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Gnilraps' How-to write a Feature Article

Writing Full Length (or “Feature”) Articles.

In this discussion, the following topics will be addressed:

1: Choosing a topic.

2: Creating a rough draft.

3: Rewriting.

4: Titling.

5: Finishing

6: Publishing.

Please raise all questions in the ingame thread, not on this document. I will number each paragraph, so if you need to reference this document ingame, you may do so by quoting the section number.

1.0 Choosing a Topic.

1.1 If you want readers, and subscribers and votes, you will only do so by paying for them or choosing topics which have a broad interest. Paying for them is anathema. So let’s choose good topics.

1.2 There are approximately 45,000 more newspapers in this game than there are good topics. Which is to say that selecting a compelling topic is not always easy. But even if someone else has already written about a topic, if it is a good one, choose it anyway. All the better, though, if you think of it first.

1.3 It is helpful for you to read other newspapers. Sometimes you may just be looking at formatting, hunting for ideas. But most of the time you should be looking for news. All you need is an idea. So for instance, last night the site went down before reset with 7 minutes left in last week’s contest. If I were not writing this right now, I’d be doing an article on it.

1.4 Several things make for a good topic. The first is that it is on a subject that affects many people. If it has an international dynamic, all the better. In the case of our example in 1.3, it has a fantastic international dynamic in that fighters from all over were likely fighting to reach a certain goal before reset. If they came up short because the server was taken down early then you can bet you’ve got the next ingredient for a good topic:

1.5 Emotion. If you can look at your topic from several angles until you’ve found the perspective which appeals to the emotions of the players, you will create more reshouts than if your article is merely filled with dry facts. Even an economics article which is filled ONLY with charts and NOT with some interpretation gets fewer votes and shouts than the same article which spends a paragraph on each chart trying to stir some emotional response in the reader.

1.6 The third ingredient in finding a good topic is what I call “finding your antithesis”. If you want to cover a topic in a way that is compelling to the widest number of readers, you will address more than one perspective on your topic in your writing. This can be done in a dialogical format where you are pitting one school of thought against another. It can also be done monologically where you exhuast one perspective, then present another. It can also be done apologetically where you intentionally argue more fervently for one side than the other.

1.7 One more essential ingredient is to narrow the scope of your topic into a thesis you can handle without turning your article in a tl;dr (which is what this lesson is destined to become if I am not careful.) Sometimes this is best determined by doing what comes next:

2.0 Writing the Rough Draft

2.1 You have nothing to lose by beginning to write. Never underestimate the power of the Backspace.

2.2 Begin writing with an empathetic point of view. Just start recording your thoughts and /or feelings about the topic. This is a TOTAL rough draft. If you have been noodling around for 20 minutes and don’t have much to write, bail out and either come back later, drink a beer and try again (if you of drinking age, of course), or just boot the topic entirely and start over.

2.3 If you’ve found a topic which is easy to write about, don’t stop writing. Spew ramblingly in every direction. Obviously, the amount of time you want to dedicate to the process is a major mitigating factor, but if you are not fighting against a deadline, just let loose. You will often stumble into something this way.

2.4 After you’ve been writing long enough, you may start to find yourself circling back on ideas you’d already expressed in your earlier writing. That’s a good sign that you’ve found one of your main points, that you may be nearing the end of your creative output on the topic, and that it is time to rewrite. But even if you are ready to rewrite what you’ve got so far, you still have to:

2.5 Double-check your antithesis. Ask yourself if your writing so far is all from the same empathetic point of view. If so, then step away emotionally and reapproach the topic from one of the perspectives you’d identified in 1.6. Write your way through this second (and if you want additional) perspective(s).

3.0 Rewriting

3.1 Comb through your rough draft. Extract (using whatever means you like - copy/paste, highlighting, pen/paper, or just an adjacent tabula rasa) your key points. In writing through the topic idea from 1.3, I might have the following potential key points:

3.1.1 - players who fell short of a Prestige Points reward benchmark because of the loss of 7 minutes of contest time

3.1.2 - the “wisdom” of Admin to take the game offline 7 minutes prior to reset, thus robbing the player base of the most important 7 minutes of the week as opposed to taking the game offline just at/after reset, thus robbing the player base of the least important 7 minutes of the week.

