The Perils of Print

I had barely six months of experience as an online writer when I was first asked about the possibility of writing for the Soccer 360 magazine back in November 2013. It was a time when I was severely lacking in self-confidence and so I questioned whether I was capable of making the step-up to print journalism at such a young age.

When I saw the email that pitched this opportunity to me, I was positively quaking with fear, as committing to this would also mean that my already considerable workload was to be increased by a near 2000-word piece that carried a strict deadline. There was to be no let-up, but eventually I decided that it was something I couldn’t refuse, so replied saying that I would be happy to give it a go.

While I was already well versed in terms of adhering to style guides and writing in an unbiased, well-reasoned manner, plenty of this was new to me. I had to follow a limited brief to create a feature article of 1,750 words, as well as two detailed sidebars. The tone of the article – though not really informal – was not what I was altogether used to, while the most difficult aspect was to keep it ‘timeless’ and therefore in context for the magazine’s publication date, so it was pretty daunting all-round.

The piece I eventually created was not the finest by any means, but it was acceptable enough and with a few tweaks it was published in January 2014. It didn’t do loads for my confidence as I shunned the chance to write for the following edition, but thankfully I saw the light and returned, and I have only missed one issue since the summer of 2014.

Over the course of that period the quality of my writing has increased immeasureably, and I have been able to come up with some very good declarative lines in my magazine articles, not to mention some impressive pun-adorned headlines which have seemingly been met with enthusiasm by the magazine’s editors.

I view my writing for Soccer 360 represents a little escapism from the online match previews that I tirelessly put together every week. Although I am required to stick within the limitations of a brief, I am able to communicate my ideas a lot better and commit fully to a footballing issue. While with my previews I have a lot of creative license, the context of the articles are almost invariably the same.

The biggest stumbling block when writing for Soccer 360 as I have previously hinted, is its date of publication. When contributors are allocated a piece and are given a brief, they sometimes cannot legislate for developments that take place in between the commission period, and when it goes to print.

It happened to one of my fellow writers back in December, when he was given a piece to do on Chelsea FC and how they struggled throughout the first half of the current English Premier League season. Just after the date of his deadline and with the piece already having been sent to editors, the club’s manager Jose Mourinho was sacked, meaning that the article had to be hastily revised.

And as luck would have it, the same happened to me for the following issue, which has just been released. My assigned piece was on the so-called ‘Price of Pep’ and what appointing Pep Guardiola (widely regarded as the world’s best football coach) would be worth to a Premier League club.

Now, on the date of the deadline and with my piece already safely with the editors, it was confirmed that Guardiola was to take charge of Manchester City FC in the summer of 2016. My reaction when I saw the news was priceless, as I knew exactly what it would mean – that I would have to re-write a sizeable chunk of my feature.

An email from the commissioner confirmed as much, and I got all the revisions done in one evening thanks to burst of determination. There was pressure on as I had a feeling my original wasn’t good enough anyway, but fortunately everything was done to a high standard and I was not asked to make any further changes. Nonetheless, it was a stressful couple of days.

I always feel some pressure when writing for Soccer 360, mainly because I don’t want to let the editors down for continually showing their faith in me to produce quality work.

But I’m also acutely aware that it gains a large audience – after all it’s not a cheap, smalltown magazine. It is the biggest selling magazine of its subject in North America, containing tremendous production values and styles. It is a privelage to be able to contribute towards it every two months, but I’d prefer it to be stress-free, unlike my most recent assignment.

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