Write your stories in your head
I’ve spent much of my life writing about people caught up in perilous and life-threatening situations.
Driving to the office from an accident, fire, court house or other location, I would write a provocative, short, five- or six-word headline in my head.
Next I composed the opening sentence in my head in 15 words or less. That’s as challenging as a headline.
Both headline and opening have to grab your readers and hold their attention.
I always made sure my verbs were active and my word choices compelling.
I could count the words and turn prepositions into adjectives, then perhaps eliminate the adjectives.
Finally I had to know how the final sentence – again in 15 words or less – would read. That often was a quote from one of the principle characters that seemed to wrap up the thrust of the article or an allusion to the opening sentence.
You’ve guessed it. I’m a minimalist. Less is more.
My stories tend to be short and to the point. This essay has only 232 words.
That’s how I still write essays, articles and flash fiction. It is a well-established process in my mind.
Whatever way you write, develop a process that works for you. Use it over and over.
It becomes like the practiced stroke of a golfer or baseball player.
The more you do it, the better you become.
Next: Tune up your ears
If our reporters wrote better it would make editing their work easier. It would make our news and feature articles sing. But we lack the time to coach them. Here’s a secret. Help them with a copy of writing coach Jerry Bellune’s The Art of Compelling Writing, $9.99 at Amazon.com.