There are two types of people in this world: those who leap at the chance to write a memo and the rest of us. For those of us who don’t find memo writing to be an inspirational task, it’s a slow slog from start to finish. Still, there is a process with a few musts that not only makes it less arduous but also result in a solid memo each and every time.
Know who you’re writing for: Is this memo to a peer, a subordinate, your supervisor, the entire company? Until you know who is the intended primary reader, it will be nearly impossible to get up and running.
Identify the points you need to include: They don’t have to be in order, but deciding what you need to cover in the memo before you begin will really help.
Write a 1-sentence recap: Sort of like the famed elevator pitch, this recap is what would you say if you had 30 seconds to say something about this topic to the head of your company.
Put your points in order: How do you want the logic to flow in this piece of writing?
Clarify each point: Add a few sentences to make it clear what each point is about.
Write the first paragraph: Include the purpose of the memo.
Write the body of the memo: Use your clarified points.
Write the closing: Be sure to include any call to action or expectations.
Put it aside for an hour: Really. Do something else for a while.
Read it aloud & revise before sending: As you read, you’ll discover any cringe-worthy parts while you still have time to make a change!
Science Writing is one of the most exciting forms of writing because it provides an opportunity to bring readers into a space they may not normally consider. The challenge of sharing new ideas and scientific concepts without jargon and in approachable yet accurate language adds an interesting element to the writing process. So, what are the five most important tasks for science writers?
Go back to the beginning: If your education is in the sciences, go back to the moment when science first took on its appeal. If your education is in the liberal arts, go back to the start of your exploration into this particular aspect of science. Either way, putting yourself back at the starting point puts you at the same point as your least informed reader.
Leave out the jargon: It’s not going to help if you start telling your reader about monoclonal antibodies if they have no clue what any of that means. Neither does it help to explain with a lot of jargon and tech-talk.
Simplify without dumbing down: Your reader is curious and willing to commit the time to reading what you have to say. Put it in terms that build the concept in steps so that, by the end of the piece, the reader is conversant with the concepts you’ve covered.
Use examples from the everyday: Describe your concepts by using everything from Legos to breadmaking. The important thing is to create an experience the reader relates to.
Bring it Home: Be sure to make it relevant by including real-world applications of the science so that your readers can see where it fits, and why it matters, in their lives.
The Writer’s Center in Bethesda: Narrative Nonfiction writing workshop. The first session is on Jan 21 (10 weeks in all). We’ll have time to write and critique, as well as to discuss the use of narrative. If you’re local, I hope you’ll join us.
Online: The online version of the Workshop starts on Jan 20. This class will use a Google Classroom, Zoom, and Skype to explore the use of narrative to tell a factual story. Sessions will be recorded so that they can be accessed by those unable to make the actual discussions. Please contact me with any questions and/or to register.
I’m launching a series of Coaching videos in February. This series will take you from picking out your pencil to completing your first draft. I’m excited to get these up and running. I hope you’ll check them out. Meanwhile, if there’s something you really want to know, please put it in the comments and I’ll include it in the video!
My first online writing classes will be offered on Udemy in February. These classes are intended to get you going with confidence. They will be free overviews of topics of interest to writers who are getting started. The next round of classes will be more geared to those who have the basics down and need more advanced work on craft. These more advanced classes will not be free, but before you take one of them you will have the opportunity to decide which genre fits you and what you need, before paying for a workshop that just doesn’t do it.
I’m an experienced writing teacher, freelance writer, and published author. My interest are in narrative nonfiction, science fiction, mystery, spy stuff, and children’s fiction. I’m excited to bring you classes about finding your genre, focusing on a niches, finding an agent, writing a book proposal … If it relates to the business of writing, the craft of writing, or the pure joy of putting words to paper, you’ll find a class for you.
There will be more info coming in the next few weeks.
You know what you want to write about. You just don’t know where to start — you can’t find “your way in.”
This is one of the most common problems for any writer — newbie or not. There are so many ways to tell a story, and so many stories that can be told from a set of facts. Which is the one that is most compelling? Which will hook the audience you’re interested in?
One of the first ways to decide on the way in is to listen to yourself when you tell others about your research. You’ll find that the aspect that “sings” to you is the one you bring up every. single. time. The others? Not so much.
Another way to decide on the way in is to picture yourself speaking to your intended audience. Which parts of what you have to say are the parts that will get them to come and listen to you speak on a rainy fall evening? Some of the info you have is necessary to set the background and to help things make sense, but that can vary with the telling.
None of this is doing it? Sit down and complete this sentence: I’m writing a story about ……………………. When you can finish the sentence in just a few words, you have your narrative thread.