5 Steps to Writing an Article
Carol Brennan King June 8, 2022 Notes from our writing class
Last week we put our toes into the water of writing an article. We stepped back and did an overview of the process, but today we stepped right in knee deep.
First, remember that we are talking about short articles especial suited to on-line markets but also suitable for letters to the editor or opinion sites. Last week we talked about articles 300 words in length, a common length for this type of article. This week for your homework, let’s move on to between 300 and 600 words.
This does not mean less editing. You still have to make sure that every single word is needed in this article, that every word helps to inform and entertain your reader. Extra words really translate into a lazy writer.
You really missed a fun exercise for my students. I showed them the five and a half drafts I wrote for my 300 word article. Then I read the almost final draft.
I wrote my first draft with little real regard to word count and ended up with over 600 words. In each of my subsequent drafts, I dropped around 100 words. Finally, I reached my 300 word count, and I printed it out and let it sit overnight. The next morning, I could see clearly that I had omitted an important point. However, I was able to fit it in, and, at the same time, lose sufficient words to still hit my target of 300 words.
1.Before you write, you must do your homework, or research. I had taught on this subject before, so I was a bit ahead of the writer who is tackling something new. Then I spent a hour or so researching online settling with three helpful sites.
Do remember as you research to record the url of every site you visit…and the people you talk to and the books you might read on your topic.
And check your resources for biases. You cannot simply yell “Hip hip horray!” when you find someone who agrees with you. Why do they use those statistics and where did they come from? I found two sources that had very different stats for the same research question. You must find out why, and which one is truly accurate and comprehensible to your audience.
2. Structure: how are you going to present your material most efficiently and effectively for your audience. Open with your research question. For me it was something like Heading Off Divorce Before the Wedding – well,that concept was my title and used in the first sentence of the article.
After my introductory words, I used a list format to make it easy for my readers to get the point.
Finally I summed up my conclusion in a two sentence paragraph.
Your structure may not be exactly like that but it will be in the neighborhood. You must find the best way to state your issue, build your points, and give your reader a satisfying conclusion.
3. Now, before you write even, do some editing. By now you have a lot of information. Type your title on the top of your page like a Christmas tree star. Now build a triangle shaped tree with your three to five points being careful that every point has earned its place there. And each point flows easily to the next.
This is where you must do some cutting of anything that is not worth its space in this short article. And everything that will not keep your reader reading and happy with the reading.
4. Now write the thing, and be prepared to write it again and again. Maybe you will need to try ordering your arguments in one way and then another until you are sure the flow and the building is there.
Don’t worry about word count the first draft. Get it all down. Then draft by draft keep peeling away everything that has not earned its place because it is necessary to inform the reader, entertain the reader, and keep them glued.
PS. I think it is better to copy that first draft and work on it, while keeping the first copy. Do that all the through your revision. If you just keep cutting and adding to your first copy, you may end up losing something very important.
So start every edit with its own text.
5. Now, I talked about revision in the last point, but I have more to say on that here. First, make sure you have not plagiarized someone else’s work, even their ideas. You will notice that I am crediting my source for some of this material at the end of the blog. If you borrow anything, you must cite your source. Otherwise, you are liable for a lawsuit.
Secondly, read your piece out loud after every draft, and preferably the next day after you feel like it is done. You will hear hiccups in the writing when you hear it out loud, even if you are reading your own work. So do it!
And if you are not using a resource like Grammarly to help you check your work, have a trusted and capable friend give you some feedback. (Book writers are encouraged to have up to 30 people read their manuscript to give them feedback.)
So there we are, you are ready to send this thing out. We will talk about that more next week.