Usually, trying to write an article spontaneously ends up as a jumbled steaming pile of information that seems random and without a focused message to send across to the reader. Usually I find that planning is invaluable for a well-structured literary piece that is enjoyable to read. I have written this post as a form of introspection; investigating & planning out how I can write in order to write better. I hope you can benefit from this introspective post as much as I will.
So for planning, it seems that you’ve got to plan that out as well. It’s an outline of an outline, if you will. Like an inception for outlines, …out-ception? You get the idea. So the plan that I planned out came together like this: Brainstorming Ideas, Choosing a single main idea, outlining sub-ideas that support the main idea, Expanding or explaining the sub-ideas, and finally revising the piece before publication. You can also read my article on the scope and keeping the reader’s attention.
Table of Contents
1. Brainstorming Ideas
Brainstorming is the process that is your source of inspiration, that helps you find the main idea of your literary piece. From the Brainstorm, you come up with many ideas and choosing the best idea, make an article to convey this idea to the reader. But many of us don’t know how to begin brainstorming. So I have listed a few good ways down below:
Free Writing – admittedly, “trying to write an article spontaneously” is not a bad way to begin brainstorming out your ideas. However, the writing requires much editing, including that you separate and sort the information into correctly ordered paragraphs later on.
Listing – Listing is a brainstorming method that starts with choosing an idea, then listing down what reminds you of that idea. For example, if my topic was birds, birds would remind me of wings, aerodynamics, flying, diving, Icarus, etc.
Webbing – Webbing is a method that is similar to listing, but the items listed are also given a separate list of associations. To continue the example, diving reminds me of falling, taking risks, the ocean, sky diving, stock market crash, etc.
Visuals – Borrowing from the Rorschach test, you can use visuals as a tool for generating ideas. For example, if the topic was on architecture, you could take a look at a bunch of buildings. By looking at the buildings, you can point out the defects that the builders missed and ingenious techniques that were applied to the architecture. By these observations, you can design your own architecture based on what works and what doesn’t.
Talking – Talking is another excellent brainstorming approach. It unlocks many ideas that usually don’t come to mind all by themselves. You see, our minds work by reacting to stimuli. For example, if I say mouse, you may think of the animal or computer peripheral device, small, vermin, The 3 Blind Mice. And that’s only from a single word. For a monologue, talking about one idea makes you recall the many associations you have for that idea. For a dialogue, talking about one idea also gives you access to the listener’s associations for your idea. A dialogue is great because the listener isn’t you; he has a unique experience different from yours. The listener can contributes ideas that you may never have thought of before.
Branching – It’s particular technique that I discovered when reviewing a particular article I published on sleep. In that article, I have written a great deal about why a person should get a good night of sleep and how. Revisiting it, I saw that I could write a whole article on a single supporting point, such as how the circadian rhythm works, how sleep changes as we grow older, or how sleep negatively affects us. The benefit of branching particular to bloggers is that you can weave article links in all of your posts to increase the view count of each page. And its a good way to help visitors navigate to different posts they may be interested in reading.
2. Outline Supporting Sub-Ideas
Simple, Brief outline. You start by making multiple sub-titles that relate back to the main title. ie. soccer, football, badminton relate back to sports.
In the outlining phase, you develop the skeleton of your article or essay. This is essential to keeping your paper organized. Organization is important because it helps convey your main message to the reader. The organization method of outlining is a bit like a pyramid: The top idea is supported by sub-ideas or arguments. And these arguments are supported by it’s explanation, which essentially is the body of the text.
Revision is obvious enough. It is the process by which you tie the loose ends of your essay. This can be achieved by silently re-reading through your literary piece, reading out-loud, and peer review.
Silent reading helps find ideas or thoughts that don’t mesh well together in your piece. Reading out-loud helps find sentence structural mistakes. And peer review gives you a fresh perspective on your literary piece.
I want to talk a little more about why peer review is the most powerful of the 3. That’s because our brain can hide holes in the message conveyed textually by filling it in with our own understanding. For example, An adult knows how dangerous fire is. But if he says that fire is dangerous to a child, the child cannot comprehend how dangerous the fire is from the lack of experience. And in a way, your peer reviewer is like that for your article. If there is a message that in your mind makes sense, but without enough context for the outside reader, your peer reviewer can point that out to you.
Another type of artificial Peer Review method I learned about from a friend, Robert Lee, has you leave your article to age for a couple of days before you revisit it. This causes you to forget the fine details of your paper, so that when you take a look at it again your brain doesn’t gloss over the text.
Another cool revision trick I discovered is to do revisions for your sentences, as you type or write them (again, kudos to Robert Lee!). This way you aren’t stuck with a paragraph ridden with inappropriate grammar or sentence structure. It works something like this:
Each paragraph is finely divided into separate sentences.
That allows breathing room for reviewing each sentence, inside the mind.
Abolishing errors that otherwise would have been missed.
if I can’t figure out anything wrong with the sentences all by themselves, I ask a question about each sentence. Does it provide enough context? This term that I understand, will the reader understand? What is the purpose of this sentence?
