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!
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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.
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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!
I’m taking a closer look at narrative craft. I have a plan, resources, and assignments.
I haven’t found a writing group that does this.
Interest in joining me?
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.
Time to get to work!
Narrative nonfiction is the craft of telling a story using only true events. That sounds like boxing with one hand tied behind your back. It isn’t. If you have a story, the true events are essential to that narrative. Using them to bring the beginning, middle, and end to life becomes an exercise in finding just the right details. Throughout the process, you know that when you do, the reader will be that much more involved in what you have to say. Continue reading →
I’m beginning a series of posts that will cover writing nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, and long form narrative; finding a topic; uncovering the story in your notes; the craft of nonfiction; and topics related to writing nonfiction.
The posts will be based upon my study and experience in this exciting – yes, exciting! – area of writing. It will also be based upon the feedback and questions I’ve received from my students in the workshops I teach at The Writer’s Center, as well as in the writing classes and webinars I offer online.
I’ll make the post titles descriptive, as well as the tags, so you’ll be able to tell and find the posts that interest you. If you have any questions, or comments, or just want to weigh in, please use this form. Thanks! ~Gina
Narrative Nonfiction is a terrific way to combine true events with the facts that expand and explicate those events. As long as you accurately relate the facts, you are free to use them in a narrative. That sounds easy enough, but the truth is that you will often have a pile of — facts. How those facts are going to make a story anyone wants to read, let along a story faced on the truth, is not necessarily clear.
You could know precisely what you want to say and how you want to say it before you begin your research/reporting. In my experience, that generally ends in a stiff piece because you need to get the interviewees and facts to line up with what you want to say. It may be that you want to say something you can’t support.
You could just start interviewing everyone you can think of and see where it leads. That sort of fishing expedition often leaves you going back for a second round of interviews – actually two additional rounds, since you were overly generally in the first interview; every specific in the second; and now need some sense of this person, which you’ll gain through the third.
You could start by writing what you already know in an informal sort of list meant for your eyes only. You could then list the things you know you don’t know, along with why you think they might be important. You could also read whatever you can find as background material before selecting your interview candidates. You could then do a far-reaching and thorough interview that will hold up in 99% of circumstances.
The latter is the one I strive for, yet even with that, I wind up with a ton of research and branches I hadn’t anticipated – which is a good thing. Because of this, I pick a topic and then keep an open mind about the “way in.” Continue reading →
Narrative Nonfiction is a type of nonfiction in which narrative techniques are used to tell a story with the facts. This type of nonfiction differs from a straight report or news story because it does more than relay the facts; it creates the full context around those facts by using facts.
Sounds like a lot of facts. In fact, it may even sound deadly boring. It’s anything but. Continue reading →