I occasionally get an email or a message from my readers, who ask me for suggestions on how to get their work published. Some even send me their articles and stories with requests to edit them. Often I want to lend them a helping hand, but am at a complete loss on how to do it. My heart goes out to my young friends who work hard, but are disappointed when their work does not see the print.
Instead of addressing each friend individually, today I would like to share some tips with you. There are some basics of writings which all of you should know, even if you are not interested in writing for magazines or newspapers.
Writing skills are important in all phases of life. A grip on the topic you want to pen your thoughts about will help you all a lot when you appear for your language exams, more so when you apply for jobs after stepping into practical life. In the digital world we are living in, most communications are done through social media or emails and to convey your thoughts clearly, you should know how to write with clarity.
Dear friends, I must admit that I am a self-taught author myself, with no formal education in the writing field. When I started contributing my articles to different publications, some childhood habits helped me a lot. An ardent reader and a keen observer, I was always willing to learn something new. Even now, there are some basics which I try to follow strictly. Let’s talk about them one by one.
Read all you can
Reading a lot is the first requirement for writing a good article, story or even a formal application or letter. You gain knowledge, improve your grammar/vocabulary, come across different styles of writing and get new ideas from every book or magazine you read.
Generally, children are more interested in gadgets and the internet and reading seems to be a tedious job for them. But once you discover the joys of reading, I promise you, there will be no looking back.
A book is a world in itself, which opens new vistas for your imagination and ideas. But to discover this world, you must read with concentration and interest. While reading fiction, if you relate with the characters, you learn a lot about their mode of thinking and tackling different situations. When reading non-fiction, if you let the facts/figures or new concepts sink in, new horizons open up for you.
Choose an interesting topic
Choosing a topic is the most important part of a good piece of writing. Always write on issues which interest you or your target readers. For example, if you have a keen interest in sports, it would be a good idea to write about an upcoming tournament. If you are a born storyteller, mix your imagination with reality to create something different as well as fascinating for your reader.
Try to come up with a new and interesting topic. Or if you write on something which is the talk of the town, to catch the reader’s attention, always strive to give a new angle to the story.
Once you have decided what you want to write about, find all the information on the topic you have chosen. Search the internet, look up relevant books in your school library or seek help from your teachers, parents or siblings.
Roughly note the gathered info and read it thoroughly. Gradually you will have an idea of the matter which will be interesting for your reader, where to start your piece and how to finish it.
Select a heading/title
Majority of readers first browse through the contents when they pick up a magazine or book and directly go to the heading or title which interests them.
To draw the attention of your reader, let your title be short, original and appealing. Keep making a list of headings which come to your mind and choose the best when you have finished writing.
Keep your language concise and simple
Everyone is hard pressed for time. Often when I insist that my grandchildren read a story of their choice daily, they choose the ones with are the shortest.
Instead of meandering on a topic leisurely before coming to the point, try to make your piece crisp where the reader’s interest is kept intact. While reading, I often skip lines which describe the landscape, weather or a person’s appearance unnecessarily. Avoid long paragraphs and lengthy sentences as tend to make the readers loose their interest.
Keep a notebook and a pen handy
When you start writing seriously, your mind seems to work overtime. Often ideas and inspirations strike at the oddest moments, even in the wee hours of the night. If you just scribble a few points about those ideas, you will not forget it and can easily get back to it later on and start gathering relevant information.
I always keep a notebook and a pen at my bedside or when I am going out. More often than not, I get an inspiration in the dead of the night. At times, I stumble upon a topic while conversing with people or from a situation I am in.
Be a keen observer
To be a good writer, one should look around for issues to raise your pen about. To give you an example, suppose you are waiting at a bus stop and your eyes catch a garbage dump across the road, the ball of thoughts may start rolling.
Who throws the waste in the middle of the city and why? Who is responsible for waste management? Are the concerned authorities doing their job properly? What role can a common citizen play to avoid this nasty situation? All these questions and more may come to your mind and you will strive to find a proper answer of each one. Point by point, you will be able to write an article about the issue, the reasons behind it and offer solutions.
Think out of the box
A good writer always feels the urge to convey to the world his feelings, values, aspirations and ideas. Try to bring about positive changes in the people, things and situations around you. Whenever you write, just follow your gut feelings. If something comes profoundly from your heart, your message or story is bound to touch another heart.
Thinking out of the box is the first step towards success. Do not feel shy to share your ideas, however different from the norms, as all of us want to look out for new avenues. An inspiring story or an article could be a game changer for many people and give a new direction to their lives.
Re-read and re-edit
After you think you have finished writing a piece or a story, believe me you have not. Instead of sending it immediately wherever you plan to subscribe, wait for a few days. Re-read it after a day or two. Maybe you will think of something you would like to add, or find typo errors, grammar mistakes or repeated facts/words.
Edit and re-edit to improve your piece. The advantage of giving your writings a few extra days to reassess, is that you end up with a better version of your article/story.
Have a catchy beginning and a logical ending
Last, but not the least, the most important part of your writing, whether it is a story or an article, is the beginning and the ending. The first few lines will draw and hold the attention of your reader, or make him move on to another topic. So think of an original/interesting opening paragraph, so that the opening lines catch the readers’ interest.
In the same manner, how to end a piece is crucial to make a person feel he has not wasted his time. Whether it is a life lesson, a story or an informative piece, your reader must learn something or feel entertained by what you have written.
I would like to quote Henry Longfellow, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending”.
I hope my young friends will learn something from this piece and start writing soon in a better way. My advice to you is ‘Never give up’. Even if your articles/stories are not approved, instead of losing heart, just write some more. Success comes only with persistence. Remember that the editor’s waste paper basket is a writer’s best friend.
Tara Moss perfectly nails it when she says, “Don’t write it right, just write it and make it right later”.
Published in Dawn, Young World, December 3rd, 2022