Five Steps to Completing Your First Draft

Follow these stages of preparation and production to assemble a first draft of written (or spoken) content.

  1. Identify Your Purpose
    What is the reason for writing the content? Are you objectively presenting information? If so, is it for educational purposes, or for entertainment — or both? Are you writing to help someone make a decision, or encouraging someone to take action? Identifying your goal for the content will help you shape the piece.
  2. Identify Your Readership
    Who are your intended readers (and your unintended ones)? What is their level of literacy, and what is their degree of prior knowledge of the topic?

Imagining who your readers are will help you decide what voice and tone to adopt, how formal or informal your language will be — though that factor also depends on your approach (see below) — and how much detail or background information you provide.

  1. Identify Your Approach

Should your content be authoritative, or is it the work of someone informally communicating with peers? Are you offering friendly advice, or is your tone cautionary? Are you selling something, or are you skeptical? Should the content be serious, or is some levity appropriate? Determining your strategy, in combination with identifying your readership, will help you decide how the piece will feel to the reader.

  1. Identify Your Ideas
    Brainstorm before and during the drafting process, and again when you revise. If appropriate, talk or write to intended readers about what they hope to learn from the content. Imagine that you are an expert on the topic, and pretend that you are being interviewed about it. Write down the questions and your answers to help you structure the content. Alternatively, present a mock speech or lecture on the topic and transcribe your talk.

Draft an executive summary or an abstract of the content, or think about how you would describe it to someone in a few sentences. Or draw a diagram or a map of the content.

Using one or more of these strategies will help you populate your content with the information your readers want or need.

  1. Identify Your Structure
    Craft a title that clearly summarizes the topic in a few words. Explain the main idea in the first paragraph. Organize the content by one of several schemes: chronology or sequence, relative importance, or differing viewpoints. Use section headings or transitional language to signal new subtopics. Integrate sidebars, graphics, and/or links as appropriate.

Incorporating these building blocks will help you produce a coherent, well-organized piece.

From: Daily Writing Tips

General Rules About Abbreviations

This post outlines basic rules about abbreviations. There is a bewildering variety of standards, which will be explained in more detail in subsequent posts about specific categories of abbreviation, but the following guidelines cover an array of general types.

Use of abbreviation varies widely depending on the formality of writing employed for a given publication or a piece of content. Generally, the more formal the content, the less likely it is that abbreviation will be used, except in multiple references to terms commonly abbreviated or in tabular matter and other graphic elements.

In formal writing, journalistic contexts, and some informal content as well, terms are spelled out on first reference, followed by abbreviation in parentheses, as in “The Global Positioning System (GPS) uses satellite signals to fix the location of a radio receiver on or above the earth’s surface.” Thereafter, the abbreviation is used exclusively.

However, this tradition applies to single pieces of content, so that—unless, for example, an entire publication is devoted to articles about GPS technology—two articles in a publication that mention it will independently introduce the full spelled-out version of an abbreviation on first reference. Note, too, that specialized publications will likely abbreviate all references to widely used terms in that specialty.

Abbreviations consisting entirely of uppercase letters (including NY, US, FBI, and NASA) or that end with an uppercase letter (as in PhD) are not followed by a period; some publications retain periods in these types of abbreviations (at least two-letter ones), but that style is in decline. Abbreviations that end with a lowercase letter (a.m., Dr., i.e., etc.) are generally followed by a period.

Acronyms (abbreviations of phrases using initial letters of each word to form new word, such as AIDS) are almost invariably styled in all capital letters, though some, such as laser and scuba, have lost their uppercase form, and Nasdaq is treated as a proper noun. Initialisms (abbreviations of phrases using initial letters of each word, each of which is pronounced, such as FBI) are also generally capitalized. When using an article before an abbreviation, choose a or an depending on the first sound, not the first letter, of the abbreviation: “an NBA [en-bee-ay] team” but “a NASA [nasa] program.”

Avoid ampersands except in proper names (“Johnson & Johnson”) and in widely known abbreviations (“R&D,” for “research and development”).

Daily Writing Tips 28 Nov 2016 

Eight rules for writing fiction

 

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them, so the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

From: Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write with Style

Did you ever hear of a portmanteau?

