Writing a feature article can be a hazardous journey with many obstacles to overcome along the way. If you get your article right first time, you’re either very lucky, or you might have missed something. The majority of writers are likely to write several drafts until they are happy with the end result. Research is a key part of the writing process and many writers continue to research as they write. The first draft is very much a work in progress which enables the writer to see where they need to do more research.
To get back to basics, and this may sound obvious, but the most important thing you must do before you start writing is to know what you want to say about your chosen subject. For example, if you are writing a personal narrative about a recent holiday for a travel magazine, what do you want readers to know? If you are writing a profile based on a person you have interviewed, what is it you want to say about them?
You may find it useful to jot down up to 10 key points that you want to address in your narrative. These may well change as you write but you’ve got a starting point and structure to work with. You may find it useful to list these points in order of importance depending on the focus of your story.
Writers commonly experience what is known as “writers block” – that blank wall you hit when you cannot find the right words to convey your message or meaning. When this happens, take a break. And when you return, rather than try to carry on where you left off, you may find it easier to write notes in a paragraph about the sorts of things you are thinking of putting into that paragraph, and then move on to the next one.
It is whilst writing the first draft that you will discover whether or not you have all the necessary information to be able to complete your story.
Read your work
After you’ve finished your first draft and you’re happy with the content, cast a critical eye over it. Sometimes this can be difficult because you can get so close to your work that you fail to develop the necessary perspective on it. You may think your piece is really bad when it fact it is really good: the opposite can also be true. Try reading your work aloud either to yourself in front of a mirror or to a friend. This will help you develop a sense of flow in the narrative and reveal mistakes you may have made.
Seek constructive feedback
Another good tip is to give your piece to a friend or colleague who is keen to listen to what you’ve got to say. Encourage them to give you honest but constructive feedback. If they don’t like it, hopefully they will tell you so and give good reasons why. Whether you take on board their criticisms is up to you.
Consider the following important general questions when reading the first draft of your story:
– Does this story work?
– If it works, what makes it work?
– If it doesn’t work, what prevents it from working?
– What is this story trying to do?
– Who is it aimed at?
Once you’ve got answers to these questions, you’re well on your way to moving from a first draft to a second, or perhaps, final draft.
Ruth Barnard, Purple Chameleon Communications