Posted by: nancyisanders | October 8, 2013

Highlights: Writing Session 2

I sat down to write my second paragraph in the beginning section of my nonfiction article for Highlights.

First, I read over the opening paragraph I had written the day before. I often start my writing day out like this and go back for a small editing session of the previous day’s work.

Before I started to edit it, I saved my file as the “B” version so that my first efforts will stay intact in case I want to go back to the original.

Right away, I spotted a glaring weakness in the opening paragraph. One of my quotes didn’t quite fit. It sounded like it would fit better at the end of the article rather than here in the beginning. So I cut this out of the first paragraph (footnote and all) and pasted it down at the end of the manuscript under a section I labeled, “Extra material.”

Then I spent about 15 minutes reading over my subject’s autobiography to find a better quote that fit. I found one and plugged it into my paragraph, rearranging the order of the previous sentences that I’d written until I felt better satisfied with it.

Then I pulled up my sample article in the Word document where I had typed it. This is where that exercise really comes in handy. I tested the word count in the first section of my sample target article and discovered that the first paragraph in my article had as many words in it as the entire first section of my target article!

So I cut my paragraph into two sections and tweaked it and trimmed it…now I just had one more paragraph to go.

I did some reading in my autobiography and tried out a few sentences and quotes, but nothing seemed to fit.

I realized I didn’t know the rest of my article well enough to flesh out this opening section.

So I set the opening section aside for awhile.

I picked up my plot chart and looked at section 2: the first half of the middle where my plan is to tell about my subject’s youth.

I felt much more confident dealing with this subtopic, so I started to work on my second section instead.

For an hour or two, I read through my subject’s autobiography, familiarizing myself with his childhood and looking for good quotes to use. I wrote one paragraph for each subtopic I had listed on my plot chart and found some nice quotes to weave into the narrative.

After I’d written 3 paragraphs, I pulled up my sample target article in Word again. This time I compared my section 2 with its section 2. Once again, I had way overshot the word length.

So I saved this as the “C” version of my file.

Then I went through and trimmed sentences and phrases to get the writing tighter and a closer match to my target article.

When I was finally finished with all this, I read over what I’d written so far.

Still stinks pretty much, I think, but that’s okay. Why? Because this is a first draft! Remember? First drafts usually stink.

But at least now I have almost half of the first draft of my article written. And that’s a very satisfying sense of accomplishment. Wahoo! I am building a solid foundation for this article and will be able to polish it and perfect it in the days ahead.

How about you? What kind of progress are you making on your manuscript? Go ahead and set aside an hour or two to read and research and write down sentences and even some paragraphs.

We’re moving forward on our journey! We’re practicing our skills at writing nonfiction. And that’s a good place to be.


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