Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hey kids! No this is not the long form piece I mentioned earlier, it’s coming. Please be patient. Instead it’s a help to some people that I know that would like to write their ideas down but are apprehensive. A good many of these are ideas are not my own. I got them from the wonderful On Writing by Stephen King. If you have any interest in being a better writer, it is a good read.

My first piece of advice is since you will be writing non-fiction it to make sure that your facts are correct. If Ann Coulter has taught us nothing else it is not all writers bother to fact check. You should. Factual errors make your argument weak if not completely invalid. So get those facts right.

Now onto the writing itself, but I ask you to remember these are but suggestions. If you have a different method you like then go right ahead. I’m just trying to help the more timid writers out.

First step is to write the rough draft. You should write everything that comes to mind. Do not edit yourself. Write like there’s no tomorrow. You need to get all your ideas out there. Remember this is but the rough draft so it’s ok to be long-winded. Do not worry about grammar and whatnot at this stage. That comes later. One little suggestion here is to write the first word that comes to mind. Do not get obsessed with your word choice or crack open a thesaurus. You just need to need to write what comes out naturally. An honest writer beats one with a complicated vocabulary any day.

Now that you have several hundred words if not well over a thousand you need to save the article and put it aside. Let the article just sit there and walk away from it for a while. You might wait a few hours or even a day or two. Just clear your mind from the heat of writing passion and collect your thoughts.

Now read it. It’s time for the second draft. A rule of thumb is the second draft equals the first draft minus ten percent. So go through it with a fine-toothed comb. Now is the time to worry about grammar and such. Now is also the time to make it as concise as you feel comfortable with it being. If you’re writing for the local paper now is a good time to take a word count. Most newspapers have word limits on editorials. So now is the time to make sure it conforms to whatever guidelines there are.

Now that you’ve hacked your baby down to size, it’s time for final revisions. This is a good place to let someone else read it. Another viewpoint can be very helpful in making sure what you are writing is clear.

Oh for those of you who have crappy grammar, like I do. Just go to Google and type in the rule your looking for like, “book titles quotations or italics” and it will bring up many sites that have the answer you need.

Now take it up to the local paper and wait for your fifteen minutes of fame. It wasn’t that hard now was it?

Of course if it’s a fairly short piece, like this one, you could just do what did. Sit down and write it one fell swoop. If I can do it so can you.


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