7 Steps To Get You Started On That Piece You’ve Waited Far Too Long To Write

Posted by Yashasvini Mathur in Culture-Vulture
November 5, 2017

You saw something. An idea struck your mind and you realised that this is something you want to address. The medium you choose? You decide to write a story!

Writing personal stories and experiences is mostly a straightforward process. The more in-depth pieces, needing a careful analysis of theories and complicated concepts are a little trickier.

While both styles share a common foundation. The big question is – where do you begin?

It does sound like an intimidating goal. Especially for first-time writers. But believe me, when I say, it’s really not that tough.

Here’s a little guide that might help you research for your first article or help you out with your 150th!

Step 1: Decide Your Topic And Find An Angle

The most important part of beginning your article is to decide your topic (duh) and find an angle that makes your piece different from others.*

(*Note: You need a ‘different angle’ because, in today’s social media age, the most obvious angle has been worked on within the first hour, and you’d end up with a story many have already read about.)

The simplest method to do this is to break down the topic and then think about the following things:

  • Why are you interested in this topic?
  • What’s the new angle you have?
  • Why does this topic/angle matter now?
  • Why will reader want to read this?

If you can answer all of the above, let’s move on. If not, it might be time to go back a little, brainstorm and then come back to check.

Step 2: Read Up On What Others Are Saying

Now that you have a broad topic and angle, it’s time to do some deep searching. You may have read up a lot on the topic already – (I usually open a Google doc, and save every link I read. Believe me, this doc is important and will be used in almost every step here on) and now it’s time to filter it.

If your story is absolutely unique, you can, of course, skip over this next list, but I’d recommend to give it a glance once.

Here’s what I suggest you should do:

  • Try to figure out why dominant media has missed out on what you want to address.
  • This one is important: Look for a narrative that completely disagrees with yours. Then, figure out why. Sometimes, sadly, they may bring up a point that totally takes down yours. It sucks, but this is important.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re good to go ahead. However, if you’ve stumbled on something that kills your idea, I’d suggest you go back, read up a little more and try again!

Step 3: Get Some Perspective And History

Trying to understand what is happening, why, and for how long it has been going on, will be extremely valuable for your piece.

Just like any good fictional story, your piece too, would need a bit of context, which will only come from when you do lots and lots of reading up (remember the Google doc we talked about? Use it here too!).

Especially if you are looking at theories, concepts and research to be quoted in the article, do think of these points:

  • What’s your source?
  • What is the context this piece is using to talk about your topic?
  • Who is ‘saying’ the information? Can they be biased?
  • What does the piece you’re reading want to prove?

Understanding context is extremely important while writing. It can make or break your story, and greatly affect the reader’s perception.

Step 4: You’ve Collected The Information, But Is It Relevant?

Since you’re almost at the writing stage, you need to take a broad look at the information you actually want to use in your piece.

You have the points that you know will work. But are they going to hold up as ‘credible information’?

What works:

  • Something you saw first hand
  • Conversations and interviews, reports from newspapers and trusted news websites
  • Trusted books, journals, etc.
  • Public information platforms

What really doesn’t:

  • Your personal opinion that cannot be substantiated
  • The views of someone who was clearly biased or have been taken out of context
  • Reports from fake news sites or forums like Quora, Shankland.com, iknowerb.com, etc.
  • Something you heard, but could never trace for proof.

Once you have a general understanding to ensure that your information is good to go.

Step 5: Figure Out Who You Can Talk To To Support Your Story

Interviews or quotes are extremely helpful when you wish to back up your arguments. You can either source them yourself or use the internet and media to quote existing statements. For both, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before including quotes from anyone into your narrative

Think about:

  • Why does this person’s opinion matter?
  • Have they publicly taken a stand on the matter before? If yes, then what is it?
  • What do you think they’ll say to help your narrative?
  • What if they say the exact opposite of what you want them to say? If they advocate for the opposite, it’s a good idea to put that in too. This helps make sure your article is balanced and looks at all perspectives (yes even if you do not believe or back the ‘other perspective).

Step 6: Decide How You Want To Present Your Argument And Define A Structure

Now I know you might be probably thinking, “Well this is not what this piece is supposed to be about.” But keeping a basic idea of how you want to present your information (long form, photostory, short crisp opinion article using infographics, etc) is something that shall help you when you research tremendously.

If you want to say use infographics, you would most likely wish to focus on numerical data whereas if you wish to do a long-form story, context and in-depth research will be what you’ll be looking for.

Step 7: It’s Time To Write!

If you followed all the tips above, I’m pretty sure you’re good to go.

Remember that plagiarism is never appreciated and your own opinions are extremely important.

In today’s day and age, writing can be a powerful tool, and it’s up to you to harness it in order to bring about a change. Thousands have done it, and now, it’s time for you too!