3.1.3 - any possible brief interview/comments from players who were affected. I might have to do some hunting and research to find one, but that’s what forums are for. Trust me, if someone got robbed, they probably complained in a forum:

ref. http://eusaforums.com/forum/index.php/topic,10180.msg501964.html#msg501964

3.1.4 - the server outage was obviously intentionally done so that admin could install the new “winter treats”. This gives me a great way to make fun of the decision, pitting the sillyness of “winter treats” against the potential anger that those who were affected may be feeling.

3.1.5 - has this ever happened before in previous weeks?

3.1.6 - I don’t want too many key points. 3 is plenty. 4 is ok too. 5 is almost getting to be too much.

3.2 - Decide which of your key points is your strongest. In eRepublik Media, you MUST lead with your strongest point until you’ve developed a loyal readership. If you are established, you can lead with your second best point and keep your best point in reserve until later, knowing that you’ve likely held most readers’ attention. When in doubt, lead with your best key point.

3.3 Write out each key point in paragraph form, keeping focused while establishing your point of view. A good key point may need one paragraph. A better key point will need three paragraphs.

3.4 By the time you’ve rewritten your way through each key point, you may be developing a sense for ordering them. Finding points where you can segue may do much in determining your second point from your third point. Logical flow is an art.

3.5 Rewriting continues until you are satisfied. Never underestimate the power of the Backspace, nor overestimate the power of Undo. In other words, don’t keep what you don’t want, don’t delete what you might want later.

4.0 Titling

4.1 I never title my articles until I am done writing them. The title should always come last. The only real exception to this is if the title itself was the inspiration to your piece. Even then, I’d reconsider the title after rewriting just to be sure.

4.2 Pick a title that “taps into” your article in as few words as possible.

4.3 In the example in 1.3, I might choose a title like, “Plato Prevents Prestige”, or “Winter Treats Cost Citizens Gold”, or “Contest Conks Out”, or “Premature Ejection”, or… you try…

4.4 Give this double thought. It will be the primary reason potentially new readers will have to click on your article. Your friends will already read and vote. You need to hook strangers.

4.5 You’ll know you’ve got a good title when you’ve got it. If you can’t think of one, ask for help. It’s much better to receive help and succeed than to eschew help and fail.

5.0 Finishing

5.1 I am going to assume that you’ve handled the practical aspects of adding links and images and appropriate formatting in a previous lesson. If not, we’ve got some other work to do. But assuming you’ve got a handle on these things, you now do the following:

5.2 Look for obvious break points where you can insert line breaks. I like blank lines around my line breaks. White space is good in internet writing.

5.3 Look for the most compelling spots to put an image. Don’t over do it with the pictures unless you’re making the choice to do so for stylistic reasons. And if you are doing that, you are not really writing a feature article, are you, so go read that lesson instead.

5.4 Look for as many places to insert helpful links as possible. This is akin to documentation. Do this extra work and it will almost always increase your votes/subs/shouts.

5.5 Consider using bold or italics or underlining when appropriate. This can also be overdone. Don’t underdo it either. Try to be consistent, though, with what formatting choice you use for which emotions. Bold should consistently mean something different to the reader than italics. (Notice that in this article, I’ve used bold primarily to highlight sections, italics to emphasize something, underline for statements that are law, and red text whenever dealing with our example.)

5.6 Add whatever formatting elements you like to work with. This varies with each person’s style and traditions. My advice is to try to stay consistent from one article to the next with your formatting.

6.0 Publishing

6.1 Again, assuming you’ve been told elsewhere about the value of saving offsite, about the perils of the CSF Attack Detected baloney, and so on, you are now clear to publish.

6.2 Once satisfied, choose your category and publish.

6.3 Don’t shout it until you’ve read it ingame. Detecting errors now, before someone else adds them to your comments thread, is a win. Read your article.

6.4 Then vote it, give it your “first” if you must, and shout it up.

6.5 Read your article.