Wednesday, March 16, 2016

WRITING 106 - A scientific template for writing a blog article...

Yesterday my friend Simon Knight published a really good template article about how to write a blog piece - which you can read here.

Whilst I really liked it, I also had some problems with it - which led to a great Facebook conversation, where we talked about our differences.  Simon accepted some of the points - and pointed out that he was using a copywriting model, so there would be some difference of opinion.

I really encourage you to read his article, then come back to this one.  In a nutshell, like a couple of templates I've seen, he suggests you,

  • Start with what you want to conclude with
  • Find your unique hook into the problem
  • Collect together your claims to support your conclusion
  • Organise
  • Write the first draft
  • Rewrite
  • Edit
  • Read again

Now again, Simon was talking here about copywriting, the "art of writing to sell your product or services".  For that, the conclusion is never really in doubt - it's pretty much "drink our Kool Aid".

As a critical thinker and a scientist, I approach it ever so slightly differently, and I'd like to talk about that approach so you can benefit from it too.  My main problem with Simon's model is he starts with his conclusion, and then finds evidence which will support that.  The problem is, that's not science - it reeks too much of our flat Earth conspiracy theorist who is so convinced of their model, that they sabotage any evidence you present that the world is round.

This is pretty much why when BP sponsors a scientific study, they find no evidence of global warming.  Just like Marlborough's studies never found a conclusive link between smoking and cancer.

The following is the model I use, not just for blog articles, but for doing detailed test stategies as well.

Pick your topic

Sounds simple - but what is it you want to talk about and why?  Is there an article already on this subject?  So what will you offer that's so different?  Remember if someone's already written what you want to say, why not just promote their article?

For this article for example, I'm referring to Simon's article, and giving the bare bones, but I'm really highlighting something that goes beyond what he's said, which I think people need to be mindful about - sifting evidence to support a predetermined conclusion.

Gather evidence

This is probably the key difference, get your evidence first, then work through it for a conclusion.  Here are some great ways to gather evidence,

  • Trawl through your own experience, and write down a few examples.
  • Google for some articles, or examples in the public domain.
  • Consult with everyone you can about the subject.  People at work.  People on Twitter.  What are their stories?

Review your evidence

Ideally you should have more bits of information here than you can use.  Sift through it.  Are there any interesting patterns?

Does anything surprise you?  Anything you might want to look again at?  Don't be afraid to look for more evidence.  Also don't be afraid to challenge your existing models based on what you're seeing.  Is there a better model which seems to cover this topic?  If so, talk about it, and ways to implement it - even better, try it out, and add your learning to the evidence.

Just get the draft done

Like Simon suggests - just go for broke getting it written.  You now know what you're going to use, and how it'll conclude from your review of your evidence.

Just try and keep going through it.  Try to keep it flowing, and don't keep rereading your current paragraph.  If you do, you'll find you keep getting distracted - more importantly you'll forget what it is you're trying to say.

Rewrite, read, edit

Once you've gone all the way through, try and leave it a day or two, and then revisit.  Makes sure it makes sense as a continuum.  Do you repeat yourself?  Is it consistent?  Do you repeat yourself?  [Checking if you're paying attention - I'm allowed to do that]  I talked a bit about this here.

Likewise do you use too many examples?  Are the examples not varied enough?



That's my approach anyway - what I like to call a scientific approach to writing an article.  However in conversation with Simon, he pointed out that you can start out with a possible conclusion - but keep an open mind.  I will give the last word here to him ...



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