Christian Writer Training Course 2, Lesson 3
Let me now illustrate what I said in the previous section. I said that the first thing to do is to choose a subject. Suppose I choose, “Water, The Greatest Tonic For Health”. Now let us make a tentative outline:
1-Introduction: (Remind people that they are ignoring the greatest fluid for their health).
2-Water is important for kidneys, man’s poison-filter.
3-Water is important for maintaining fluid balance of body.
4-All bodily functions need water.
5-Conclusion: Drink at least 4 to 8 litters of water every day.
The next activity is investigation and collection of information. Almost any medical doctor or nurse will be able to give you information and also guide you to appropriate books (technical as well as popular) for further information. Most books on physical fitness (which abound in our generation) or health-related magazines will also provide a lot of information. What’s more, even family-magazines will give an occasional article on this topic.
The next step is to revise and expand (if necessary) the previously prepared outline. In our case, any investigation will reveal that water plays a great part in disease prevention. It plays this role by being the most important medium of washing, cleaning and hygiene. Quite a lot of germs can be washed away by ordinary running water to levels safe for the body.
You Will End Up Doing A Lot Of Things, Which Will Come To Naught If You Have No Plan !!
The information mentioned above is quite startling, yet too important to be overlooked, and therefore it can be added as a new point, or else it can replace point 4 in our outline. The option is yours. I consider this point so important that I decide to write an entire article on the topic of “Water, your great friend against germs”. I feel that offering this as a separate article will be a great help to readers in our country where disease-causing organisms are widespread. The poor country can save a lot of money spent on expensive medicines simply by encouraging proper washing habits.
I therefore leave the outline untouched. The helpful information and statistics collected is secure in my diary. If such information is jotted down on bits and pieces of paper they develop a tendency to vanish when most needed, wasting a lot of valuable time. Therefore I advise that you too buy a couple of diaries or note books.
Just as I decided not to revise the outline. I also decided not to expand the notes. In many cases I do both — revision as well as expansion. With some experience you will also know what to do.
Now that the groundwork is over, I start working on the article itself. The first draft will have many imperfections, and my mind urges me to pause at every stage to iron out these problems. Experience has told me that it is more important at this stage to complete the article so that I might see it as a whole unit before I work upon the parts. The first draft is ready in about two hours. It is about five pages long (around 900 words). The final draft will have about six handwritten (or three typed) pages. This will be about 1000 to 1200 words. Most popular magazines require articles to be between 1000 to 1500 words.
Instead of revising and polishing this draft immediately. I take a short break of fifteen minutes to about an hour. This refreshes my mind and makes me more alert to continue the work. Then I pick up the work, reread it and make corrections, additions and deletions liberally on the same sheets of paper. Once this is over, I immediately make a neat and clean copy. This will be my semi-final draft.
If I am in a hurry, I give this draft for typing. This happens only in about twenty per cent of the cases. In case of the majority of my articles, I place them in a file for few days and “sleep over” the article. This gives me time to reflect over what I have written. Further, when I revise my article after a few days, or even weeks, my mind has been “detached” sufficiently to look at it objectively. This enables me to spot many omissions and obscure statements that were difficult to spot when the subject was still fresh in my mind. I make corrections, and give the final copy for typing.
If typing is not possible, I make a neat and readable handwritten copy. This copy will go to the editor, while I keep the corrected copy. If typed, I send the original plus the first carbon-copy to the editor and keep the second carbon-copy in my files. The project has reached a conclusion.
The total time for doing all this would be around 8 to 10 hours, but with maturing habits and insights it might come down even to four hours, but that will be a long way from today.
The above illustration is only for your illumination. The purpose is to give you general guidelines, not to show rigidly fixed patterns. Feel free to experiment and be flexible, but do not compromise with the quality and content of what you produce.
Let me remind you once again: do not avoid outline-making. Compromising in this matter will only defeat your purpose. JUST AS A HOUSE CANNOT BE CONSTRUCTED WITHOUT A PLAN, AN ARTICLE CANNOT BE PRODUCED WITHOUT AN OUTLINE!
Some Precautions: Every factual writer should remember to make his investigation thorough. Since you are writing about preexisting subjects, you should make sure that your statements and data are correct. It is a very bad testimony to your reliability if you make mistakes.
While no writer can be entirely accurate all his life, repeated mistakes and too obvious errors point to careless work and sloppy thinking. Such writers soon loose credibility, and also the demand for their articles. Editors soon start avoiding them.
Better To Take Precautions Rather Than Discover Things Through Nasty Surprises !!
Another thing to remember is to write everything in your own words. Do not copy other’s writings verbatim. This is not only a sign if your incompetence, but is also a crime. Known as plagiarism, editors avoid writers given to it. What is worse, some magazines will openly publish letters of criticism against such articles, completely damaging your name.
Further, if your feel that a particular statement of another writer is so special that it should be given as it is to your readers you should put it as a quotation, and give full credit to the author from whom you have taken this quote.
Before closing I must remind you once again to choose a few areas of your interest for writing so that you do not become a jack of all trades but be reduced to master of none. Just as specialization is necessary in other professional areas, writing also calls for specialization for the majority of your articles.