(Putting Pen To Paper)
Foreword By The Author
This article is the second in a series on how to set about writing articles more effectively. As mentioned in the first one (Preparing The Ground), a popular way to approach writing articles, particularly if you suffer from 'writer's block', is to launch a very clear two-pronged attack. First, prepare the ground and come up with a plan; second, put pen to paper and follow your plan until you come up with the final result. Below are a few suggestions that may be of assistance in putting your plan into effect.
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Using Titles When Writing Articles
Put some thought into your article titles. People scan the contents of publications by reading titles and if you want your piece to be read then you need to make them as appealing as possible for the readership you are writing for. Many professional writers keep lists of article titles that caught their eye and adapt them later for their own use. Some get their inspiration for writing articles from working titles. The point about working titles is that they allow you to focus on the subject in hand knowing that your final choice of title might be very different. Very often you will find that your eventual choice of title becomes obvious to you from keywords or phrases in the piece before you have finished writing it. Do bear in mind though, that if an editor is going to be involved in the process, she has the right to change the title to fit the style of the publication so your choice may not, in the end, be used. That possibility is very much lessened if you choose a strong title yourself.
The First Draft
The first paragraph is the essential opener when writing articles. This is where you announce what the text that follows is going to be about and perhaps why it's important. A well-focused opener makes it much easier to stick to the point of the article in the main body. End your article with a summary of... well, basically, what you have already written. Draw a conclusion from the summary that emphasizes the main point, possibly by using an anecdote or a quotation. And finish off the piece with a straight statement about what lessons were illustrated or offer advice to show how to benefit from what was discussed. Some further tips are as follows:
- Keep your readership in mind as you write. This will enable you to write in a style that's appropriate for them.
- Write as you would speak. Some find the whole process easier if they dictate a whole article first and then edit the transcript. Try using a tape recorder, dictaphone or a speech recognition program if you find that it promotes a better flow. But, most important of all, get it down.
- Don't worry about grammar or spelling or even whether what you've written makes good sense. If it makes sense enough to you, that's all that matters at this stage. Your first draft when writing articles should be just that and will need to be edited or fine-tuned before publishing. Expect a third or even a fourth draft before completion.
- Allow sufficient time between completion of the final draft and proofing, preferably overnight. It is quite surprising how easy it can sometimes be to resolve a part that you previously struggled with, given the passage of a little time.
For much the same reason that a degree of careful thought needs to be put into writing articles and article titles, as mentioned above, it is a good idea to put a similar amount of consideration into paragraph headings. They help to divide the article into a logical sequence of ideas and break up the text into more manageable segments. For the reader, they can also make article scanning easier in the same way that titles allow for easier scanning of a publication. As a bonus, they also make the article more aesthetically pleasing by dividing it up and by incorporating white space between areas of text. A mass of text that is not divided and delineated by white space can be visually displeasing.
Casual article writing can be a chore or a surprisingly satisfying undertaking. For the non-professional writer, writing articles is all a matter of preparation, planning and following the plan. Take heed of the guidelines above and those that appeared in the first article of this series (Preparing The Ground) and you will be giving yourself a much better chance of a more pleasing and satisfying result.
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