A Writer On Writing
DEEP CATACOMBS - Um, yes, readers, I may not exactly be a writer (yet!) but I've
still managed to gather my wits (which live considerably far apart), and produce
this unconventional little guide on writing -- mostly article writing, as that
is my chosen field. This is by no means a step-by-step, carefully written manual
to be followed to the letter -- this is merely a guide, mixed with some personal
opinions, past experiences and a liberal sprinkling of humour. Take note of the
word GUIDE. This means I'm not going to hold your hand and talk to you in a baby
voice until you understand every aspect of writing; I'm just going to outline
a few points and hope the general population of Neopia can keep up. And some of
the time I won't even talk about the writing process- just some of the stuff that
come with it that most people don't expect.
Firstly, the actual writing. There are dozens of guides already around that
are enormously useful, whether you want to write an article, story or series.
So I won't go into that. But here's a tip -- read the guides written by the
experienced writers. I mean, if you wanted someone to teach you basketball,
and you had a choice, who would you ask -- a pro basketball player or the guy
on the street corner ranting about the end of the world? Duh. The same applies
to writing guides. Shidi is a great example of an experienced writer. Not only
has she been published dozens of times, her work is held in high regard just
about everywhere. To find the guides, just use the search engine thingy in the
side bar of The Neopian Times.
Tip No. 1: Here's something I feel I REALLY need to say, in spite of the fact
it's already been said in numerous writing guides- CONSTANTLY IMPROVE! There
is absolutely no point in sending in the same article or story fifty times.
But if every time you get rejected, you tweak it just a little bit, improve
it just a bit, and proofread it one more time, maybe it'll get in. Maybe. And
if you've improved it enough, it WILL get in, unless a computer virus wrecks
the Neopet's Team's computers, or some such.
Tip No. 2: Realise when to give up. If you've submitted a piece of work, say,
ten times, and the editor has not shown even a flicker of interest, don't bother.
Try writing something else. What happens if nothing you write gets published?
Give up -- temporarily. What I'm saying isn't really to give up -- what I'm
trying to say is improve your writing skills, and come back and have another
try. Take a writing course, or just read more books. Studying a particular author's
style of writing might help you improve your own -- just don't plagiarise their
And, if after all of that, and you feel you can't try any harder, try something
else. Have a go at drawing a comic, perhaps. After all, writing for the Neopian
Times isn't meant to be a lifetime aspiration or anything -- it's just a hobby
Tip No. 3: Some articles, no matter how well written, will never get into the
Neopian Times. Usually, it's the choice of topic that causes this. Never write
about religion, current world events, or anything that has the potential to
really offend people. Mildly offensive is okay for some matters, as long as
they are Neopets orientated -- the Lupe vs. Chia debate for instance.
Tip No. 4: Beware the baggage. When I say baggage, I mean the stuff that naturally
comes with getting published. Neomail, both insulting and complimentary, is
the biggest, most obvious example of this. If you want to, set guidelines on
you lookup page as to what a Neomail sent to you should look like. Some people
may take this the wrong way, and decide you are an arrogant, self-centred writer
with an overblown ego. Most will sensibly acknowledge that such guidelines are
reasonable in cases where the amount of NT-related Neomail becomes ridiculous,
and such restrictions need to be implemented.
Tip No. 5: Don't be afraid to walk the well-worn path. By this I mean, don't
be afraid to choose subjects that have been written about one or two times before.
As long as you can put a new spin on the subject, and make it attractive and
entertaining to readers, it'll be great.
Tip No. 6: Get with the program. Now, overlooking the fact that I never, NEVER,
say phrases like 'get with the program', I'll explain just what I mean. When
writing about current issues, make sure your article is up-to-date. Obviously,
you can never be perfectly up-to-date. After all, an article submitted an hour
before the new NT comes out would never make it into that issue. Articles centred
around recent events will never get published, say, months after the event has
passed. So just dump the article -- don't bother submitting again and again
if you feel its no longer current. The exception to this advice is if the article
in question is MEANT to be looking back on a past issue- e.g. an article reflecting
on the first years of Neopets, the opening of the Battledome, etc.
Tip No. 7: Don't assume your readers are stupid. Then again, don't assume
they're superhuman geniuses either. So please, no rants on how to turn on a
light switch, or on the laws of quantum physics. However, if the subject is
overly complicated, dumb it down.
Tip No. 8: When using humour, don't be afraid to make fun of yourself. If you
exaggerate, the audience will know that. For instance, if I said that I'm dumber
that a blob of purple jelly, you would know that I'm comparing myself super-smart
sentient jelly from outer space, right? Okaaay, maybe not. But you would still
know that I'm not really as dumb as a blob of (ordinary) jelly, because if I
were, I wouldn't be able to understand the English language, would I? I mean,
could a blob of jelly remember 'I before E, except after C'? Or maybe that's
actually 'I before C, except after E'…
Tip No. 9: When writing a satirical piece, make sure the readers know that
this is the case. A small footnote will usually be enough to let readers know.
If you're cautious, put the footnote at the start of the article rather than
the end. Some people may get so angry reading your article, they might stop
reading it halfway, and consequently never read the footnote, and hence never
know that the article is actually satirical. When that happens, just wait for
the hate mail to roll in. Trust me, I know from personal experience. What makes
it even worse is that the person may block you from replying, so you can never
inform them of their error.
Tip No. 10: Don't rant and ramble excessively. Ranting and raving, in some
cases, may be acceptable, but only if it actually has a point, or if the ranting
in question is used to emphasise a point. Which could be considered to be the
same thing, but then again, the other day my Zafara took his Petpet for a walk,
which was odd, because it was a Pet Rock, and halfway through the walk, which
was really a drag, and I mean in both senses of the word, a Petpet conservationist
starting throwing Zeenanas at him, then my Zafara started eating the Zeenanas,
which were purple with pink polka-dots for some reason, and… where was I?
Tip No. 11: I know that what I'm about to write next sounds (or is that looks?)
really obvious, but I have to emphasise: DON'T PLAGIARISE!!!! If you do, the
writer whose work you've plagiarised will hunt you down, hit you over the head
with their favourite fruit (or if they're indecisive, an assorted fruit basket),
kick you in the shins, and run off. Or, if they're excessively lazy (hey, stop
staring at me like that!) they'll employ a bounty hunter to do that particular
job. And you sure don't want that -- after all, I've heard bounty hunters' favourite
fruits are usually things such as thornberries and Pet Rocks. What's that, Pet
Rocks aren't fruits? Not according to them.
And besides, the editor will delete the plagiarised work, and your trophy --
not to mention people will boo and hiss at you in the street. And if you have
the nerve to plagiarise something big, like a certain author's certain 'tap-dancing
radioactive pineapple with optional drink-holders' trademark, then be prepared
to be kicked TWICE in the shins.
Tip No. 12: Write for the right reasons. Don't write just because you want
that shiny golden feather -- write because you want to make people laugh, or
give people a helping hand, or just give them some joy in their day. If not
that, do it because you love to write. I myself wrote my first few articles
purely for the trophies -- after all, I was never in time to guess the Mystery
Pic, was never smart enough to understand the Lenny Conundrum, and wasn't skilled
enough to play any games particularly well. So, I did what I was good at --
writing. Now, however, things have changed somewhat. I don't write for the trophies
anymore -- I write because I like to think that through my articles, somewhere
in the big wide world, I'm making someone's day just a little bit better. The
feeling of satisfaction I get from that is worth a million trophies.
So, learnt anything yet? Well, hopefully you did because it's the end of the
article. I look forward to seeing your work published in The Neopian Times!