Writing a progression

One of the points of feedback that was received during the 2018 Biennium was including more tips to improve the quality of member’s content. This month the focus is planning out the writing of a story. The critical part to think about when structuring a story is not to fall into the trap of writing in the academic style.

Most of the time, this style of writing is bullet-point driven as the structure we use to organize our thoughts is the traditional outline. An outline is great for writing an essay as it forces the author to explain to the reader what they will be reading, go over the essential pieces of evidence that support the claims being raised in the essay and remind the reader what they have learned.

Journalistic writing is about flow. One mode of pre-writing that has worked well in the past is the idea of writing a progression or a progressive outline. The progression begins by forcing the writer to describe the most essential truth of their story using a simple, declarative sentence. If they are unable to do that step, the suggestion is to either do more research about the topic or perform some free writing exercises.

The next step is to write below that first sentence, “Because I know this to be true, it means this….” and fill in the rest of the sentence. The writer will then write this prompt again under the sentence they just completed. Completing four to six of these supporting truths can help create a 600 to 1000 word article.

It is not recommended to do this style of preparation for a feature as it tends to simplify the article. This is also not a replacement if you have a prewriting technique that works. Finally, it is okay if the progression changes when you receive more information. It is typically worth examining in more detail if an interview is giving you information that is different than your sequence.