Guidelines for Contributors

You had to be there...

NewsBiscuit is founded on the traditional capitalist values of getting others to do all the work and then not paying them for it. (We would if we could, and we did pay those people whose stories appeared in ‘Isle of Wight to Get Ceefax’.) Almost all the material you read on the site is written by outside contributors, and anyone is welcome to have a shot at writing for NewsBiscuit and getting their work seen by a wider audience. Simply register, visit the Writers’ Room and start laying down some funny beats.

As with much else in life, physical beauty and great wealth will get you a long way in comedy writing, but knowing what else our editors are looking for as they stalk the Writers’ Room will increase your chances of success. As will being funny.

NewsBiscuit is a parody of a news website, so clearly what we are looking for first and foremost is spoof news stories. If you can find a satirical, funny and original angle on a topical news story, then you are in business. But we also publish plenty of non-topical stories based on observational comedy or a funny take on social and lifestyle trends. Have a look through our archives to get a better sense of the type of stuff we publish, but remember that the important thing is the strength of the comedy idea, and then how you develop it.

NewsBiscuit publishes three main categories of writing:

  • Full-length spoof news stories (approx. 250-400 words) – we publish one a day.
  • Shorter news-in-brief spoof news stories (approx. 80-130 words) – we publish two a day during the week, one a day at the weekend.
  • One-liner ticker headlines that run on a loop on our home page – we publish four or five a day.

However, we are also keen to encourage people to submit other types of comedy writing and pictures (spoofs of other newspaper staples such as adverts, comment pieces, obituaries, letters, etc), and often run these in our ‘Left Alert’ slot on the home page.

Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a formula for writing the perfect spoof news story: Killer headline + funny middle bit + strong punchline = Laughs aplenty. But if you’d rather complicate things a bit, the following pointers should reduce the amount of collateral damage when you spectacularly miss the target.

  • The headline has to be funny or readers (bless ‘em) won’t bother to venture any further. Try and distil the comedy idea into one line. If you can do that, often the rest of story will follow fairly easily.
  • Don’t be too obscure with your choice of subject. Readers (God love ‘em) are more likely to be interested in something dealing with a news story they know, or drawing on an observation we all recognise. And remember that many of our readers are from outside the UK, with the US being a big chunk of our audience.
  • The story has to have consistent internal logic, no matter how surreal the starting point. You can either develop the narrative of the story or approach the central idea from a number of different angles, but don’t suddenly take the story in a completely different direction half way through. You’ll lose the reader (bless ‘im).
  • Finish with a strong punchline. The ending should bring the story to a satisfying conclusion and leave the reader (bless his little cottons) ‘rolling on the floor laughing his mother copulating arse off’.

In addition, there are a few style things worth bearing in mind:

  • We don’t go for silly names – they tend to detract from the purity of the comedy idea.
  • We don’t usually refer to ourselves, so avoid saying ‘NewsBiscuit can reveal’, etc.
  • There are no taboo subjects, but we don’t go for stories that are shocking only for the sake of it. Stories shouldn’t be unnecessarily offensive, but if they are making a valid satirical point, then pretty much anything is fair game.
  • Obviously we are looking for original material, so please don’t submit stories which have already been published elsewhere. We will also not use stories if they seem to stray too close to ideas already used on other sites, comedy shows or by stand-ups.

We have a few grammatical tips from one of our beleaguered proof readers of ’15 Years of Typos':

  • When writing speech, the punctuation comes inside of the speech marks. For example: “I bloody love proof-reading, I do,” said Mrs Wren. NOT: “I bloody love proof-reading, I do”, said Mrs Wren, who now has the wild rage, because really, who even puts a comma there?
  • Also on the topic of writing speech; if your character continues speaking across more than one paragraph then you don’t close the speech marks at the end of the paragraph.  Each paragraph opens with speech marks, but only the final paragraph has them closing, as it’s the same person speaking throughout, without a break, and ARE WE HAVING FUN AT THE BACK THERE YET?
  • God, writers love a hyphen in a word. The more superfluous, the better. Clue: more words than you think can be writ-ten with-out the use of a super-fluous hy-phen. Google is your friend on this one.
  • Spoiler alert: other genders are available within PR departments other than “man”.  Try to have a mix of genders and ethnicities in your writing  because, hello, it’s 21st century, and having a penis is not a prerequisite to getting a job. (Mostly.)

The editors read everything that is posted in the Writers’ Room and have the final say on what appears on the site. Their egos are such that they will often make changes to stories posted in the Writers’ Room when publishing them on the front page, but NewsBiscuit is all about wiki comedy writing, so people are encouraged to comment on others’ stories, suggest additional gags or a re-write where they think a piece has potential, and form writing partnerships. The Writers’ Room also has a scoring system so readers can rate each other’s work, and while the scores don’t automatically mean a piece will be used, they help to make sure we don’t miss the best pieces. They also provide wonderful opportunities for much bitching, boasting and sulking.

So there you go, all you need to know to be a comedy writing success on NewsBiscuit. Many thanks to everyone who contributes and help makes the site such a success – your cheques are almost certainly in the post.

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