Sunday, November 23, 2014

First Things First




Before you begin writing, you need to know who you are trying to reach.  In magazines and books for writers, this is called the ‘audience.’  Ask yourself if you are only talking to people in the cause or if you are trying to educate those who may know little or nothing about the issues.  The answer to this question will form the basic building blocks of your essay or post.

If you are trying to educate people who know little or nothing, before you begin writing, you need to also ask yourself, “What do they need to know first?”  Putting the things people need to know first at the beginning is a good rule for organizing your essay or post. Focusing on first things first may even point to essays or posts that need to be written before you begin the one you really want to write. 

As you start composing it is often useful to vividly imagine your target audience.  Sometimes it is helpful to imagine a single person, even an actually person.  If you are trying to educate people who are not familiar to the cause, having an actual person to consult with is always useful.  When I was writing herb and garden articles for publication, in the beginning, I always recruited a friend to either listen to my drafts or to read them.  They would help me find the places I was leaving out information which I unconsciously assumed my audience knew. 

Friends aren’t always the best editors, however.  Sometimes they don’t really pay as much attention as necessary, or they may hold back on constructive criticism in fear of harming the friendship.  A friend that can provide honest constructive criticism is a good friend indeed!

Another option is to find a volunteer from within the cause, preferably one new to the cause.  If they are well read or if they do some writing themselves, so much the better.  Newbies can, hopefully, remember what they did and didn’t understand before they got involved.  They should be able to explain where you are leaving out information or where the writing might be confusing. 


Here are some steps to get started:

1.  Imagine your audience.
2.  Ask yourself what they need to know first.
3.  Draft your post, putting first things first.
4.  Seek constructive criticism from someone who either is a member of your audience or who understands them. 
5.  Rewrite as necessary.
6.  Repeat steps four and five till you get it dialed in. 
7.  Stay Tuned.  More tips are forthcoming.


Questions and constructive criticism welcome!


 Image from Wikimedia Commons.


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