Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ideas into Words – Extracts II

Source : Ideas into Words

Creating your first draft

Following you can find some advices to create your first draft

As you write, keep your eye on the ball

I borrowed the sporty image in this mixaphor, hackneyed though it is, because in sports we all know it’s true (which is how it got hackneyed). It is hard enough to hit a tennis ball streaking toward you at 118 miles an hour. It cannot be done by a person who is preoccupied with losing, or his appearance, or anything else.

Your initial effort needs to be more or less continuous

Meaning day after day, as in all the arts. An artist friend often quotes her painting teacher on that subject: “You must. . . go . . . to the studio,” her teacher would say, slowly and with emphasis. “Once you are there, you might spend all morning sweeping the floor. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you must . . . go . . . to the studio.”Yes, master, I hear you. “What am I really trying to say?” is a near-magic question.

Write out loud, mumbling or whispering to yourself as you write

Because reading is processed in the speech centers of the brain, any sentence or paragraph that is hard to speak will be hard to read, period. Not a lot harder, of course—but 1 percent improvements have a way of adding up, and this particular habit may be a 2 to 5 percenter.

Polish your prose late in the process rather than early

The more you work on a piece, the deeper it burrows into your neural pathways, and the harder you will struggle to see it freshly. The more effort you invest, the more every word will seem precious near  impossible to change.

Consider starting a bone heap

A place at the end of the manuscript for discarded sentences and paragraphs that you might yet want—dead examples, for example, or an aside that grew so big it disrupted the train of thought. The trouble with these items is that one gets attached to them, having invested the labor to create them. Hence the value of the bone heap: Knowing you can always retrieve that little gem, you’ll find it easy to be ruthless. An example is not quite working? Out!

Write with your notes and references open.

As a creative person, no matter how well you understand the subject, you need the constraints of genuine facts and quotes. Otherwise, you are likely to improve the stories and ideas past recognition. Use your notes. As a boss of mine used to say, “I don’t have time to take shortcuts.”

Make sure you put in all your raisins (i.e., fun facts, great quotes, and interesting comparisons).

Have you ever eaten a bread pudding that had too many raisins? I can’t imagine such a thing, and so it is with writing. You may not be able to turn a brilliant phrase yourself, but if you can recognize brilliant material when you see it, you can come close to a brilliant effect.

Take chances.

A draft is only a draft—by definition, the right place to experiment. Try writing lushly, or speaking more directly to the readers, or whatever you want to try. You will find the edge of the cliff, the place where you’ve gone too far, only by going over. Then once you’ve found the lip, you can stay two paces back.

Write using active verbs

Just as you were taught in high school English. Sentence by sentence, focus on action (which does what to what) rather than “procedures are” or “the data show that.”

Explain as needed

Not sooner and not later, not more and not less. If the article’s structure is right, the subject will unfurl like a morning glory, example/case and explanations inextricably mingled. Avoid any long patches of bald theory.

Keep the reader with you

Joined at the hip, by putting up a little slalom flag every time your train of thought takes a swerve or detour. A word or phrase will do it, of which our language has hundreds


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