Dive in Deep - Get Specific with your Contribution

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 15th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/a7aa37j4/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

How do you write your article? Do you just give the bare facts? Too many writers fail to get to the heart of the matter, fail to put in the correct level of detail, fail to tell the story adequately. Not surprising short articles are rejected as they offer little of value.

Short of the Standard

As a moderator I see many submissions here on Wikinut that fall dramatically short of the standard required for publication and are therefore rejected. One reason for rejection is that the material simply isn't long enough for publication and some promising openings are simply rejected because the writer fails to realise there needs to be more to the story. Indeed there is a simple fix for this, the writer needs to get more specific with what they write, stop glossing over the subject, add details, be more specific, describe what happened and get past the bare facts, explore the background behind the events in question

The typical story I see has some of the limitations demonstrated by the opening paragraph of one story:

    This unique Midtown hotel, offers guests complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, a fitness center and skyline views, it is walking distance to many of New York's hottest attractions.

The remaining two paragraphs gave no further details about the hotel, except suggesting the reader visit the hotel's web page. On the surface these sounds fine as an introduction but not enough as a complete description and there are many more details that should be provided. For example using the word "Unique" alone demands further explanation, what does this place offer that no other hotel in the city does? Some elements here tell me that what they offer is a standard hotel package (breakfast, Wi-Fi, etc.) and in New York everywhere has a skyline view. Truth is little in this sentence that distinguishes it from the hotel across the street or the one around the corner.

Enhance the Story

The snippet above is very general, indeed I copied this sentence into a search engine and was pointed at a hotel's website, almost unchanged, giving me the distinct feeling that the writer has never actually visited the hotel hardly a glowing recommendation for tourists to visit this hotel. In all probability the writer was paid to create links to the hotel website and started writing the article based on the words from the hotel's website. They are not giving the reader any reason to be excited about what they have to say, especially as the article was barely 150 words in length.

Today anyone can look-up information on the Internet to find details about a hotel in any location in the world and sadly if you look at the majority of hotel web pages, the text is boringly repetitive (certainly the part saying "offers guests complimentary breakfast, free Wi-Fi, a fitness centre") and would not normally form part of any review. What make this hotel special? Is the Andrew Carnegie Mansion next door? Perhaps it has a view of the Guggenheim Museum? Could it be there is a view of the Statue of Liberty? Even better show a picture and describe what makes this location special. The person reading your story needs to have the desire to go here.

From a few basic sentences it becomes possible to see other avenues that can be explored to enhance the story. For most stories there are many levels of detail that can be added in order to make the page more meaningful to the reader. Words like "unique", "powerful", "colourful", "enigmatic" seem to call out for further detail, extra discussion and should not be used with a sentence that is expected to be accepted on the face of it, indeed when you edit you piece you should ask yourself whether the words used demand a more detailed explanation to follow and when they you should ensure that detail is present.

Asking Who, What, Why, Where, When, How?

To get specific with the descriptions you white you should ask yourself questions, like what happened, why, where did it occur, who was involved, how did they impact the outcome and what was the result? Describe each of these elements and you will be surprised how much added content you have now included.

There are times when it is necessary to get under the skin and show what drives the people to take certain actions. In many respects it is also necessary for a writer to give away a part of themselves, the emotions they feel to increase the effectiveness - the element here being why you felt the story to be compelling, something drove you to write it down in the first place and you need to show that to your readers. Uncover the truth, even if you have to perform some research to get there.

Multiple Levels

Your story needs multiple levels - like laying the newspaper out in front of you, at the top is the name of the newspaper, somewhat like the headline of the article you are writing, beneath that there are several headlines that you can read, they are your section headings and beneath each of the headlines are the details of the story and there is a need to get very specific, get into the detail, get to the heart of the information and in doing so show people what it means and why it is important.

Show readers how don't tell them, be their guide this way you can help them understand what is happening. Think of it this way, your article is the canvas and the words you use are applied in the way an artist paints a picture, but when an artist paints a picture they do so through several layers, each laid over the top of one another, you can see the whole at a glance but that does not reveal all - when you look closer it is possible to find more detail, the same if true with the story you write, you must show the detail.

