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Redwood Falls Gazette
  • How to write stuff people will read

  • In honor of school starting this week, I’ve decided to write about one of the few things I feel qualified to write about: writing.
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  • In honor of school starting this week, I’ve decided to write about one of the few things I feel qualified to write about: writing.
    Some people love writing. They end up writing books, articles, blogs, etc.
    Everybody else endures writing exactly as much as their school or work requires. And if they are told to write two pages, they use a bigger font.
    Here are some of my favorite tips for writing stuff people will actually bother to finish reading:
    Try writing notes and first drafts in longhand.
    Picking up a pencil or pen and pad of paper unlocks parts of your brain normally used for drawing and other spatial skills.
    Whenever I’ve spent a long time at the keyboard and feel stuck, I grab a pen and notebook and try brainstorming that way. Almost always the ideas flow better and easier. Then you can get back to the computer to touch it up, which is where computers are better.
    Bullet point and make lists.
    For non-fiction, most people love bullet points and lists. They get right to the substance in the shortest time. Most people just read for content anyway, so why bother with stuff most people will just skip over?
    If it’s not interesting, don’t write it down.
    Look over each sentence and paragraph. If you don’t care about it, why should you expect anyone else to? Either figure out how to phrase it in a more interesting way, or get rid of it.
    If it occurs to you to cut it, cut it.
    You want to go over the (essay, story, blogpost, etc.) until you’re left with only the stuff it doesn’t even occur to you as being cutable.
    Simple declarative sentences are good.
    One of my biggest writing problems is getting too elaborate with sentence construction. Sometimes I have to remind myself to break sentences into two or three bite-sized pieces.
    Look at revision as a privilege, not a chore.
    This is especially true if you’re a perfectionist. I used to freeze whenever I’d write something, just because I might not get it “right” by some definition.
    I do two drafts of most of these columns: a “get the basic idea down” draft, and a “tweak it until I’m reasonably happy with it” draft. I enjoy each one for different reasons. Each takes the pressure off having to write the other — once I have an idea to begin with.
    Which leads to....
    Let your first sentence be your guide.
    Page 2 of 2 - Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, wrote once that the hardest part about writing is coming up with a good opening sentence. The easiest part of writing is following it up with pages and pages more in the same vein.
    I can vouch for that. Sometimes I’ll struggle for hours just to come up with an idea for one of these columns. Then, when an idea hits me, I whip out the column itself in 15 minutes.
    For the record, I thought up the idea for this column yesterday, jotted down a few ideas for it this morning, and an finishing it this afternoon, with lots of breaks in between.
    In this case, all I needed was to start was a sentence that began, “In honor of school starting this week....”

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