, to our Harrisburg office. If you're a seasoned writer, send us an e-mail query with a short description of your proposed story and we'll decide whether to give you the green light. You don't have to be a professional writer to get published in Bowhunter, but you are competing with pros.
That's what I'm looking for. If you want to contribute, get out there, hunt hard, learn something, capture the adventure and the technique, and then, please, share it with the rest of us.