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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 24th day of Swimming, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 110 > Articles > A Writer On Writing

A Writer On Writing

by bluescorchio104

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 work.

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 or past-time.

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!

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