Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writing Articles: Putting It All Together

You've gathered your research, interviewed a knowledgeable person if appropriate, and scribbled lots of other notes. You want to now merge all this material into an article - but how do you do it?

You can have three approaches:

· Just start writing, in whatever order appeals, and fix it all up later

· Use the outline you've already written, and follow it closely. (If you haven't already written an outline, you can create one at this stage).

· A combination of the two.

The third option I have here may seem strange. After all - if you've written an outline, why would you want to write as if you don't?

I personally find the third option can work well. I like outlines, but I don't usually have an outline that is so thorough it leaves no room for a freer approach within each section. Outlines also may get changed from when they are first written, because you find new information, or an interviewee tells you unexpected but relevant news or opinions.

Here are some guidelines for getting all your notes ready to put into a suitable piece of writing:

· Assemble the information, (including quotes, comments, opinions, and facts) into sections. If you've got your information on your computer, (as most people do these days), then create a new document, and copy and paste - rather than move - information into each section. You'll probably only want 3 - 5 sections. Be sure to keep your original notes for reference.

· Within each section, further break down the information into as many sections as are needed to fit it all; though again, 3 -5 is probably a good guideline. The desired length of your article, editorial requirements and the amount of information for each section will determine how much you do here.

· Rearrange the information into sensible order; realising that you'll also need to re-check this order in the editing stage.

Start writing. Here's where you can and should do some freer writing, because you really don't want your article to sound like a list of facts. In order to get good, conversational and easily read text, you want to step back from the facts a bit, and write them in your own words.

Quotes should be left alone where they are concise and appropriate. However, if they are long - and especially if they are filled with incomplete sentences, repeated phrases, or the inevitable 'ums' and 'ahs' - they're going to need some editing.

I usually find I need to do several drafts of the article at this stage, depending on how long it is and how familiar I am with the information.

Each time I look at the draft, and especially for the final check, I also consider how well it flows. Does the information lead logically and seamlessly from one section to the next? If you find it difficult to 'see the wood for the trees', try using Print Preview (or similar) on your computer word program, as it enables you to see several pages at once. Although the writing is much smaller as a result, it will better enable you to take a wider view of the overall article.

When you've done your final edits for writing quality, and checked your facts are right, you're good to go.

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