No one does until they learn how, just like every other skill! Okay, let’s go – there’s a rule here; 1 article = 1 subject, simples!
When I first started writing articles I crammed as much into them as possible. I cringe sometimes when I look back and wonder why I ever thought that people would want to read something that even the writer, moi, found hard going.
To say that I was clueless would be the understatement of the century. I’d written poetry and short stories when I was younger, a different set of writing skills than those needed to write information material.
Fortunately for me I was invited to join a group of writers, experienced professionals and aspiring amateurs. I quickly learned that the seasoned professionals all wrote in plain English, targeted their work at specific niche readers and didn’t overcomplicate anything!
They were all, without exception, fanatical about research and fact checking! If they were going to publish something that was their own opinion on something, they all made sure to label it an opinion piece! More on that later.
I have a suggested approach for people not used to writing articles but who would like to. Start off with bullet points on what you’d like to talk about in the article, focus it around the main topic and don’t stray from the point. Arrange those bullet points in a logical order and then expand on them in a conversational style as if you were explaining the subject to someone.
With practice this technique can be very effective.
Once you’ve written up a first draft put it aside. It’s a mistake to try to produce a finished article in a single sitting. If you want to carry on writing start working on the next article or go back to one you started earlier.
Once a first draft has been written, pass it on to someone else for their feedback. This is when your peer group starts to count, because you will probably be doing the same thing for them. Taking their first drafts and helping them develop their own material in turn.
Another approach that works well is to get someone to interview you about the subject that you want to write about. Those questions and answers go on to become your first draft and then you repeat the process of setting it aside, passing it on to someone else.
A third approach is to dictate your words and transcribe them later – or, do like me, and use the speech to text function on your phone and build up your work as you go. This is a little bit limited, but you can also look at software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, a high-end Speech Recognition Software. It’s relatively expensive but personally I think it pays for itself in increased productivity.
You can check it out here:
There are lots of different approaches but the three I suggest above are uncomplicated and easy to start using.
Bottom line, writers write – if you aren’t getting it down on paper you aren’t learning or developing your skills.
Back to opinion pieces: In the case of an opinion piece you are stating your own views! It’s something I’d suggest that you do only if you have the background and experience to be considered an authority. There’s no quicker way to ruin your reputation than to proffer an un informed opinion on something that you have no clue about! If you want to get involved in that kind of conversation, ask questions instead!
Above I mention your peer group counting!
Again this is very important. Your peer group can define you. When TPSO first started out we received numerous emails from people asking us to ‘name and shame’ various people and companies, join in their fight to have certain organisations abolished and so on. TPSO policy has and always will be one of positive engagement with the industry. It doesn’t mean that we won’t report bad news and have the odd pop at someone. However what it does mean is that we will do some fact checking beforehand.
Getting involved in other people fights is a sure fired way of digging yourself into a deep hole and ensuring that serious writers shun you. If you are serious about developing as a writer/publisher then you have to take it seriously.
Putting something in writing lends it a certain weight and readers will generally be relying on your knowledge and experience. It’s a responsibility that you should take very seriously…