I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Writing Advice I've Received

Photo: Laszlo Ilyes
“Allen, I just don’t feel like I know this topic as deeply as I should to be able to write an article about it by tomorrow.”

Surely my editor would understand.

“You’re over-thinking this,” he said. “You are swimming in facts and figures on a deeper level than you need to. Come a little closer to the surface. You only have 600-800 words. Write the article in such a way that the average reader can become informed about what is going on right now without getting lost in all the backstory.”

Relief swept over me as I came to the realization that I couldn’t possibly cover this topic comprehensively in a short news story. That’s what books are for. I certainly had enough information to write a solid, informative article that gave readers a snapshot of what was going at that particular moment with the issue I was writing about. So, I wrote the story, submitted it on time and learned a lesson, or so I thought.

Last month, an editor asked me to write an article. I didn’t have a deadline, which probably made things worse. I started by interviewing a few people who were knowledgeable about the topic. After finishing the interviews, I considered the historical, biblical and contemporary viewpoints of the topic. I found statistics from a reputable source to include in the article and wondered how to incorporate them with the various perspectives I’d been considering.

Weeks went by and I got busy with other projects. But I kept thinking about all the information I had gathered for the article that still needed to be written. I didn’t know it until yesterday, but then it hit me – I was swimming too deep. So, I pushed a little closer to the surface and the direction of the article became clear. I wrote 1,300+ words in about three hours and was happy with the way it turned out.

I slept on it, edited it this morning and then hit the send button, thankful for the best writing advice I’ve ever received that still pays off every time I incorporate it.

If you are a writer, what is the best writing advice you’ve received?


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