Word Choice Makes all the Difference

The choice between selecting one word or another can dramatically impact understanding. In using the English language there are multiple words that have the same or similar meaning, in part the reason for this is to allow a concept to be discussed without being repetitive, but also English has adopted words from many other sources. Given there are a million words word choice can make a difference to the reader's comprehension.

Calling something a scandal or scandalous, for example, may be considered harsh when criticising policies of a government department or the political party in power but there can be a different impact conveyed when using such a word, look at how the following two headlines may impact you:

  • Government's Health Policy is Scandalous
  • Government Health Policy Criticised

Both arguably say the same thing but use of the word "scandalous" in the first example implies that something underhanded is happening and is intended to cause the reader to be suspicious of everyone involved, perhaps demanding the resignation of someone involved, to say "criticised" on the other hand does not engender the same mood because government policy is always being criticised (even by members of the party in power) and the writer is saying that they should take another look at the situation.

An important element of writing is that the words used are proportional to the feeling being described by a cross section of the population, not just how you feel about the situation. In the same way that an artist uses tones to show stormy days or bright sunny ones the word artist (writer) must choose the most appropriate word to convey mood, but of course different people have different feelings which impact the word choice, but what is important is the picture that is painted and conveyed to the reader.

Pictures and Images

  • Collapsing before the finishing by INC Magazine
  • Low Value word cloud by Peter Giblett.
  • Ask the question by testnbug.com
  • Multiple levels by SDL Wealth
  • Word Choice by Peter Giblett

Other Material by Peter B. Giblett

Peter Giblett regularly publishes here on Wikinut and contributes a semi-regular column on 2 Drops of Ink, a site dedicated to the improvement of writing, grammar, and prose and his own blog called GobbledeGoox. Recent works on Wikinut include:

Wikinut is great a place to share some of your own personal wisdom by adding a comment or becoming a writer, join Wikinut and write.

Tags

Asking The Question, Dive In Deep, Enhance The Story, Get Specific, Low Quality, Multiple Level, Short Of The Standard, Wikinut, Word Choice

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar brendamarie
15th Oct 2015 (#)

Wow, great tips. It made me think about some of the stuff that I have written and could make better.

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author avatar Shamarie
15th Oct 2015 (#)

Excellent post, Peter! This is very helpful!!!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
15th Oct 2015 (#)

Brendamarie and Shamarie, I am glad to have helped.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
15th Oct 2015 (#)

Peter, thank you so much for sharing your article. Your article made me stop and think. I try to be very clear with a lot of detail when I write a story but after reading your article I think I can do better. Thank you so much.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
16th Oct 2015 (#)

Nancy, in my view with fiction the depth you go to in telling the story is all about letting the readers know the depth of character or the strength of the plot, it is about making the situation real.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
16th Oct 2015 (#)

Peter, I do hope I've made my characters real to my readers. I am going to try to go into more depth with each of them. I have twelve team members now in my story and I do think their personalities are coming out for everyone do see. Thanks for sharing this article.

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author avatar Retired
16th Oct 2015 (#)

When you started with the word "story" I thought that the example was going to be a work of fiction - presumably a murder that took place in the hotel in question!

If that was so, the opening line would not have been all that encouraging!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
16th Oct 2015 (#)

John, it matters not whether what you are writing is fiction or not it is in my opinion still a story that you are telling. The example was a real-life one, and something I have seen all to often posted here on Wikinut.

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author avatar onenow
16th Oct 2015 (#)

Good advice Peter.

Thanks,

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author avatar M G Singh
17th Oct 2015 (#)

Good suggestions Peter, but one must remember writing is also a lot of inspiration.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
19th Oct 2015 (#)

Yes it is, but even inspiration needs an assistance sometimes.

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author avatar Asha Desh
19th Oct 2015 (#)

Very helpful article for writers of all levels. Thank you.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
19th Oct 2015 (#)

Glad to be of service Asha.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
21st Oct 2015 (#)

It matters that we do justice to not only for the time and effort we set aside to write the post, but also as a courtesy extended to the readers.

Thanks Peter for the tips, we tend to forget the basics at times, but we should try to become a better writer all the time - quality over quantity anytime - siva

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author avatar Ptrikha
26th Oct 2015 (#)

Quite a useful article. I have even taken a printout of this and will try to follow tips as and when needed. :)

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Oct 2015 (#)

Thank you.

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