By: Marilyn L. Davis
“A simple word on a blank sheet of paper gathers momentum as I wonder at what it could mean, where it could take place, why, and what if? And then, I write.” ― Tyrean Martinson
While I may be encouraged by a Martinson quote, I also know that by the time I hit the publish button on this article, 1,999,999 other writers
will be doing the same thing. As I’ve said many times, that’s a lot of competition for readers. So how can we attract and keep readers? We get and keep readers by creating a better article that combines excellent writing with passion and heart.
I am also encouraged that Gerard de Marigny
distinguishes art and craft in his opinion. “There’s a difference between the ‘art’ of writing and the ‘craft’ of writing. Art is subjective, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft.” Combining art and craft is our individual process.
That’s the way you accomplish anything; going from point A to B, or a blank page to a finished piece. You have a method for writing whether you consciously are aware of it or not.
However, if you review your last few articles and then retrace your steps in creating each published article, you will see your process. For instance, some writers see a news article or get an idea, immediately have thoughts and feelings about the topic, and start writing. While this is labeled an organic or free-form process
; others will create an outline
and write their articles.
Review Your Articles to Determine Best Outcomes
Are you still uncertain about which process works best for you? If you are merely writing to write, it probably doesn’t matter. However, if you are writing for exposure or to gain a following, now’s the time to consider the statistics on your articles and reflect on which process you used for your most read pieces. Reviewing your numbers, you can see:
- Which finished article was more satisfying to write
- What process – Organic/Free-form or Outline
- Why you wrote about a particular topic
- What your knew about the subject
- How much research you had to do to flesh out your piece
- Which articles attracted more readers or positive comments
With this attention to detail, you can see views for a day and then determine whether you wrote organically or used an outline. You know if you were interested and engaged in the topic and if it was satisfying.
Analyzing the Outcomes
When you see which finished piece was most useful and satisfying, it helps you define and refine your process or method. Understanding your writing process helps you narrow your focus and produce better creative pieces, whether it is organic free writing or working from an outline. Narrowing down the process helps determine a direction for the next piece.
Wait for Inspiration or Plan Your Writing?
Many writers claim that they need some inspiration to write, some of us follow a schedule and write a certain number of articles a week or month. I plan my pieces and usually use an outline. However, I recently wrote two articles after the death of a good friend where I did not have a plan nor use an outline. I was surprised that the writing was well received as it did not stem from an outline. What this taught me was that certain subjects lend themselves to organic writing and others, an outline. However, without a review of my writing and analyzing the process, I would not realize this.
If I set aside the emotions and thoughts I still have about the person and just view the articles objectively, the writing did not suffer because I did not outline. The structure of both articles is sound.
Processing Using a KWL Table
“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” While I’m encouraged by Ernest Hemingway’s quote, I think that I have to do more than pretend. I have to work at producing an excellent post. When I am thinking about or inspired by a topic, I know I will do research – whether it’s the “why”, “where”, “who”, or “what if. . .” or just a quote that reinforces my interest. I also have to consider if I will write about the subject from the perspective of breadth or depth. I will often use a KWL Table, developed by Dona Ogle
. It simplifies:
When I define the KWL information, I create a detailed outline, maintain my focus, and my articles are better structured. Invariably, I learn much more about the topic with research and in turn can give readers added-value articles.
Breadth or Depth for the Article?
Deciding if the article is about the breadth or scope of the topic, or isolating individual elements and writing about them in-depth is a decision each writer must make in determining the piece. A writer can choose to give an interesting, informative overview of a topic and write an excellent article, or focus on specific points of the overall theme and give in-depth information and resources for the reader.
A simple way to separate breadth from depth is to think of bullet lists as the breadth and a 1000-word article about one of the bullet points as depth.
Breadth: Equal for All Elements
I often write about the craft and structure of writing. In an overview format, I would simply list the components of an article and a brief description of each, similar to the following with all elements receiving equal coverage in the article.
Each element will have brief descriptors and be informative, but none of the components would receive more emphasis than another.
1. Title: Predicts content, Promise of information, Stimulates reader curiosity
2. Introduction: Appealing, Relevant quotes, Attention-grabbing, Sets tone
3. Content: Paragraphs of information, Educational How-to, Entertaining, Helpful
4. Conclusion: Summarizes information back to title and elements of content
In an article with breadth, each component has the same value, and there would not be more emphasis placed on writing about one element over the other.
Article Depth: Highlighting One Element
If I am writing about the components of a blog or article, I would label all of them, but would focus on one particular element and give readers more information, sources or descriptors to enlighten them about that individual component – as I have done with ‘Content’ in the image.
Breadth or Depth? Both Begin with Craft
Both types of articles serve a purpose. From a writer’s standpoint, though, looking at how saturated the market is with your topic might help you decide whether to write breadth or depth. Regardless though, first comes craft. Each day, I try to learn a little more about the craft of writing. Some books and writers that have helped me are:
Encouragement from my Muse Board
Solid writing craft means that art is well written. Therefore, improving at the craft of writing might mean defining your process, analyzing the results, trying something different – whether it’s breadth or depth, and finding your voice, tone, and style.
I would challenge you. If you tend to write from one process, try a different method, either writing spontaneously and organically or writing from a planned outline.
Trying different approaches to your writing will help you improve as a writer. Also, I think that when we improve in our writing, it sets us apart from those other 1,999,999 writers.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing