Thursday, 13 September 2012

How to Write an Article from Scratch

If you are a writer, even if you are an expert in some domains, you will always get topics or article titles offered to you that you are unfamiliar with. Alternatively, you may be offered a block of articles to write or you may be asked to write an article on a topic that you know nothing about.

Here is my guide to writing an article from scratch:

1. Do your Research.

You know the general topic or area you want to write about... but you are not completely familiar with the domain or topic of the article. The first thing to do is to perform some basic research. Google is invaluable for this, as are domain-specific websites and blogs. For more general information, and to find out what kinds of things puzzle people then Yahoo Answers is a great resource.

Remember that this is only general research. You are trying to get a feel for the topic that you want to write about. You are trying to learn the terminology of the field and trying to get a feel for how easy (or hard) it will be to write an article in this area.

2. Brainstorming

You now have a basic understanding of the area you want to write about. The temptation is always to use the information you have gathered and dash-off a quick article. But if you use your down time... or when you are cooking or driving or last thing in the day to think about the topic you have just researched you can produce an outline for an article in your head.

You may even come to the realization that you can spin several articles from the information you have researched. This way you already have an outline for the article (the skeleton if you will) in your head.

3. Outline your Article

By now the framework for your article will be in your head. I like to do this next step on paper, so I can doodle... that is producing an outline. This is basically a map of the main topics and ideas you want to cover in your article.

Now, the temptation is to just sit down at your computer and to write the article there and them. But if you write an outline first then you can find out your own strengths and weaknesses in the area you want to write about.

Writing an outline also helps you tease out the main topic areas in the subject you researched. This way, you might end-up with ideas for five or six articles, not just one. The more articles you can spin from a single area of research, the quicker you can write them.

Once this is done, I go back and I write the headings and the main bullet points of the topics I want to cover in each of those articles. This may sound tedious, but it definitely helps with the next point.

4. Do your research once more

The first time, you were performing general research on the entire subject matter that you thought you could write an article for. Now you have five or six concrete ideas for distinct articles. You need to do a little more in-depth research for these topics.

This means that you have the proper coverage of your subject matter. I use Google for this and I always try and mix general information sources like Wikipedia with more in-depth sources like academic papers, trade journals and manufacturers' sites.

A broad overview is always best and will give more depth to your writing.

5. Start Writing

Now it's time to hit the computer. One you have done your more in-depth research, sit down and just start writing. I find that the words almost flow through me without my own volition. The topics and areas I have researched come together and the article itself takes shape.

How you sit down to write is very much a personal thing. I know of many writers who need complete silence and the absence of all distractions. They even unplug their computers from the internet before they type a single character. Others have music playing softly in the background.

I always have the internet available, as I might have a fact I need to check. Sometimes I have music on, sometimes I have the TV. This is my barometer... when the words are flowing well, then all time seems to stop and all external distractions disappear. Typically, I know that something good has been set down when I look up and it's 30 minutes later and I have no idea what happened in the programme that happened to be on.

As long as the information is sin my head, I can typically write a 500-word article in 10 minutes and 5 articles an hour is well within my capabilities. But then I write constantly. I work on a few recipes every day, write a new article for one of my blogs (like this one), write a couple of guest reviews or forum posts and write some animal breed or species information for an on-going assignment I have.

Once you have the writing bug, more often than not it's taking a break that's a problem, not the writing itself.

6. Review and Edit

Yes, I know its boring, but it is very important, especially if you write as a stream of consciousness. You need to go over your work and correct any obvious typographical and grammatical errors. Now go over the article again and make certain that it hangs together and that the text flows and reads easily.

Finally, check it just one more time and ensure that any facts stated in the article are correct.

7. Review your Title

The article's title is the advert that first draws peoples' attention to your writing. You nee to go over the title a few times and polish it. Make it the best advertisement for your article's content that you can.

8. Accept the Article as it is

Being a writer means being a perfectionist and part of that is going over and over your article, polishing it a little more every time.

However, at some point, you need to accept that the articles is as good as you can make it. It is good to improve the article, as much as you can, just do not go over-board. Eventually you have to stop work on the article and you need to sell it. After all, that is the reason you wrote it in the first place.

In my writing I try to practice what I preach and this article is, itself, a case in point. It's getting on for 1500 words in length (a good length for any article) and because it's written about something I both know and love it was written in just over 25 minutes.

If I can do it with this article, I can do it on a regular basis. And, so can you!

Next on the agenda today is to get a book proposal sent to an agent. There are all kinds of writing and the more of them you are involved with, the better your earnings will be.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts