It is easy to write. Just open up the laptop and start hitting the keys – not forgetting to switch it on of course.
Writing can be learnt. Here is my fast track process for banging out an article or essay.
Don’t get it write. Get it written in 40 minutes.
All you need is your research, your brain and a decent typing speed.
That’s it. Go!
List out what you want to say – 5 minutes
Right, first things first. Think about what you want to say. If the story is about a thousand words or more then there are obviously going to be a number of points and quotes.
Just list everything out. The most important thing is that you don’t try to structure it in any way. Just free-form everything, put it out there on the page.
The aim here is just into everything out of your mind. Sometimes just getting things down like that gives you a structure.
But what we’re really trying to do is avoid that old situation where you start writing and then you quickly get lost. Or you go too far and realise the structure is all shot to bits and then spend ages editing and losing the flow of the piece.
A good story should not be over-edited. You can tell when an article is overcooked. You can’t beat a piece of writing where the writer has just got into the flow and rolled it out.
Order out into points – 2 minutes
Once all the points down the next thing to do is start putting them into some sort of order. In doing this you will find that certain things along the list will be others that you’re struggling to find a place for them to one side. Frequently they can be a box bottom of the piece or maybe they shouldn’t be in there at all.
Out of this some sort of flow for the piece should come. Then all you need to do is work out the general theme of where it’s going. This takes as neatly onto the next point.
Write a rough intro – 2 minutes
Introductions are the most important part of the story. Yes a lot of people talk about headlines but really it’s the intro where people decide will they want to push up the story. The headline just gives you the click.
A good introduction shouldn’t just draw people in, it should encapsulate what the story is about. Moreover, it should be quick and easy to read. If they have to read it twice, they won’t read it at all.
But at this stage we are trying to do is get an idea for the gist of things. We want a quick and snappy par that wraps up all of those points you just listed out.
Write a conclusion – 2 minutes
Then the next thing to do is write the conclusion. Again this can be a rough but there is a reason for doing it straight after the introduction. The two are neatly entwined.
What you need in a good story is a beginning and end and like all things cyclical. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They start off at home making porridge and finish at home about to start the process all over.
Really this should come out of the intro. Just think about the general purpose of the story, i.e. the lesson you want the reader to take.
The only difference is the things that have happened in between.
The conclusion in a good article should bring you back to the reason why you are reading it in the first place. But, and this is the important bit, it should provide some sort of closure to the question that was stated in the introduction.
Layout out the quotes – 3 minutes
Layout the quotes. Yes this is a bit cheeky. If you haven’t got quotes just lay out the main points that you want to make or the supporting data. This may come in the form of supporting evidence or figures.
Write around them – 20 minutes
Then write around them. By that I mean justify what those figures are all quotes and make points that they will support.
Once this is done you should have the bare bones of the piece. Yes there will be a lot of rough edges but in terms of the flow direction should be at least 70% of the way that. Now it is time to…
Have a coffee – clock off
Don’t get yourself a coffee, tea, water, lemon juice or just go to the loo. You’ve earned the break.
Also, heading into the kitchen means that you will have provided a little bit of air space between you and the piece. It doesn’t mean much but you need to come back to it with a fresh eye.
Read through – 2 minutes
Now it is one. Go through as you would a normal reader. Try not to mark up or make corrections. Just go through it and get the general idea of where the story’s at.
Happy with the flow, how it starts, where it goes, how it ends? Then you can move on to editing it and tidying up the language.
If there is still a problem with the flow this is a perfect time to start moving things around. You will properly find that some of the joins between the different points are not working properly in which case you can fill certain parts in.
Cut – 5 minutes
Yes in the days of print everybody had a word count. Now with the web is a different story. It is easy to go over the limit because there is no limit on a webpage.
But the problem with that is that the writing is no longer as tight as it should be. Those word counts meant that every piece was paired to the essentials and that there was no fluff.
Give yourself a word count. On the first edit you should look to cut at least 10%.
Even the most experienced writers tend to try and put in too much information especially when they’re done research. But at the end of the day you just want reader to understand the story.
Read through again – 3 minutes
Read through it again this time it’s going to be more cutting and just messing around with words, long sentences and long paragraphs. Keep everything short, especially if you’re writing for the web.
Yes job done for you at least. But rule number one is you do not edit your work. Try and get somebody else to have a read through it before you publish.
Even the best writers miss things and they need a second set of eyes. If you want to be cheeky, ask them for a headline!