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How to write articles on any subject
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So let me start.

I say ‘process’ but I haven’t, previously, outlined it – I’m
sorry if it isn’t as clear or systematic as it could be. After
all, it is a thread in a forum and not a high claiming ebook in
the offers section.

To begin with I’ll offer an example. And I’ll use a topic I have
no real interest in, and no prior knowledge of. Many people will
tell you that the best topics to write on are those you are most
familiar with – and I agree with that - but it isn’t necessary,
and as an article writer I used to pride myself on my ability to
write on any topic, no matter how obscure or how unusual it was
(for me).

I used to write regularly for a few content membership sites.
That meant that they would supply me with topics and keywords,
and every month I wrote 10, 20, 30 or 50 articles on batches of
topics which were entirely new to me. The keywords would appear
in my email inbox and I’d be expected to produce articles on each.
I wasn’t approached as an expert – I was approached as a
professional writer who would produce the goods, no matter what
the topic – and I did.

The topics were wide ranging. I was lucky when it was a topic I
was familiar with, but very often it would be something I had
neither interest in, nor knowledge of. One example that sticks
in my mind is the batch of 10 articles I was asked to write on
Granite Surface tops. Man, that hurt. I knew nothing about
granite, surfaces, nor tops. Nor was I interested in them. Nor,
indeed, was I interested in interior design, kitchens, bathrooms
or granite as a material. This seemed like a tough ask – but the
reality was that I wrote those 10 articles as quickly and easily
as I would have if it had been a topic I knew or was interested in.
Well, not quite, but almost!

So how does a writer do that?

I’ll tell you – and in my experience, it has less to do with
the writing than it does with the research and the intellectual
approach.

Now, admittedly, I do have a college education, and I do have
some post grad study under, my belt. In fact, I researched a
phd some years ago – and enjoyed it! But really, that doesn’t
factor into my writing as much as you might think. I know that
many non writers kid themselves that their lack of college
education weighs heavy on their ability to write. Well, maybe
it does, blocks come in many shapes and sizes – but I can tell
you that having too much academic study can have a similar
effect. The best lesson you can learn – whoever you are and
whatever your background - is to write fluidly, and
conversationally. Don’t think before your words hit the paper
(or screen). Let your thinking happen on your computer screen
(or paper). The truth is that interesting writing more often
comes from the process of thought being explored in the
writing itself.

One of the best exercises any writer can ever do – yes, a bold
claim but I don’t back down from it – is to do the 1000 words
a day exercise. If you read a few ebooks or hard copy books on
writing process you will quickly realise that just about everyone
recommends this exercise and very many of them describe it as if
it were their discovery. The truth is, it goes back a long way –
I first heard of it in a little book by Dorothea Brand called
‘Being a writer’, and another writer who famously proposes it
is Julia Cameron in her well known book 'The ARtists Way'
although since reading these I’ve come to think it goes back much
further in the creative writing canon.

The exercise is to sit down every day and write. Simple, huh?
What you do is set yourself a target – either about a thousand
words, or two to three sides of A4 lined paper, or even a time
limit like 15 or 20 minutes. Whatever the target, you set it
and stick to it. And every day – the best time is first thing
in the morning – you sit down and you write to your target.

Now most people will protest and say they can’t think of
anything to write. Yes you can. You write anything that crosses
your mind. And if nothing crosses your mind you write that
‘I can’t think of anything to write…’ And if nothing ATALL
come to mind then you simply repeat that sentence for the
duration of your target time or length.

The fact is that you do think of something and you do write.
The trick is not to care. The trick is to literally write
anything. Random thoughts. Random images. Describe the look
of the paper in front of you. Explain how much you hate writing.
Write about what you want to do that day, or what you’ve
already done. Whatever you write, just write. Stream of
consciousness is fine – everything is fine. The target is to
write for a certain time period or a certain length and then
stop. Quality is not an issue. You don’t have to read it. You
can throw it away immediately afterwards if you like. The target
is to write.

This is, at its most basic level, a writing exercise. In the
same way that an athlete runs to keep his or her body fit – a
writer needs to write to keep the writing muscle healthy.

After only a few days of this you will find that the act of
writing comes eaier. You will find that you can write far more
easily and your writing takes on a natural almost conversational
tone. This exercise has fast results – you’ll surprise yourself.

So, back to this topic of granite surface tops: Where do you
begin? Actually, I often find that the less I know about a
topic, and often the less I was interested in a topic – the
more interesting it was to write about. I’m not kidding you!

When you know about something there is a tendency to attempt
to add something insightful to the writing of it. Or, on the
other hand, you knock something out which is, essentially,
generic and mundane because your knowledge allows you to simply
regurgitate what you know: kind of like one of those dull open
top bus tours of London where the guy or girl says ‘on your
right is Buckingham Palace and on your left is Hyde Park and
thank you for your money and goodbye’.

So I begin with the assumption that whoever the reader is, they
know as little as me. What is Granite? What is a granite surface?
What is a granite surface top?

And I research that: I ask those questions. And my article is
the process whereby I answer those questions.

One, what is granite? I check out Wikipedia, and any number of
other sites that answer the basic question of what granite is.
It’s a research question. Don’t, whatever you do, try to write
an article, simply try to answer the question: What is granite?

Let me try to answer that for you.

Truth is, I don’t even have those articles in front of me so
I am going to have to answer that question all over again.
Dammit.

Ok, so I’m going to check out Wikipedia: It tells me (a little
obscurely) that ‘granite is as old as the earth itself… it’s
formed from liquid magma… it is hard, durable, like diamond in
its hardness… it is igneous.. created under great pressure… it
has been forced towards the surface of the earth by seismic
activity… sometimes exposed by the work of glaciers…’

It doesn’t have to be Wikipedia, it can be a dictionary or
encyclopedia, or a website on the topic. Anything that has
factual answers to your question.

Do we reword what we find? No. Definitely not. That would be a
rather typical, bad article of little use to a real reader. You
have to create within yourself an understanding of your subject
– or at least (and this is what I do) a perspective upon what
it is you are writing about.

This is an important part of an article’s content – the human
aspect, the character of the writer. This is what gives an
article style and interest. It is what makes it readable.

So what do we write in our article if not a rewrite of what we
have read? We offer the reader a response to our research. AND
THAT IS THE CRUCIAL POINT. We offer our reader something close
to an opinion. A reflection upon our research. We don’t present
ourselves as an authority as much as we present ourselves as
an intelligent mind attempting to understand – on behalf of
the reader – the topic of enquiry.

This kind of writing is always entertaining. Always interesting.
Always compelling. Think about it. When you want to know something
do you immediately phone up a college professor on the topic
and ask them? No, you ask your partner, your friend, your work
colleague: you seek opinions from ordinary people and whatever
their answer it helps you to broaden your own understanding. Even
people who have no idea will offer you their guesses and you will
compare those guesses to your own to see if you are asking the
right question.

Now, I’m not suggesting that a rambling and uninformed article
full of guesswork is going to be useful to anyone. I am merely
trying to make a point. Articles serve many purposes and if you
can give a new shape to yours by adding your perspective on the
information then you add value. So long as that perspective is
produced by intelligence and thoughtfulness it will be appreciated
and it will add character to your writing.




 
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