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How To Pitch To Dialogue

Interested in writing personal essays or cultural criticism for BuzzFeed India? Here's everything you need to know.

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What is Dialogue?

Dialogue is BuzzFeed India’s home for cultural criticism, personal essays, reportage, and more. Read some of those pieces here, or watch Dialogue's videos here.


What are we looking for?

1. Personal Essays

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With personal essays, we’re looking for writing with a strong voice that doesn’t just describe your own experience, but builds on it to create something deeply valuable and compelling to readers. It might be writing about something other people haven’t experienced and will be fascinated to understand better, or a discussion of something tough or taboo that isn’t talked about enough, or an aspect of your own life that sheds light on a current news story. Whatever that experience is, it should offer insight into an ongoing and relevant cultural conversation for readers.

Personal essays can deal with almost any topic; some to think about are money, family, food, religion, clas, caste, sexuality, relationships, disability, illness (mental or physical), hormones, race, body image, drugs, travel. The bottom line is that you should know why you’re writing about whatever you’re writing about. What did you learn from your experience? What should we learn? What does it illuminate about humans and the world we live in? Not every personal essay needs to have a tidy ending. And writing doesn’t have to be sad to be profound; funny is great! But the piece should crystallize a clear main idea that feels really fresh and meaningful.

Examples:

Indian Women Are Never Taught To Be Alone

How Indian Kids Raised Without Personal Space Became Adults Who Don't Care About Privacy

Why I Share My Favourite Porn With Other Women

Indians Are Never Taught To Talk To Their Parents As Adults, And That's A Problem

Dudes, You Have Got To Stop Shaming The Women You Have Casual Sex With

My English Isn't Broken; Your English Is Brahmin


2. Cultural Criticism

A critical essay could be “about” almost anything — books, technology, sports, entertainment, celebrities, politics, fashion — or it can connect the dots between examples in multiple categories. But “criticism” doesn’t translate to having an opinion about whether something is good or bad. At its heart, a critical essay should make an informed, clear-eyed argument about what a particular person or artefact or trend shows us about the way our culture functions today.

Whatever you’re writing about, it should be something that matters to people right now, or something that will matter to them forever, or both. If it doesn’t have an obvious news peg, make sure it’s clear why your idea is important right now. Your piece should both take into account the conversation that’s already going on around the topic and advance it in a significant way.

Examples:

Inside The Testosterone-Soaked Culture Of India’s Guys-Only Whatsapp Groups

I'm Tired Of Mayanti Lager Being Uncomfortable On Air

Admit It: Memes Are Our Truest Patriotic Legacy

Dear Intelligent Salman Khan Fan, It's Time To Talk

Censors, Why Are You Afraid Of India Seeing What Indian Women Are Like?

What The Hell Is A Panju, And Other Questions I Have For J.K. Rowling


What if my article idea doesn't fit either category?

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Some of the best pitches don’t fall neatly into either of these two genres; you can feel free to pitch or submit a piece that blends the personal and critical, or one that involves original reporting, analysis or more extensive research, as long as it’s still anchored by a strong thesis. We’re also open to graphic narratives and other creative formats.

We do not publish fiction or poetry though.

Examples:

India Sucks At Nuanced Debate And It's Our Most Dangerous Problem

Sex, Drugs, And Illness: How Chemsex Is Harming India's Gay Men

Hope At The End Of The World's Most Heartbreaking Climate Summit

Reckless Journalism Created A Blue Whale Panic When We Should Be Talking About Mental Illness

Demonetisation: The Greatest Magic Act Every Performed

An Illustrated History Of Women's Cricket In India


How long should my essay be?

1500-2500 words is a good range to aim for. At the end of the day, quality matters more than word count, and length can vary depending on the piece.

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Is there a suggested writing style?

Every writer has their own unique style, and we are keen to publish a diverse selection of voices. However, accessibility is the ultimate aim – we would like our work to reach as many people as possible, including those who might typically be intimidated by, uninterested in, or unlikely to read a certain piece for whatever reason.

To that end, there are a few guidelines that we offer writers:

  1. Be aware of what we’ve published previously on the subject. If your pitch is about a conversation we’re already having, it should further that discussion.

  2. Get to the point quickly. Ensure that the central argument is explained, mentioned, or at the very least, hinted at, very early in the piece.

  3. Avoid jargon. If there is even the slightest doubt, avoid making assumptions of prior knowledge on the reader’s part. If you want to reference a concept or person or event or book or film that isn’t widely known, provide context. As far as possible, do not hyperlink out to another article for context, provide it in-line.

  4. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and simple. Avoid the passive voice. Write declarative sentences.

  5. Use a simple structure. Organizing ideas hierarchically, in a logical sequence, aids understanding.

  6. If you are writing a cultural criticism piece, use examples, anecdotes and analogies to help illustrate arguments. The more relatable, the better. Telling a reader how your argument applies in the real world is a better way to get it across than going on and on about its theoretical soundness.

  7. If you are writing a personal essay, use studies and statistics to back up your story. The personal touch draws readers in and engages them, but solid data is necessary in order to convince people that your story isn’t just an isolated experience.

  8. Identify your readers and address them directly. A piece about gender, for example, could be drastically different depending on whether it is addressing men or women, even if it is making essentially the same argument. Avoid addressing multiple audiences because it tends to confuse and weaken the argument.

  9. Make the central ideas and key takeaways explicit, concise, and unmissable. Use callbacks and reiteration of ideas to drive them home. Even within the depth of a lengthy anecdote or setup, the reader should not lose sight of the bigger picture.

  10. Anticipate counter-arguments to your proposition and provide valid responses to them. And always respond to the strongest possible criticism, not a straw man.

It is possible to write a piece that contravenes one or more of these maxims that is still accessible and enjoyable to read. These are suggestive guidelines and not rigid rules.


Do you pay?

Yes! We pay competitive rates.


How should I submit my essay or pitch?

Please email buzzfeedindiapitches@buzzfeed.com with a concise note that explains the core of your idea, how you’ll support it, and why it matters — or, even better (particularly for personal essays), send a full first draft of your piece.

Ultimately, we want you to say something we haven’t heard before, and make sure your piece has clear stakes. Consider: What would happen if you tell this story? What would happen if this story doesn’t get told? And to that, why are you the only writer uniquely equipped to tell the story? Links to your past work that’s similar or relevant are helpful, too.

If we’re interested, we will usually get back to you within 1 week. If something is truly time-sensitive and you need a response sooner, please indicate that in the subject line.

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Contact Visvak at visvak.sen@buzzfeed.com.

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