What Is The Single Worst Writing Mistake?

The following answer sounds simplistic?but think about it. The single worst writing mistake is "not starting."

In my 20-plus years as a magazine editor, I read dozens ? perhaps hundreds ? of articles on writing. But few gave me advice on beginning a report.

See, if I can't decide how to start something, I hesitate. If I hesitate, I next procrastinate. Procrastination turns to delay, then into hiatus. Whenever I get to that "hiatus" state, I sometimes just abandon the story idea completely.

Please, don't let that happen to you! Here are some "story-starter" ideas to help you commit those first thoughts to paper:

1. If the story is a feature, think first about your CONCLUSION. What main theme do you want to convey to the reader?

2. If the story is a research report, think first about your SOURCES. What experts or researchers do you need to contact? What specific information do you need from them?

3. If you're writing a persuasive paper, think first about EVIDENCE. What facts do you need to present to prove your point?

4. Now, here comes the hardest part: What should your first sentence be?

Here's my secret: I start with my conclusion first, then build the rest of the story to support it. (That technique is discussed in detail in Chapter Three of my book, "Words That Stick.")

One other tip: If you've got a great idea for a report or story, don't let it get away. At the very least, make a short note about it on your desk calendar or in a notebook.

Your very next idea could be a truly great one.

Rix Quinn offers writing tips for both students and professionals in his new book "Words That Stick." It's available from your local bookstore, or http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN /1580085768/qid/

For details on Rix's next telephone seminar, call 817-920-7999.

In The News:

Marilyn's writing debut  Royal Gazette
Here Come the Prose Police  The Chronicle of Higher Education
Public Writing and the Junior Scholar  The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Heavy Unseen Labor of Writing Reference Letters  The Chronicle of Higher Education
Literal Writing Exercises  The New Yorker
Scholars Talk Writing: TJ Stiles  The Chronicle of Higher Education
Tinker, Tailor, Writer, Spy  The New York Times

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