Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Talking about writing: How a feature post is made

Today I wanted to go over the conception and execution of a feature post. Features are the Massively code word for anything from about 500 words plus. You'll see them as Featured Posts or whatever on their little sidebar widgets. It could be interesting for people who want to know about writing that sort of thing or who are just interested in the thought process in my brain.

Generally full features are 700-800 words minimum, and there's a sort of guideline to keep them under 1000 post-cut so that people don't tl;dr them. It's also because there's this thought that if you write 2000 words you should be paid for 2000 and not for 1000, which is good for us writers.

Every writer handles these kinds of posts differently, but for me I start with a huge brainstorm on the topic I want to cover. Normally I end up with 6+ talking points, and I want probably 3. Even 3 is pushing 1200 words for me since I tend to write huge paragraphs. Thus, I narrow my topic that I wanted to cover down. Sometimes that means splitting it up into two different posts, which is why you see related posts on concurrent column weeks.

I just know offhand that 3 talking points will put me at between 800 and 1200 words. 2 talking points will put me at 600-800 words, and if I write 200+ words in the pre-cut header that gets me to 800 words which is sort of the minimum for a feature. I don't really like going the minimum bar but sometimes it's hard to broaden a topic without making it too big, and in a few situations there's a point I want to make but I have to work to get it to the minimum.

If you are writing something like this though I highly recommend you outline the talking points first. Your points should kinda roll into each other and work well together. I have an audiographic memory so I tend to write my entire article in my head before I write it. I'm not even joking. For most people you'll just want to outline first.

If I don't know something I start fact checking. A lot of the time I'm not clear on points, for instance on a guide to placing wards, I am far from the best resource. Naturally a bit of google can go a long way. Try to avoid having holes in your facts, but honestly if people want to criticize they'll find a way.

Now bam, we start writing. I just hit buttons and words come out. My first draft usually sucks, it's what drafts are for. I just go all out and hit as much stuff in my talking points as I can. If I'm short, I just take one of my other ideas that will fit my current theme and throw it in. This is sometimes why you read one of my articles and it feels disjointed. It's also possible that I just totally suck and flow my article poorly. It happens. I've written a lot of stuff on Massively that I was not really thrilled with.

Anyway then once I've done that I go back and look at stuff. Normally I fix grammar mistakes ahead of time; the only reason this article has so many is because I'm trying to write more naturally. What I generally mean by go back is that I start to look at hooks in the opening paragraph (especially first sentence) and polish that up, and then add or remove stuff from earlier paragraphs to improve flow. Sometimes I just chop a whole paragraph because it sounds totally dumb.

Often, I am at 1600 words and have to cut stuff. That is infuriating because I have to go back through everything and chop little words or phrases out that aren't needed. Being concise is good though, and we should all really try to keep what we write to a manageable size. There's no need to spend 80 words on one thought when 40 will do.

Outlining and idea brainstorming takes the most time. I think for most writers, 1000 words takes 3+ hours of brainstorming and developing an idea to the point that it's writable. I think for Brendan it takes even longer. I cheat a bit by remembering everything and thinking about it while I'm getting up or eating or lying around thinking about sleeping or going out for a smoke. However, this assumes you know the content already. Obviously you also have to have the experience in whatever you're writing about, and that can take days or weeks or even longer.

Actually writing takes everyone a different amount of time. For me it's generally around 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Some people are faster, some are slower. Editing for me is a little bit faster than most people because I self-edit while writing, making for less actual editing during the end. I imagine it's more like another hour on the average, but I don't know.

Media is the worst part for me. I hate visual art; I'm an aural learner so anything visual is alien to me. This is why I won't be using pictures much here unless someone else provides them. It takes me literal hours to produce 3 images for a column. SCREW THAT. For most people I think it's much faster, they naturally see things they like in games and take screens or whatever, but I end up in crunch trying to get screens from friends or off official sites. I absolutely suck at art.

Once that's all done, then I hit post and pray people don't hate me for writing.

Note for the curious: I smoke e-cigarettes; I quit real cigarettes a long time ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment