An hour with: Al Horner

Don’t be afraid to have artistic license, don’t be afraid to have a bit of drama, confidence, or spend ages on your opening paragraph. This was what Al Horner, deputy editor of NME magazine, told us at the Journalist Works about feature writing.

IMG_5524-225x300His talk was one that’ll stay with me. The man who has helped make NME have huge and more accessible comeback had plant advice for us.

Al told us to aspire to be a feature writer as it is where you can tell the best stories and this is definitely something I agree with to an extent.

As much as I love getting that front page breaking news story, there’s something really satisfying about having that researched finish piece that people have chosen to read because it’s a really interesting topics and in my time I’ve had some fun and quirky features to write.

Pitching is the key to all, of course as Al said that “The difference between getting paid and not getting paid is good pitching. Don’t make the editors have to ask the questions, you answer them in your pitch.”

You don’t want to have the editor of a publication sat there like “What the eff is this person on about” you want them to think “This sounds fab.”

He also told us a slightly disappointing point – there’s no such thing as writers block in journalism. Not if you want to get paid.

I have experienced this firsthand, in more of a deadline way. I remember being sat there thinking ‘omg i cannot do this’ but then looking at the clock and going ‘but I must!’

Al gave us some key points to remember:

  • Don’t be scared of artistic license
  • Keep is loose, fun and conversational.
  • Read your work back as if you were telling it to a friend in the pub.
  • A good pitch is key.
  • There is no such thing as writers block.
  • Have a good social media presence.
  • Have a bit of drama and politics.
  • Find a bit of conflict.
  • Ask difficult questions.

These were really just the tip of the ice berg, but they have all certainly made it into my ‘things to remember’ book for next time I’m writing.


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