(Preparing The Ground)
Foreword By The Author
Anybody who is not an expert at writing articles but who sometimes gets given the task of creating content for a newsletter or web page, has most likely encountered the experience, at one time or another, of looking at a blank page and wondering "what now?". And then trying frantically to come up with ideas on what to write about. Welcome to the wonderful world of writing articles; believe me, you are not alone!
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This problem, commonly referred to as 'writer's block', is encountered even by a few of the best-known professional writers and has most probably been around since the very first hieroglyphics. Nonetheless, that is hardly any consolation for all those attempting to conquer it, particularly when there's a deadline drawing near. The trick, if you can call it that, is actually two-fold: first, prepare and plan your article; second, follow your plan. Below are some recommendations that could be of assistance in the area of preparation and planning of an article.
Researching For Information
Methodical investigation might include public libraries, indices like the Writer's Market index and the Reader's Guide To Periodical Literature (these are two of many in the United States but comparable indices can be found in other countries), the web and various other online services, encyclopedias, dictionaries and yearbooks, etc. Many commercial as well as non-profit associations and similar organizations maintain their own individual directories too, some of which are searchable for a fee but many of which happen to be free to anybody who would like to use them.
Expertise And Authority
Naturally, it can help enormously if you're an expert at writing articles, or at least a reasonably accomplished authority—but it's not essential. A working knowledge is usually quite enough if you're prepared to put a little effort into research. A lot of writers don't relish this part of their calling but realise the value of it and integrate it into their everyday lives. They make notes of interesting things that take place around them, things they see, things they hear, and so forth. You can do exactly the same simply by always having a small notepad and pencil with you at all times. These people read avidly and soon become skilled at recognizing a well-turned phrase or a fascinating new viewpoint. They embrace the practice of clipping things out of magazines and newspapers any time something catches their eye that might be of use some time later on.
Clipping and Archiving
Cuttings can generate ideas for writing articles or blog posts, supply material that can be used within a piece, or sometimes get archived for years until their time all of a sudden arrives. Quite a few authors preserve a huge selection of clippings in files and folders, all classified by topic and indexed by source as well as date stamped. A word of caution should you take up this practice though: always double-check any pieces of information which are derived from clippings, particularly if you discovered them on the Internet.
Time For Development
An obvious point would be to always allow oneself the maximum amount of time for creative concepts to develop little by little. That way they can take on structure prior to you committing them to paper. For everybody who is among that rare breed, a born article writer, and who arranges their schedule to allow a lead-in period for concept development, the creative impulses might function perfectly normally in the period appointed for sitting down and composing the final piece. This does not happen however if, like the majority of us, you are not a natural writer when it comes to writing articles (meaning that it may be a thing you like doing, quite possibly a thing you're regarded as being very good at, but you need to labor over to get it right). Then it can often be really hard if you're not necessarily 'in the mood' at the appointed time. Much better if you permit yourself sufficient time to think about what exactly you'll write and then go about the assignment as soon as you feel ready and with plenty of time for revisions, proofing etc.
Formulate A Plan For Writing Articles
The majority of articles are comprised of a title, meant to command attention; an opener, being the first paragraph and designed to excite further interest; the main body text or the 'meat' of the article; plus the closing paragraph, which usually takes the form of a summary, though is not necessarily headed at such. Bearing this in mind, collect all of your clippings, key idea notes, interview transcripts etc. and juggle them around until you decide on an order of inclusion that follows a logical structure. Sketch out the finalized sequence on a sheet of paper. This is your plan and will be the fundamental framework of your article.
Please Note: Part Two of this series is called Putting Pen To Paper, which concentrates on the practical aspect of actually writing and following a plan.
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