It is often said that the most important thing to think of when you write something is the market. Different publications want different things, as do different categories of readers. I would like to set forth, in my own humble way, a list of things you should do for each.
Say, for example, you were writing for that Holy of Holies, Bombay Times. (That supplement of TOI that has gone from 4 pages to... 12? 14? in a matter of years, and from news about BMC carelessness and civic consciousness to the colour and location of Koena Mitra's tattoo).
7 Easy Steps to Writing a Story for the BT:
1. Maintain contacts with the spot boys, makeup artists and struggling designers of the film fraternity.
2. Make sure that when something significant (e.g. the chipping of Sushmita Sen's nails) takes place, you are the first one to be informed.
3. Have a constant horde of psychiatrists, sociologists and small fry of the industry on standby for quotes. If not that, the easier (and better) option is to ask them to give you full liberty to print what you want as a quote from them. [While this may strike many as improbable, it is a fact to be noted that small fry in the industry have no qualms about being misquoted as long as their names are in the paper. Front page, even.] So when Kangana Raut has a bad hair day, you have a trichologist who will give you 2 columns on the likely problems, a psychologist talking about how hair affects subconscious behaviour, a "PYT" describing her own horrendous experiences with hair ("Ooh, I remember, like, I woke up one morning, and it wasn't silky!!" *tone of anguish*)
If you get really lucky, Kangana might herself give you a quote about how it felt, and hint at the cause being disastrous relationships et al. This, naturally, will move this article from front page bottom to front page top.
4. Polish language, make up a few quotes, put words in people's mouths.
5. Get a few photographs (Google Image Search would be the obvious choice) of celebrities all over the world having bad hair days. Also dig up stories of international celebs with bad hair days. If possible, random quotes by anyone about bad hair days.
6. Round it up with words of wisdom for those suffering from the deep angst that comes from bad hair days. BT is the only paper they read anyway.
7. Get back to your cabin, write a story, submit.
7 Easy Steps to Writing a Story for Mid-Day:
1. Go to the panwalla across the street.
2. Buy a pan.
3. Ask him, "Toh, aaj khabar mein kya hai?"
4. Don't write down. Rely on self to remember.
5. Ask, "Aur gossip?"
6. Repeat Step 4.
7. Get back to your cubicle, write a story, submit.
7 Easy Steps to Writing a Story for JAM (for college students only):
1. Recall your day's conversation with your friends in the college cafeteria. [Brainstorming]
2. Select a topic at random. [Ideation]
3. Call up 2 more friends (preferably the kind who wouldn't know Bush from Al Gore) and ask for their opinion on that topic. [Research]
4. Write 300 words on your laptop about it while eating cookies, playing Solitaire and surfing Orkut. [Multi-tasking]
Note- At this point, it would be good to remember the FSS rule: Fabricate, Stereotype, Sensationalise.
5. Read it once. [Self-congratulation and vanity-pleasing]
6. Run a Spell check. [Optional, because very often they don't either.]
7. Submit. [Your value addition to the coolest youth magazine in the world!]
N.B. All opinions expressed herein are purely personal. And very strong. Do what you want.