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Writing Tips

Coach's Corner: Michael Januska

To inspire you as you compete in the Canada Writes Literary Triathlon, we're running tips on the art of sports writing all week. From the author of the soon-to-be-released Grey Cup Century: a rulebook for making your writing as thrilling as the sport itself.

Michael Januska

A Sportswriter’s Rule Book

"Like any sport that a writer is covering, there are rules that need to be followed in order to play the game. Here are several that I came up with while writing Grey Cup Century, about the history of the CFL:

1. Brush up on your classics. Check out the work of writers like Trent Frayne and Scott Young. See how differently they approach not just the same sport but the same game. Note how distinct their voices are—and then try to find your own.

2. Every sport has its own lexicon and its own set of clichés. These are tools in a sportswriter’s tool chest. Avoid overusing them, however, lest you should allow them to write the story for you and lose your voice.

3. Don’t exclude readers by writing over their heads. Try to write for fanatics and non-fans alike.

4. Keep any play-by-play as fast-paced as the game. For example, I like using short, clipped sentences to convey speed and the quick decision-making on the field.

5. Always balance the stats and the play-by-play with some human interest.

6. Not all of your readers will have attended or even watched the event on television. Remember that you will be their eyes and ears.

7. Make it an entertaining read, even if it was not a particularly entertaining event." 

Michael Januska was born in Windsor, Ontario, a border city where one's pro sports allegiances (Detroit? Toronto?) are always under scrutiny and so he plays it safe by simply rooting for the Spitfires. This September will see the publication of his first sports book, Grey Cup Century. Januska also writes award-winning short fiction, and his first novel, Riverside Drive, will be published in May 2013. He lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter.

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