A portmanteau (pɔːrtˈmæntoʊ/, /ˌpɔːrtmænˈtoʊ/; plural portmanteaus or portmanteaux /-ˈtoʊz/) or portmanteau word is a linguistic blend of words, in which parts of multiple words, or their phones (sounds), and their meanings are combined into a new word. A portmanteau word fuses both the sounds and the meanings of its components, as in smog, coined by blending smoke and fog, or motel, from motor and hotel. In linguistics, a portmanteau is defined as a single morph that represents two or more morphemes.

The definition overlaps with the grammatical term contraction, but contractions are formed from words that would otherwise appear together in sequence, such as do and not to make don’t, whereas a portmanteau word is formed by combining two or more existing words that all relate to a singular concept which the portmanteau describes. A portmanteau also differs from a compound, which does not involve the truncation of parts of the stems of the blended words. For instance, starfish is a compound, not a portmanteau, of star and fish; whereas a hypothetical portmanteau of star and fish might be stish.

Quick Tips for Short Story Success

(From the Web Editor)

1. The main character should FACE a problem/challenge and not BE the problem. Having a main character who is deeply flawed and whom you will “fix” though the story plot does not work for young people. It feels lecture-some (at worst) and fails to connect with the reader (at best). Like adults, young people like main characters they can relate to and admire. And just like adults, most young people do not consider themselves selfish, mean spirited, or spoiled. Sure, some actually ARE…but they still think of themselves in positive ways. It’s just human nature. So if we create main characters who are selfish, mean spirited or spoiled – we create characters that the reader cannot connect with. And that makes a story fail.

2. The main character should face a problem/challenge that cannot be ignored. Your main character needs to have pressure to act. And since you’re creating an admirable character, the character will act in a way he believes/hopes will solve the problem in a positive way. For instance, if your main character faces the problem of having something in his room in the dark, that’s not something he could ignore. He couldn’t just roll over and think…well, whatever it is, I’ll just ignore it. Kids aren’t wired that way. So he’d have to try to find out what’s in his room and do something about it. So create a problem that forces positive action. And create a character you like enough that you’re first choice for what he/she will do won’t be a spoiled child action.

3. The plot will follow the actions of the main character on the problem. Overcoming must not be easy. The main character needs to pull upon something positive in him/herself in order to solve the problem. He/she may need to be unusually brave, or unusually compassionate, or unusually clever (or some combination thereof). It is by pulling upon that reserve inside him/herself that the main character will grow and change.

Your Author Website: Three Tips for Building Your Author Website the Right Way

If you’re an author who wants to actually sell books, a solid author platform is just as important as your ability to write. There’s nothing more important to your author platform than your website.

The fact is that you are a brand, and every successful brand these days has a website that reflects its values and operates as a means of engaging, retaining and exciting “customers,” which, in your case are your readers.

Whether you’re just getting started building your author platform, or you’re looking for ways to improve your ability to retain and grow your reader base, the following tips will help you get on the right track as you begin building (or rebuilding) your website:

#1 – Take Care of Your Domain Name

If you are the brand, the URL for your website should make that fact clear. That’s why we recommend using your actual name (or pen name if you write under a pseudonym).

You can search domain names to see what’s available by using sites like domize.com. Once you’ve settled on your domain, you can purchase the name — probably for just a few dollars a year — from sites like GoDaddy, iwantmyname or hover.

Now, you may be tempted to choose a domain suffix such as “.biz,” “.info” or “.me,” but we recommend choosing the “.com” option, if it’s available. Otherwise, you might lose some valuable traffic!

#2 – The Host with The Most

Once you’ve wrapped up your domain name, it’s time to find hosting so your site has a place to operate on the web. If this is confusing, think of it this way: your domain name is the website’s address; the host provides the actual home.

There are lots of ways to avoid paying money when it comes to hosting. For example, you could set up a free site on Tumblr, redirecting it to your own URL, but the goal here is to build a great-looking, professional website, not to pinch pennies.

We recommend using paid hosting services, such as those offered by BlueHost — a company that lots of authors have used to host top-quality sites without breaking the bank.

#3 – What Powers Your Website?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably not a web designer with vast experience using JavaScript, HTML or CSS. Therefore, you’re going to want to select a platform for your site.

There are numerous options available, but it’s hard to ignore the power, flexibility and ease of use provided by WordPress. It’s the platform that thousands of authors around the world have used successfully to build pro-quality websites that keep readers coming back. If you’ve been wondering how you can build a site that looks and functions great without having much (if any) coding experience, WordPress will give you the ability to build a gorgeous site in just minutes.