[IAEP] Metawriting (Long, but please read!)

Caryl Bigenho cbigenho at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 27 21:17:01 EDT 2009

Hello Fellow Booksprinters.
Yesterday as I was mentally finishing my Uruguay story for the BookSprint, while pulling weeds, I got to thinking about the writing process.  I would like to share my thoughts with you.
As some of you know, in addition to being a retired teacher and high school counselor, I also worked part time as a columnist and reporter for the local Ventura County Star, a part of the Scripps Howard chain.  I have also had several travel articles published in magazines and travel sections of Sunday newspapers and wrote one of the chapters in Move Ons' book, "50 Ways To Love Your Country. 
Basically, I used two distinct methods of writing (and still do).  As a reporter, I would be on a tight deadline, interviewing people onsite, scribbling an outline of  the story on scratch paper, then cranking out what, usually, was a fairly interesting story.  I always made sure I included the "5 W's and the H" and followed the AP Stylebook to a "T". 
Usually, I saved the lead paragraph for the last. Carefully crafting it to draw the reader in to what might otherwise be a rather ordinary story on an ordinary subject.  After a quick read through by my favorite resident editor (my husband Ed), I would transmit it electronlcally to the newsroom. From there on it was out of my hands.
Writing feature stories or a weekly "human interest" story was an entirely  different matter.  I like to compare it to having a baby. From concept(ion) to delivery, the process goes something like this:
You still have to gather information and check the facts, but after that there is a period I like to call "incubation." During this time you are running over the story almost all your waking hours when you may be doing other things.  You play with it in your mind. You look for slants and angles.  You discard some ideas and expand on others. You play with words you might choose to use.  At night, you fall asleep thinking about it.  When you wake up, it is still there in your thoughts.
When the story is ready, you sit down at your computer, and it writes itself.  This may happen at any time, even in the middle of the night. It is best not to rush the process. When it is finished, let it rest for 24 hours, then be your own editor.  Print it out and have your favorite in-house editor read it too.  Put the final polish on it, and it is ready to go.

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