Here is an interview with Greg Thomas the editor of Fly Rod & Reel. Its a good read, it gives some really good insight into what every editor is looking for ... good writing, clean copy, and HD photo support for the story. I have to say that contributors are pretty good about the clean copy and where appropriate we are able to get the photo support that we need.
Thomas touches on something else that is really important when talking about contributors. I think that its interesting that he mentions that there really are no up and coming writers that he has his eye on and basically throws out an open invite to anyone that can move a story along, provide the clean copy, and the photo support. So, what are you waiting for? If you are from Michigan and are moved to take up the pen and can provide the three things that Thomas suggest; please send me the copy first. I want first crack at the story, but Thomas will probably pay more.
Thomas also mentions some of his philosophy on what makes a good writer but tread carefully here. Thomas is the product of a "big break" that he thoughtfully mentions in the interview. He goes on to talk about what made him a good writer; Journalism school, fish tramping around, and living lean. He mentions that he can spot posers vs. real fly fishermen/writers in short order. I have to disagree a little with him here. There are lots of good writers (see his above criteria that I agree with) that haven't been to journalism school and haven't lived as a fly fishing gypsy. However, I am biased; I ain't looking for exotic and exhausted. I am looking for "I make my home in Michigan and can at least get around in my own state a little".
He is correct about good writing and years ago a very kind, rejecting editor pointed me to two books that change everything. The Elements of Style and Techniques of the Selling Writer, I added a third by taking up Steven King's On Writing. They are all insightful books about strong writing, grammar usage, and techniques for moving a story along. If you want to write you get a copy of these books and read them. Oh yeah, all three books will give you another piece of advice .... you have to practice. You have to write a lot.
The main point of the interview was for the interviewer to get to the bottom of his perception that fly fishing writing, and thus magazines, were shifting to more of a storytelling format from the old where-to and how-to. This is good insight and observation. I think there is a shift and Thomas says as much. This can be a confusing point for some of us writers that have been around for a few years. We have been told a few different things. Things like, "if you are going to tell a story tell a story and if you are going to report the news then report the news". Also, "some of the best writing about fly fishing isn't about fly fishing at all". I recently received some great comments on the story in the last issue about trout camp. I mixed the story of that camp with some how-to/where-to and it seemed to resonate. I think the shift is on.
Live Free, Fish Hard