Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Formulas for News Writing

How To Write Anything

 Every piece of non-fiction writing can be thought of as having two parts – an opening or introduction, followed by the main part of the article or paper. For convenience, we’ll call the first part the “top,” and the second part the “bottom.”

 The top is fairly brief – no more than 20 percent of the entire piece, and rarely more than three or four paragraphs even in a fairly long paper. Often it’s a single paragraph (or two). However, it is very important. This is where you get your reader to read the rest. In it you must accomplish three things:

P  Get the reader’s attention, usually with the opening sentence.
P  Tell the reader what the story is about (that is, what is your “thesis”)
P  Explain why it’s important, or interesting, or funny, or whatever it is that makes it significant and timely, and therefore worth reading right now.

Sometimes you can accomplish two of these at once. For example you can get the reader’s attention and tell what the story is about at the same time by starting with a sharp, clear, pithy statement of your theme. But often you´ll want to start with an anecdote, a fact, or a description. And then make a graceful turn into the paragraph explaining what the article is about, followed by the explanation of its significance.  

There may be other things that you need to get done at the beginning. You may want to acknowledge that there is some information that conflicts with your thesis, and either deal with it or promise to do so later. Or you may want to specify what you are going to cover.

The bottom is the part where you give the reader the information you promised in the top. Here the exhortation to “write from a suitable design” becomes all important. You want to plan – often by writing it out – the order in which you are going to cover the relevant subtopics. They should follow logically. Anytime you can make the bottom into a “narration” (i.e., a story told in chronological fashion) you’re better off. A story, remember, has to have a beginning (a situation), a middle (a complication, or problem), and an end (a resolution of the problem).  It should be tightly focused, and the principal theme should run through it like a skewer through a pacamuto.  This doesn’t mean you leave out important people or information. You bring them in at the point where they are needed to compare and contrast with your central thesis.   

A handy device is to set up a page with two columns. In the first is your basic design for the story. In the other you write down, in shorthand, the things you want to be sure to get in. Then you draw lines from the things you want to get in to the place they fit in the design. When you combine the two columns in this fashion you end up with a comprehensive plan, or outline, for writing your story.

When you get to the end, come up with a snappy conclusion that wraps things up if you can. This is a nice touch, but it is not always essential. 

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