Published on 11th April, 2015
On Productive Muslim
This is the original version
So You Think You Can Write?
The Secrets No One Will Dare Share!
Sing it with me…
♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬
Let’s start at the very beginning….
A very good place to start…
When you read you begin with…?
A, B, C
When you write you begin with…
You’ll have to cut me some slack people! Formally teaching practical tips on how to write effectively has never been my thing for three reasons:
1- I’m anything but formal
2- I’m anything but practical
3- Yeah I don’t really have a third, I just know there must be three reasons for everything that’s all.
The most important lesson I learnt when studying how to write articles was actually learning how NOT to write! It’s a constant battle trying to convey professional and practical information in a way that doesn’t sound too academic or downright boring! (Yes, I just voiced out every editor’s worst nightmare too!). One of my professors once said, “If it sounds like a writing then you have to re-write it!”
Confused? Okay let’s think of a way to make this a little bit easier….
Think of writing like baking a delicious cake. First you get all the ingredients ready with exact measurements and everything, you mix them up and put the batter in the oven, and when the cake is ready that’s where you decorate it and serve it to your lovely guests, who make all the yummy noises you just love to hear!
In my head, writing is a similar process. Your brain is needed to gather information on the topic you’re intending to write about, mix them up so all the points blend together, then put your writing away for a couple of hours or even a couple of days before you read it again with a fresh mind. Finally, polish your writing up with new thoughts; as you become your own critic. Decorate it with titles, comments, and spelling checks, then serve it to your audience on a platter of casual humor and enjoy their wonderful feedback.
(I’m fighting the urge to delete these last two sentences because they’re obviously beyond cheesy! That’s another crucial point to consider. When whisking in your imagination with your informative article, don’t overdo it, and know when to STOP!)
There is no such thing as a good writer or a bad writer. If you follow the rules and instructions, you’ll get it right. But that’s not the point. That cake you baked will be just as good as any other cake, unless it’s baked with love; an extra ingredient that some writers tend to overlook. Writing with passion transforms scientific or theoretical information into pure art and that’s where the heart comes in….
Ready. Set. Relate!
Know your audience my lovely fellow writers!
When telling a story to a child for example, you’ll probably simplify it as much as you can, add some funny facial expressions and use different vocal tones to capture their short-spanned attention.
When speaking to the Imam of a mosque, you’ll probably lower your voice out of respect, avoid sarcastic jokes and keep your conversation within the realms of Islamic knowledge.
You get the gist of it, right?
Your readers have very limited time, and you can’t expect them to will themselves into forcefully reading your article if it doesn’t strike their interest or curiosity. I mean, why would they? If the question we all ask of ‘what is in it for me?’ isn’t answered in your first paragraph, then it’s ‘good luck and bye bye Charlie!’.
Close your eyes before you start writing and imagine a room full of readers. What are they here for? What do they need from you? And how can you keep them interested till the end of your writing?
The answer is: Know your audience and RELATE to them. Don’t obsess about sounding smart and sophisticated. Keep it simple. And most importantly, keep it real.
Too Much Is Just What It Sounds Like: Too Much!
Dear readers. If you’re interested in learning how to use your free time wisely, then you’ll definitely find this article beneficial. There are 7 rules to apply; each rule is broken down to 15 major points. Of course each point is categorized into 24 aspects and each aspect has 8 goals to aim for. Each of the 8 goals has a list of 36 points to check and each of these points is explained in 9 different sub-categories that spread out into 124 topics you’re definitely not interested in. Enjoy!
It’s out of delightful excitement that writers cram in too much information and I get that. We each have an enthusiastic teacher living inside of us, waiting to be discovered and goes overboard when that opportunity presents itself. But let’s face it; we live in a fast-paced world with too many distractions to start with. You’re probably reading this article while making a sandwich, listening to another lecture, watching a video your friend sent you and talking on the phone, all at the same time! Our eyes turn to scanning devices and simply skim through the article instead of actually reading it, and I bet that’s the last thing you want your readers to do. Get to the point and avoid all the excruciating details because sometimes TMI equals to zero.
(For those who don’t have teenagers at home, TMI means ‘Too Much Information’, but apparently using whole sentences isn’t ‘cool’ anymore LOL)
Titles, Tiles, Tiles
Don’t judge a book by its cover?
Well if the cover is a snooze fest you probably won’t even get to the judging part because you’ll be too busy sleeping!
Your title is readers’ first impression of your work, and we never get a second chance to make first impressions now do we?
A title must be intriguing, controversial, or at least arouses the curiosity to find out more. That’s all there is to say to here.
Oh Yes You’ll Fail
I can’t remember how many articles I wrote and saved in a file on my computer named “BORINGGGGGG!’. They can’t all be gems, but my advice is to keep writing anyway. Write, write and write some more, but don’t expect every single word to get published. Editors will turn you down. A LOT! Trust me! My work has been rejected so many times I had to put in a special order for new thicker skin because I was on the verge of quitting. My best friend can tell you horror stories about how I almost gave up on becoming a writer all together, and I owe it to her support that I’m still here now, writing about how to write effectively.
A wise man once said, “Everything in this world is wasted once used up except for talent; the more you use it the better it gets!”
I will not pretend I only depended on a talent though. I actually took all kinds of courses and read numerous books about the art of writing. That’s another piece of cherished advice; be humble enough to know there’s still a lot more to learn even when you start thinking you know it all.
No One Is Better At Being You Than YOU!
“I only have one Lulls!” My best friend always says. (That’s my nickname in case you’re wondering!) And she’s right. There’s only one of me, one of her and one of you. We are all very unique and special in very different ways. If you want to take one thing out of this article to be the golden rule of writing it’s definitely this: BE YOURSELF. Talk to us through your articles the same way you would talk to us in person, or the same way you talk to your friends. Unless you’re writing a progress report or an assignment for a college professor, don’t feel like you have anything to prove. Be casual, funny or even a little bit silly, that’s okay. If it’s from your heart it will surely reach our hearts… That’s the one language we all have in common.
Finally, make sure you end your article with a note of hope… Give us that serenity we all desperately need and promise us that everything will be okay. Let your final words embrace your readers and leave them feeling encouraged to be better. Be an inspiration to those who trust you with their precious time. Be grateful for even the slightest chance to touch hearts and enlighten other people’s worlds. It’s a humbling gift from Allah… use it and share it and don’t be scared to let your imagination run wild. If I sit and tell you how many times I fell and got up again you’ll probably laugh and cry at the same time. But you know what? If I could do it so can you. If I was able to become ‘me’ you can surely find a way to be ‘you’… Give us a glimpse of how remarkable you are and how your words can bring out the amazing powers we have hidden inside of us… in the end, that’s all we truly need…
Lilly S. Mohsen