In the first part I talked about how I went about doing research for my article “What’s Your Moral Code?” published on http://www.midlifegamer.net. Now comes the tricky part: putting it all together.
Once I’d done my research and had a list of scribbled notes of things I had found fascinating, I went through it, removing anything that wasn’t relevant to my topic. So the results of a scientific study on how people react to moral situations in games stayed. The list of best fictional brands went (don’t ask me how I found that when I was supposed to be looking at morality; it’s best just to say that I’m easily distracted!).
Now with my, much shorter, notes of relevant information, I was able to go through and incorporate the facts into what I wanted to talk about. It really was as simple as that. I made little notes about when certain things should be inserted and that made the whole process easier.
This is akin to writing fiction, I discovered, in that the best way to do it is just to write and worry about editing later. Because I had planned the article out, in my head as well as on paper, it flowed onto the page quite well. Of course it wasn’t perfect by any means and I had to edit it quite severely but just getting the words down can be the hardest part.
Most articles will probably have a similar structure. They will begin with an introduction, in which the themes and subjects will be summarised, and then a few paragraphs (depending on how long the piece is) discussing various arguments or facts. Finally there will be a conclusion where everything is tied together. I had this rough structure in mind as I was writing and I knew instinctively when to wrap things up. If you feel you are making the same points over and over, that perhaps you are forcing home an idea, it could be time to skip to the end. Treat your reader as someone of relative intelligence. Most people will understand an idea without you having to constantly reinforce it in each paragraph.
And then came the editing. Leave your writing to sit for a day or two and then look at it with fresh eyes. Mistakes will become more obvious and sentences that don’t work will jar as you are reading through. Look at other published articles for ideas to see how they word things. Most of them don’t just relate facts in straight forward sentences. There will usually be something different about them, humour or short snappy sentences and different length paragraphs. Be creative.
And always read the contributor guidelines. Make sure that you have adhered to the rules of the site/magazine that you are sending your work to. If you feel completely suffocated by their rules (“what about creativity, man?”) then perhaps find somewhere else to send your work.
The reason I think I was successful with this particular piece of work was because I was organised in my approach and had a clear plan of what I wanted to say. For non-fiction writing, I would that is pretty much vital.