A teacher's apple on books

One the best things about writing, or any storytelling, as a career is also one of the worst: You’re never as good as you can get. Sourcing, research, interviewing, story structure, pacing — all that and more are things to be learned over and over, and in greater and greater depth. That might explain why some of the best among us just keep getting better: They haven’t stopped, but keep returning to the basics, like the basketball player who practices free throws or the pianist who plays scales. They keep strengthening the foundation of their craft, then experimenting with ways to elevate the ceiling.

They keep learning.

That also likely explains why the most popular posts on Nieman Storyboard get down to the nitty-gritty of how-tos. A story we feature can inspire by demonstrating that our craft can reach the level of art. But it’s best when it includes some sense of how that happens.

Almost all Storyboard posts, going back 11 years, are replete with lessons. When journalists help us annotate their stories, or weigh in on Story Craft, or simply answer our questions about their work, they are letting us into their process. They are showing, at some level, how the work is done. Those are lessons that never get old, no matter how often they are repeated.

Below we offer a non-scientific list of some of the best posts from 2020 that offer essential tools you can use tomorrow and throughout your career. It’s a subjective list: No metrics were involved. And there is no ranking: Posts are mentioned in chronological order. We hope it gives you an end-of-the year gift of craft brush-ups, and perhaps prompts you to scour back through the site for more help.

Storyboard as a lifetime learning guide

Start with some general site searches. Post categories are listed on the home page, on a left-hand menu below the most recent posts. Story Annotations take you deep into the text of stories. Why’s This So Good offers professional analyses on what makes a story work. Story Craft posts often include direct tips about some aspect of reporting and writing.

We also recommend searching “The Pitch.” It pulls up a range of posts about the common problems in story pitches, and interviews with editors about what works in pitches to their publications. Knowing what works in a pitch is a doorway to knowing what works in a story.

Other posts to read that offer immediate help and also demonstrate the range of skills involved in good storytelling:

Further Reading

Show comments / Leave a comment