Friday, July 20, 2012

Writing Articles (Part 6 of 21)

How do I move from idea to polished manuscript?

1. You start with an idea—one about which you're passionate. Don't try to write an article just because you think it will sell. You need enthusiasm to stay with it.

2. Decide if there is an audience large enough for your article.

3. Do the research. We all work differently, but be sure you know your topic. If it's a personal-experience piece, be as clear on the facts as possible. Ask others who were involved. Research means you gather information and you also figure out illustrations or anecdotes to make your ideas significant.

4. Start building your ideas around a theme. Everything in your piece needs to point to your central idea. I usually write my concept for articles and for books. It helps me stay focused. For instance, a couple of years ago I worked on something about accountability. Here's my premise:

To whom are you accountable?

Most people answer with one word: Nobody.

Everything in that piece had to keep going back to that statement. I had to show readers they needed someone—a friend, a mentor, or a therapist. That led me to state the benefits of relating to someone else.

5. Write a draft. (See the next blog for more on that.)

6. Leave the draft for as long as you can—a day or possibly two weeks. I find a week is usually enough for me to get my mind off the topic—which is the idea.

7. Let the unconscious work. That's part of leaving the draft. Try not to think consciously of its strengths or weaknesses.

8. After a time lapse, edit ruthlessly. Take out every weak word and look for anything that doesn't flow with the topic.

9. You might need to edit more than once. I edited my first article 18 times before I sent it out. (I also sold it to the first magazine to which I sent it.)

10. Send it off. Get it off your desk.

11. Think of a new idea. It's even better if you can think of some other aspect of the topic on which you've written. If you can, you build your credentials and those isolated articles become the basis for your book. If not a book, you become an authority on your topic through magazines and ezines.

I work systematically and faithfully 
because I want to publish.

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