Taking a break from writing and coming back to it at a later time. By taking a break, you allow yourself to muse or thing about what you have written and brainstorm new things that you can add or improve for your literary piece. Also, taking a break allows you to forget the exact details of your writing. So when you come back to your article, you are forced to read closely and actually understand what you have written. Because the knowledge of our ideas and thoughts masks over missing information, out brain essentially hiding the defects.
Random Tips for Writer’s Block
Indiscernible Paragraph – Can’t figure out how to fix your monstrous paragraph? Try breaking apart the sentences, and arranging them together with what makes sense; put away the “3rd wheel” or what doesn’t make sense in another separate pile of sentences. You could slide those out of place sentences in paragraphs where it belongs, or cut the sentence out completely.
Distracted & can’t focus? Take away your distractions. I’ve even read that some authors have made their “writing” place a closet, or a separate outhouse that has nothing to distract them from their work… If you get a distracting idea or thought, try writing it down to come back to it later. This way you can focus without being distracted. Also, a fresh mind helps you to focus. How well we can write is dependent on our brain function. And our mental acuity is dependent on how well we sleep. So if you notice that you are staring at your piece of work with dull and empty eyes, perhaps its time to take a nap…. Or a coffee ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Output requires Input – Take turns between writing and reading. Your literary piece requires you to know about the subject you are writing on, so reading books and articles of similar topic fuels you with information for your literary piece. Reading from a similar topic helps you articulate the message of your article, because it helps you become familiar with the common lingo used in your subject area. Don’t keep writing, you need to read in order to write.
Music? Can’t be too distracting. If it doesn’t work, on, off, on, off… Sometimes I get too stimulated from the music. When the music becomes distracting, I turn it off. Sometimes the music makes me totally focused on the work in front of me, and sometimes the lack of music does. I believe it comes down to a balance of too much or too little stimulation.
Another thing about music. I realize that music can harm your writing ability. Music shuts down the voice in our head. When we read, we silently vocalize what is written in a book. This is a part of our oral tradition; language is originally spoken and heard. So when you listen to music, you cannot mentally listen to what you have just written or typed. And we need to listen to what has been written in order to make sense of it.
Use a timer to install a sense of urgency – Usually when we are afflicted with writers block, we worry that our piece may not come out perfectly the first time. That’s OK, the first draft is supposed to go through multiple revisions. But the point of the first draft is to get the information out there, to actually get somewhere. The first draft is about quantity, not quality. So my advice is to use a timer that gives you a limited period of time to write down your thoughts. I would suggest a period of 1 or 2 hours. The same urgency works for essay exams; at one point you’ll decide that it’s better to have something down than nothing at all.
The medium – The medium from which you translate your thoughts into literature may be the cause of your writers block. For example, I can spontaneously start writing when it comes to pen & paper; but give me a computer keyboard & a blank screen, I become lost. The way we can express our thoughts depends on how our brain’s are wired from the beginning. When I was a child, I was introduced first to paper & pen. And thereafter mainly used paper and pen as my medium of literary expression. Our brains are extremely malleable early on, and habits as children are hard-wired into our brains as adults.
Lower your Inhibition – As mentioned above, I excel in writing with blanks sheets of paper & pen because they give me the most flexibility to write. If I make a mistake, I can simply cross it out. If my paragraphs are out of order, I can keep writing and later use arrows to indicate where each paragraph belongs. The main point is take away as many hurdles that breaks your flow of thought, including the fear of making a mistake or perfectionism on the first try. So when I see paper, I see a first draft where mistakes belong.
Another technique that I employ is to simply type down any thoughts or information that I find without worrying about organization. Without content, what’s there to organize, right?
The art of Data Mining
Let’s define Data Mining as the ability to take pertinent snippets of information out from many sources.
Note that books are awesome sources of information, but may not fit the subject or flow of your article perfectly. So don’t try to force information from a book into your article if it fits awkwardly – in other words the information is out of place.
For finding information for your article, I recommend doing research from various places on the web. Google is your best friend. The key words that you use are going to be extremely important; but now-a-days I find that Google doesn’t allow pin-point accuracy. Rather, what shows up on the Google search engine is what google recommends; supporting big corporate websites while pushing down unique but smaller websites. Although that’s not bad-per-say for data mining, it hides many unique and eccentric point of views that are interesting to read. And you’ll find the major websites that come up first on Google are repeating much of the same information as the other websites on the first search results.
*Note that in this modern age it is the norm to space out your content with pertinent images, adding value to your piece. Images help the reader remember the points of your article because the reader can associate the textual message of your content to the images.
Don’t make your content to complicated. Keep things simple:
- A single column for improved readability and for mobile users
- Keep the heading all the same sized for improved the flow and to “keep” digital literary piece interesting; this is especially important if you use a table of contents in the beginning of each of your web articles [Quora Source]
- Use pictured centered in the middle and not with text wrapping around either side of the picture or:
- the exception to text wrapping around a picture is if you use very small pictures like in this article; all off to one side (I chose the right side) for consistency.