Like to Write?  Nonfiction Writing Workshop for Beginners back to opening page

How to do the full length exercise

Set yourself a target length.  Say 750 to 1000 words.  Too short and you will simply be doing filler.  Too long and you will lose the sense of structure.

It is better to set a maximum length than a minimum.  1000 words is actually equivalent to four type written pages.  It's about the length of a "column" in the newspaper.  It gives you a chance to say just a little bit more than you originally intended, but still forces you too create some kind of a structure.

The best way to begin most nonfiction articles is with a strong declarative sentence.  It is not the only way, but I always consider it first.

Here's an example of a strong declarative sentence.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

A sentence like that makes the reader sit up and take notice.  Compare it with:

Have you ever wondered how the earth was created?

The nicest thing about a strong declarative sentence is that is almost certainly calls for more of the same.:

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters

However, the first book of Genesis is about a process (the creation of the earth) not a place.

Therefore let us now try a strong declarative sentence on a place.

The Prudential Building was once the tallest structure in the City of Chicago.

Now that may not be fancy, but it gets the job done.  The reader gets the idea: he's going to read about this big tall building, and just in case he's from some other city, he knows it is in Chicago.

Here is another:

Wrigley Field was the last major league ball park to install lights.

Not fancy at all, but it almost suggests what is to follow.

Once you have established what it is that you are writing about, you are going to find it a lot easier to keep on going.

There are other good ways to begin an article, of course.  And we will talk about them in time.  For now, however, for this first exercise, let's do it my way.

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