What is the point of this post?

I found another writing trick this week. This one helps me make sure my story flows in a logical order, and that it addresses all the important points.

Editing our own work is hard. We all gloss over sentences when we already know what we meant them to say. We know how we got from one paragraph to the next, and it’s easy to forget to bring the reader along.

This week as I was editing Susan’s story about evolutionary pressures on islands, I took note of where the article left me, the reader, at the end of each paragraph. Then, if I had a question, or wanted to know more about something she mentioned, I wrote it down.

So what’s the trick? Sometime as I’m writing a first draft, it helps to start each new graf with a question. I read the previous graf and ask myself what I’m left wondering about. Then I write it down.

Having the question on the screen in front of my face makes me focus the graf on answering that question, which forces me to stick to one topic per graf. It also prevents me from leaping into a totally new topic with no transition. If it’s appropriate to the format I’m writing for, I might even leave the question in the final version.

This definitely doesn’t work all the time. But sometimes is better than no times, I think.

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About szubryd

I come alive when I talk about science. Whether I'm asking about marine ecology or writing about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, I light up. I've found myself vehemently defending evolutionary theory from inside a bathroom stall, sitting at a bar holding the interest of self-proclaimed potheads with an explanation of endogenous cannabanoid receptors, and discussing the causes of eutrophication in streams on a second date (he was a keeper, by the way). It took an astute college mentor and the challenge of reporting about bisphenol A to point me toward science writing as a career. I had a hard time believing I could make a living doing something so interesting, so much more rewarding than listening to marketers pitch the environmental benefits of their latest drain cleaner—the one with "Toxic" on the label. What could be better?
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2 Responses to What is the point of this post?

  1. danielleventon says:

    That is a neat trick. I’ve been noticing quite a bit of trouble organizing my own thoughts this week. I think I’ll give your new method a try. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  2. Jane Lee says:

    I find your trick useful some times, and I also find that if I copy and paste a pertinent comment or two from an edit into my piece, it helps to keep me on task. I take it out before I submit the final version, but it helps when I can just look up and see “SHOW ME,” or some such comment, all in caps.

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