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How to Write a Neopian Times Article


by marzipan

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Some of you may have noticed the title's obscure literary reference to Edgar Allen Poe's "How to write a Blackwood Article", although it's probably the case that you didn't. Fo'shame.

In any case, it's about time we took a look at the process behind writing an article. Many of you out there want to be published in the Neopian Times, not least for those shiny avatars and occasional prizes

Obscure literary references aside, this article aims to help you, the reader and aspiring writer, to write your first, second or twenty-seventh article.

1. Read

A lot. From newspapers to journals to short stories, reading other people's writing will not only improve your own writing skills, but also widen your vocabulary and help you develop your own style. If you find something that is not to your interest, move on to something that is. Reading is a leisure activity and, just like any other past time, there's no point in forcing yourself to read something if you don't enjoy it.

If you don't know where to start reading; start here in the Neopian Times. This is a great source of information and literature, written by others who are aspiring writers, just like yourself.

2. Research

If you're taking the journalistic approach to your article, perhaps documenting world changes or interviewing a famous Neopian, you need to do your research before you begin to write. Inaccuracy can and will mislead your precious readers, so check twice before you claim a piece of information to be true in your article. Even if you're writing a story with fictional characters, you still need to do a certain amount of research. For example, if your tale's set in Terror Mountain, but you have your protagonist wandering through a desert in the middle of the story, that's not making going to make much sense.

Remember, TPO - "Time, Place and Occasion".

3. Brainstorm

More often than not, ideas don't come spontaneously; writer's block can strike at any moment and last for any amount of time. Other times, you're not sure what's the best for you to write about, since you have too many concepts. Writing all your ideas down in a list or putting them in a diagram can really aid your thought process, and clear up any doubts or discrepancies you have about your topic of choice.

Additionally, when you brainstorm, you will be able to see how much material you have for a topic. This can allow to determine whether to scrap the idea due it being fruitless, or to split the piece into serials if you have too much to write about.

4. Planning & structure

This is really important. If you don't structure your article properly, you're liable to repeat yourself or simply not make any sense. List the main points you want to include in your article. Whether you end up following that plan is not essential, as when you get down to the physical act of writing, you might find that another structure flows better. However, having a starting point to guide you in your writing will make it easier for you to write, and for your readers to read.

5. Edit

As poor, aspiring writers, not many of us can afford to hire an editor. The alternative? Either coerce a (willing) friend or family member to help proof-read your piece in return for washing the dishes or a back rub. Or, the more common alternative, do your own editing; beggars can't be choosers. I should also stress that editing is very important. If your article is rejected by the NT team, 9 times out of 10 it's because there are too many spelling errors or weirdly constructed sentences.

Frequently, reading your own writing is a difficult thing to do. You will fail to pick up many mistakes, so the best solution to this is to read your writing out loud. This goes not only for your creative writing, but for anything you write for school or, er, other official purposes. *shifty eyes*

6. Outside input

As aforementioned, sometimes ideas don't come to you like light bulbs. The solution? Ask others for help. Talking to other people can let you perceive ideas that are just on the brink of realisation. Other times, there are so many things that you want to write about, but don't know where to begin; getting someone else's opinion will help you in deciding what will be interesting and engaging for your writing.

There are some instances where this is vital, such as articles that reply on opinion polls. For example, if you want to write an article about what the most popular recent clothing items are, then you will need to obtain opinions from a range of Neopians.

Finally: don't just grab a random person on the street and talk about your writing to them. Chances are, they will through a shoe at you and scream at you to stay away from their children. Find a (willing) friend or family member to discuss your ideas with.

7. Find out what works best for you

While this guide aims to help you as much as possible at getting your article written and published, you have to realise that not everyone can follow the same process. There's a very simple reason for that, and it's because not everyone's the same. As a hopeful writer, you should try a variation of writing methods and systems, experiment with different styles and ideas, and ultimately decide what's the best for you.

8. Success!

While not in the process of writing, it's still important you know how to deal with success. So now that you've made it as a writer, one of two things will happen:

i. "I'm drowning in letters expressing their enthusiasm for my writing, HELP!" The way to deal with this is to take your time in replying to the mail. People who are enthusiastic about your writing like you, so they won't mind if you're a few days or a week late in replying to their mail; we all realise that we have our own lives to lead, and just tell them that you've been busy. Or, if there really are too many letters, put a note on your user lookup to thank everyone en masse, and explain that there's been too many responses for you to reply to them individually. Also, put those flowers in a vase and don't eat all of that chocolate at once.

or, the more likely scenario:

ii. "I'm famous! I'll get so many fan mails and roses, I can't wait for that to happen!" ...and you don't, because that's the harsh reality of life. Dealing with the lack of enthusiasm is also a much needed skill, because a lot of the time you will put a huge amount of energy into a piece of writing and end up feeling as if you've wasted all of that effort. The truth is, there are plenty of people who have read your writing, but a lot of the time they just don't contact you, either because they're shy or because they think they'll be a bother.

Sometimes, you have to realise there are the silent readers as well as the vocal ones, and they're both just as important.

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So this is the end. I have little else to say, and it is now your turn to type until your fingers fall off. Good luck, and Fyora speed.

Personal pro-tip: have a thesaurus on hand, whether a physical one that can double as a paperweight or one in your computer. It will help you learn new words, of which are sometimes more specific than the one you were using, and it will allow your sentences to flow better, since you can avoid repeating the same word over and over again.

 
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