When I first started writing, I sat down and worked on a small article for nearly a week. The problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to squeeze my idea into the 1,500 word limit. I was lost, frustrated and almost gave up. After some years of work, many rejections and a lot of determination, I finally figured out how to fine-tune the process and reduce the time involved so that this “writing stuff” would work for me.
If you write in a way that is not natural for you, your writing will be bad, boring and broken and it will take you an enormous amount of time to write. Always write in a way that flows out of your fingers and always understand your material before you write. In this way, your brain can stream the information out and you can write from an expert’s point-of-view…you!
What’d You Say?
To write in a natural way, you have to learn your own “verbal” style before you can master a “written” style. If you feel that you don’t have style, you’re wrong. Say something out loud and listen to your words, voice and inflexions. This is a general example of YOUR style of communication and is what can make your writing unique as well as smooth.
I found that, if I read out loud one hour a day, I am better able to understand my style. Sounds loony? I got this idea from my actress/singer wife. On her days off, she roams around the house talking to herself, reading scripts, reading books, and singing – all out loud. She said it allows her to hear herself and better understand her voice and style. I tried it … and it works! This little exercise has allowed my written words to flow like my spoken words using MY style!
Finish your math, or no dessert!
To fully understand the material for a piece, do your homework. Always develop an initial set of questions that need to be answered. For example, I always use the following core set of questions to begin my research:
- Why I am writing this piece?
- What is the focus of the piece?
- Why is this important?
- What group is my primary audience?
- Why would the audience be interested?
- How would it benefit the audience?
- How can the audience use this information?
Try to answer each question with ONE sentence. This not only saves time by defining the direction of the piece, but it also helps you think about the piece in depth – writing one sentence about anything is a chore requiring some examination! If you can’t create one-sentence answers, stop now! There’s no sense in writing about something that has no real purpose. If you can’t understand it, no one else will either.
The Three-Pass Rule
I always write in three passes. This approach saves a considerable amount of time by grouping tasks together.
- Pass 1: The Rough
The rough is just a brain-blast. You want to write all the information you already know about the topic. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or format … just write.
- Pass 2: Substantive Edit
During the substantive pass, determine context and content. Organize the information and research, fill in the blanks and make sure that your information is presented completely for the reader.
- Pass 3: Final
The final pass consists of final editing, content checking and flow.
Don’t try to write to perfection, as you will never get it perfect. Write to make it right! I’ve seen myself rewrite something 20 times to find out that the third pass was better than the last. Write the piece such that it is solid, easy to digest and presentable – you want something that you can be proud of and something the reader can use.
Many writers I know sit and dwell on their last piece. They wonder if anyone will like it, or how many people will send them hate mail. Don’t waste your time! Once you send it out, forget about it! It’s done, don’t dwell and move on!
I find that the readers that usually dislike my pieces have valid comments from their own perspective. Readers are allowed an opinion, and you can guarantee that you’ll hear a good percentage of them. You have to take the good with the bad and learn that criticism is a good thing—at least someone took the time to read your piece!
Edward B. Toupin is a published author living in The Entertainment Capital of the World. In his spare time, he enjoys the energy of Las Vegas and writes short slice-of-life and feature-length sci-fi screenplays. Edward consults and creates entirely from his home office in Las Vegas, Nevada.