From the newsroom
There is a process and a method to writing, whether it’s for a news publication, a magazine, a web journal or a blog. For many seasoned writers, the route is quite easy –choose a topic, make a rough outline, write, review and send the piece to be published. Flow comes naturally, without them even giving it a second thought. They seem to follow a logical sequence which may be the result of years of experience, practice, comfort or even instinct. For those who love writing but feel challenged by even the first step, there are some simple methods that help you go through the writing process. So even if you look at your computer screen and go blank, you don’t have to feel helpless – just take it one little step at a time…
Pre-writing is a powerful tool
This is a vital stage in the whole process of writing. Prepare well during this step and you will cover a lot of ground. Pre-writing is prepping yourself even before you begin writing on the actual topic. It’s like a game plan… keep all your survival gear handy, so when you need something, it’s always within reach.
One way to prep is to have enough ideas for potential topics. That way, you already know what you want to write. It helps to keep a note book / e-notes in which you fill up all ideas for potential articles. You never know when something can be used to create an interesting piece of writing. You can get ideas from all sorts of sources – magazines and newspapers, publications and periodicals, radio, television, the Internet, films, theatre, music, art… I have often been inspired by music and dance shows and concerts that I have attended and I write about them and the artistes involved, for newspapers and magazines
Pre-writing can also be done by making sure that you have enough information on hand, once you choose what to write about. You can’t build a house without bricks – you need enough information to build a story layer by layer. Keep research material and resources handy, write down links to references etc. Most importantly, know whom you are writing for – think of your target audience and try to set the tone for the kind of piece you will write for them
Drafting can go a long way
Now that pre-writing is out of the way, get down to the next step. Jot down everything that pops into your head about the topic that you want to write about. Just put it all down either on paper or on your computer. Let it all flow! Do not worry about spelling mistakes and wrong grammar. Forget about story flow and intros. Even seasoned writers sometimes got through several rough drafts before coming up with that perfect piece. The whole idea of drafting is to make a rough sketch/summary.
What a draft does is it helps lay the foundation for your piece. Once you put all the bricks in one place, only then can you start arranging them to build that wall right? Imagine running 50 yards each time you want a single brick! Drafting helps you put all your thoughts and ideas in one place, before you can put them in order.
Revise your draft
Focus totally for about half an hour on that draft, without any distractions and then take a well-deserved break, once your draft is written. Revise your draft only after that break.
Most writers let the first draft sit for a while. No one goes overboard and writes for hours on end without taking a gap (unless completely necessary). Over enthusiasm can wear your out and tire your mind and body. Coming back to your first draft with a fresh mind and body works wonders.
An important step in the revising process is ARRR – Adding, Rearranging, Removing and Replacing. This is where you spend some quality time adding information, rearranging data, removing parts that are redundant and replacing those segments that may not be too important by important ones. This is to ensure that your piece has a good intro, body and conclusion, has a logical flow, is readable, makes sense to your target audience and is to the point.
When it comes to adding information, ask yourself – does your reader need to know anything else? Is the article looking too brief or incomplete? Is the word count adequate?
I often go back to my rough notes to see if there is anything I can add to my draft and flesh it out. I have on occasion written well below the required word limit and have had to look back at my notes to see what I might have missed. I have even had to add to my copy by meeting people relevant to my article, more than once. Short and sweet is great but not at the cost of doing a shoddy, incomplete job. You have to do full justice to the idea you are expanding upon, in your writing.
Rearranging is the next step and this is the time you look at all the paragraphs in your story to see if they follow each other in a logical manner. Does one para flow smoothly into the next one?
Removing redundant words, phrases, quotes and anecdotes and even parts of paras which do not add any value to what you are trying to convey, is the next step.
Replacing or rewriting words or sentences that do not make sense is the next step. Read your piece out aloud to check whether everything seems to fit in well. When in doubt, read your piece to someone and get feedback on it. Replace parts which are not important, with those that are necessary. It does not matter if you remove entire paragraphs as long as it helps the article overall.
Editing can make all the difference
No one wants to pay top dollar for a garment only to see shoddy trims, badly stitched buttons or mismatched sleeves. Proof reading your article is like Quality Control checks. Do it after you revise your piece. Look at copy closely, line by line. Complete your sentences, check spelling, punctuation and grammar, re-check data and quotes and scrutinize each word. Some of us tend to use the same words too often, e.g. however, also, although, besides…. remove such words or try to find replacements. Some writers read their work backwards to check whether each sentence makes perfect sense when read on its own.
Have you used spell check, a thesaurus and a dictionary? Even seasoned writers would never hesitate to use these. No one is perfect and you get to learn something new, every single day. One foolproof method is to get someone to read your work. A second set of eyes can always spot what the first one missed.
Get ready to publish
The final step of the writing process is publishing – sharing your finished piece of writing.
This means different things for different people-bloggers, print media journalists, students, fiction writers and others. You may wish to add charts, illustrations, photographs, caricatures or blurbs to the final copy. Publishing can mean many things to many people. To a blogger it can be a blog posting, to a journalist it can be an article that has been accepted and posted online or in a newspaper, to an academic it can be a journal that has been published in literary circles. Whatever your literary output is, when a piece of writing goes under your name, do try to ensure that you give out only your best.
Some interesting links