>Ever Try a Q and A?Posted: July 1, 2008
>Interviews published as question-and-answer pieces are popular these days. You see a lot of them in newspapers and magazines. As a writer, I feel they’re a copout because they don’t require you to put the whole picture together as a real story with setting, dialogue and beginning, middle and end, but as a reader, I enjoy them. Why? They’re easy to read.
How do you do them? Record the interview, type it out and turn it in? Nope. I tried that the first time I got a Q and A assignment. The editor bounced it right back. She said: This is an educated man, but he doesn’t sound like it here. I want you to smooth out the language, remove the excess verbiage, and generally edit it to read better. Gasp. Change what the man said? That’s not kosher in other types of articles. But yes, that’s what the editor wanted, and I suspect that’s what most editors ask for in a Q and A. After all, few of us speak in perfect sentences unless we’re reciting a memorized speech.
So, transcribe the recording, but then use it as the raw material for your piece, revising and rearranging to make it work. Usually you’ll have pages more than you need, so you’ll have to pick the quotes that offer the most value to the readers.
How do you get Q and A assignments? First, look for newspapers or sections of newspapers that use them. If they never publish a question-and-answer piece, they’re not going to start a new trend for you. But if they do use them, come up with an appropriate subject and e-mail them a query. If time is short, say George Clooney is going to be in town for one day–and they cover things like visiting movie stars–telephone the editor. He’ll probably still want to see a written query, but you can save yourself some time by asking if he’d be interested.
If you’ve never done a Q and A before, start looking for them and studying how they’re put together. What kinds of questions are asked and how many questions are there? How much introduction precedes the questions? Try doing an interview and putting it into Q and A form just for practice. Who knows? You may be a natural at it.