These steps to making writing easy are from a writer’s workshop given by Michael Gartner.
A reader shared these tips on the writing technique in the comments section of one of my articles; they’re too good to waste away at the end of an article!
This post was contributed by Katie, at the end of 20 Writing Quotes From Famous Authors – From Hemingway to Jong. Not all of the tips are new, but it’s good for all writers to review the basic tips from time to time.
The Writing Technique in 12 Easy Steps
Michael Gartner, legendary writer, gave a speech about fun writing at the writer’s workshop a few years ago. He laid out the writing technique in 12 easy steps.
Step 1: Report. Gartner emphasizes that a good writer should never leave out facts, details, quotes, and descriptions. He basically said not to get too caught up in perfect writing and forget the important facts that people actually want to know.
Step 2: Read. Read anything and everything he says. Read news articles, fiction, nonfiction, magazines, etc. Read anything you can and as much as possible. I myself have been slacking on this, I read for class but that’s about it. I don’t have time to read for fun or long news articles. I read to stay informed, but that’s about it.
Step 3: Listen. To be able to report the facts, details, quotes, and descriptions, you have to listen for them and remember them. There is often a story beyond simply what the interviewee is telling you, it’s in their emotion. Solid writing technique is about listening, not just writing.
Step 4: Simplify. At this writer’s workshop, Gartner told a story about when he was just out of college and Barney Kilgore told him “the easiest thing for a reader to do is quit reading.” He never forgot that advice and thought about it during every story. Keep the reader interested, don’t bore them or make the story too complicated to follow. I’ve also been told this information in my Com 165 class and I feel it keeps me on track when writing stories.
Step 5: Collaborate. Create good relationships with your editors and talk to them about anything you need help with. A good editor can turn you into a great writer. Having a bad editor could distract you from your work.
Step 6: Trust. Gartner said, “trust means honesty and respect, openness and courtesy. You simply cannot work with someone you don’t trust.” You need trust with your coworkers and your editor. You are all working for the same goal, to put out a great newspaper or news program, so you must trust each other to accomplish that goal. A writer’s technique isn’t just about the writing working alone.
Step 7: Experiment. Experimenting keeps you from becoming a hack. It also keeps your readers interested and reading. Go away from the ordinary. Don’t be afraid to try something new! It might fail, but it also might flourish, you never know if you don’t take that chance. In this writer’s workshop, I realized this is something I need to do more in my writing.
Step 8: Talk. Talk to others about your stories, especially the lead and the ending, or simply talk to yourself. Saying a sentence out loud makes it easier to hear how it flows with the rest of the paragraph or article. A story should flow like a song, have a ‘cadence.’ It might look good on paper, but reading out loud could shine a whole new light on the piece.
Step 9: Pounce. Good writing technique means you don’t let a good quote slip by. Use the quote in the best way. Quotes can go in many places in an article, but a good reporter knows where they’ll have the most effect. To be able to recognize a good quote you have to go back to step 3: listen.
Step 10: Love. You must love writing and love reporting! If you don’t, you will never be a good writer. At this writer’s workshop, Gartner said, “if you don’t love at least 20% of you job, then just quit, find something else.” You also must love facts and be curious about everything, even things that don’t seem important.
Step 11: Care. Care kind of goes along the lines of love. If you don’t care about what you’re reporting on then it will probably show in your writing, and the readers won’t care if you don’t care. If you care about a story, even a crappy one, you can make it interesting. Find the hidden detail that can make your story shine.
Step 12: Balance. This is the final step of good writing technique. At least in the newspaper business, you cannot be a good writer if you write unfair stories. If you write unfair stories it ruins your credibility and that of the newspaper. And you will most likely lose your job.
There is a lot that goes into developing good writing technique, but according to Gartner, “there is nothing more satisfying, nothing more fun.”
What do you think about these 12 steps to a solid writing technique? Comments welcome below…
For more tips on the writing technique, read 5 Reasons Writers Should Not Outline Articles or Essays.