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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 21st day of Sleeping, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 19 > Articles > Article Writing Workshop

Article Writing Workshop

by shidi

As a professional (and often published in The Neopian Times) writer, I am frequently Neomailed with questions about how to write well, or how to refine one's writing skills. Because of this, I have put together this three part writing workshop to help aspiring writers hone their skills.

Everyone (yes, this means you!) has the ability to write an article. There are some people, however, for whom writing comes more naturally than others. They always seem to know the right words to say, and the proper context in which to place them. For the rest of the world, however, writing can be a struggle, or even at times, a chore. By following four simple steps you can turn out a great article in no time!

Step One:

Determine your Skill Level
How are/were your language arts grades? The more proficient you are with the elements of grammar and style, the more intelligent and comprehensible your writing will be. If you are not very skilled in the language arts, work on improving your spelling and grammar skills first. This is something that will benefit you for your entire life. If you have a reasonable proficiency in the language arts, and can understand how grammar and tense operate, you're ready to write. If you are not as skilled as you should be...

Can you Fake It?
There are wonderful strides being made these days with spell-check and grammar-check technology. Use them. If you have a limited vocabulary, pick up a thesaurus to add variety to your words and sentence structure. And above all, never use "chat abbreviations" in a formal published work. These include "u" for "you" and "ur" for "your" and "z" for words where an "s "belongs. These abbreviations aren't funny, or cute, they just make your article look poorly written, and barely literate. So just don't use them.

Step Two:

Take a blank piece of paper or a notepad on your computer and just jot down ideas for what you'd like the topic of your article to be. Don't worry about what they are at this point, or how silly they may be, just let your brain power flow. Write down directly everything that comes to mind, without editing, onto the paper or notepad. Do this for five to ten minutes then examine the results. Eliminate inappropriate topics by asking the following questions in regards to what your brainstorming turned up:

Am I knowledgeable on this topic?
Does this topic interest me?
Is this a topic other people would be interested in?
Is this a fresh topic, or has it been overdone?

Go Topical!
Once you have chosen your topic, plan out what you will write on that topic. Make sure that you include relevant information only, and that you do not include anything that would violate the Neopets terms and conditions. Organise a list of sub-topics. For example, an article on the game Tombola might include the following:

Introduction/What the word Tombola means
The location of the Tombola.
How often you can play Tombola.
Some sample prizes I have received from Tombola.
Why the Tiki Tack Man isn't in the Tombola sometimes (when it's closed)
Conclusion: Why I like Tombola.

Step Three:

The Write Stuff!
Starting with the introduction, begin to write a rough draft of your piece. The introduction should include what I like to call 'the hook'. This is basically an interesting sentence (usually the first sentence or two ) that gives readers a reason to keep on reading. Going with the example of the Tombola article above, you might use this as your hook:

Hey, mon - have you heard the native drums beating out the news? Tiki Tack Tombola is the happening place to be!

This gives a humorous island accent to what could be a boring sentence pair like:

Tombola is free. You should play it.

A reader would be more likely to find the first sentence pair interesting than the second. Hooking a reader will keep them wanting to find out more, which means they will read your article in detail, and not just pass it over, or give it a skim.

Edit, Edit, and more Edit
Revision is the key when you're a writer. Very rarely is the first draft of writing perfect. Check your writing for spelling and grammar errors by hand to catch the more obvious ones, then run it through the spell and grammar check of your word processor. After that is done, print out a copy and read it aloud to see how the piece flows. If it sounds choppy, or unclear, edit the sections that don't mesh well, and try again. Lastly, share your piece with a friend who writes well, and get their honest opinion. When you are satisfied with your editing, you're ready for the final step...

Submit your article to The Neopian Times by e-mail as an attached document with all the formatting put in (bold, underline, etc.) where you want it. Make the subject of your e-mail something that describes why you are e-mailing, such as: Article Submission. Write a polite, spellchecked, well written note in the e-mail that includes the following:

A polite greeting
Your NeoPets' username
A brief summary of your article's topic and purpose
A closing which thanks the editor of the Times for reading your work and considering it for publication.

If you are published--great! Be sure to tell all your friends to read your new article.

Oh, no! Your article wasn't published! Don't worry, it's not the end of the world. Most writers have a long stack of rejections that far outweighs their publications, especially when they are just getting started. Don't give up! Try rereading the article to see if there were any obvious errors you missed (unsuitable topic, bad grammar/spelling, unclear wording). If you find errors, rework it and submit the new and improved version.

Also, remember there is only so much space in the Times for articles each week. If other people submitted topics of a similar nature on the same week, your piece may not have been chosen due to the repeat topic through no fault of your own.

As with all things, practice makes perfect. You can be an article writer--don't give up! I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any questions about the content of this article, please feel free to Neomail me.

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