Fiction Daily.
A blog on writing, writers and why we read. Posted most mornings by Marion Blackburn.
Unwelcome delays
Yesterday's post talked about the many ways I fail to say anything meaningful when writing. How does that happen?

When writing articles, one of the hardest choices -- some would say THE hardest choice -- is knowing how to start the thing.

Do I use a straightforward sentence? Do I use a delayed lead? Do I start with one person's story?

Not only do I have several options, but there are also the voices of 20 years of editors screaming at me: Don't back into your lead. Don't start with a prepositional phrase. Don't start with quotes. Don't use passive voice. Get into it quicker. You get the picture.

That's one of the reasons I believe we hate to write. Not only is it a pretty grueling process, but most people have experienced nothing but criticism and grief for their efforts.

I have a personal saying that goes, Easy to criticize, hard to do.

People love to stand courtside, yammering about how badly the team is playing. Have you every tried to outrun five guys dribbling a ball while the shot clock is ticking and the other team is trying to foul you so hard your nose bleeds?

Back, though, to the point at hand. (I guess it's no surprise it's taken me so long to get here.) We find it very difficult to get down to business in writing. I have so many choices I am frozen trying to figure out the best way to open the article. Or, once I get started, I find myself spending paragraph after paragraph in transition, that is, trying to get from one vague point to another.

I've found that to get started writing any article, I sit down and start pecking. Usually I find the lead somewhere around the fourth or fifth paragraph. So I just go back to the top and delete until I get to the good stuff. Or, I'll take all that extended introduction and see if it fits somewhere in the middle of the article, as transition, or as second and third leads.

I have to be very careful to take a hard look at an article, once written, and ask myself, Am I saying anything of value here?

Sometimes that's a question that's best left unanswered.
2008-01-25 12:22:55 GMT
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