Have you ever done that exercise that the writer’s magazines all recommend where you read a bunch of different magazines just to get a sense of their style? They tell you to do this if you want to freelance. Just grab a stack of old magazines at your library that look like something you might want to write for and read.
Frankly, this is one of the exercises that seem to me to be cheating almost. You want me to read? Seriously? And I should consider it part of my work? Done!
But as a long time reader of anything I can get my hands on, I have to say, this exercise is more than just a fun one. There are many subtle differences in magazines that a more than casual reader picks up on.
Shape and Self have a lot in common, for instance, as magazines centered around women and fitness. Both try to be upbeat and trendy but one of them seems to be after a slightly younger market. Runners World, on the other hand, expects both male and female readers, serious athletes and recreational ones, age doesn’t seem to be a factor. In fact, only one thing does–running; the people who write for them have well established running credentials.
Mother Earth magazine is down to earth, as you would expect. Their writers have installed that solar water heater or baked that bread. The sense is not flashy but solid.
Popular mechanics is also solid but they don’t mind trying out some flashy tools. It is do-it-yourself magazine, but it is not necessarily budget minded. They do seem to have a nice sense of humor, though.
I probably won’t try to freelance for any of these magazines as my area of expertise is hard to pin down but the exercise is helpful even if I don’t. It helped me to see how subtly impressions are given-how much of our reading experience depends on just a few words. And that, I hope, will translate well into my fiction writing.