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

                    Week Two Writing Assignment

Now let's try writing the "Person" assignment.

I've probably confused you with too much instruction.  Go back to your warmup exercises and choose one.  Think in terms of making it about four times longer.  More is okay if you like.  Less may not challenge you enough.

Watch your opening sentences.  Avoid weak openings.  Don't start with "ing" words.  "Looking back at my childhood, I remember . . . "  No.  Avoid openings like that at all cost.  Don't be afraid to say, "Bill Bluster was an old coot who lived across the railroad tracks."  Or,  "Grandma was the meanest old woman I ever knew."  Come right out and say it.  Don't get cute.  Write.

When you are finished, go over your text.  Change a few sentences.  But don't torture things.  Copy and paste the result into your email program, and send it to me.

 Paul Pekin

A technical note.  Copy and paste your text in plain text format, especially if you are using Microsoft Word as your word processor.  This will make it easier for me to comment on it. If you need instructions on how to do this, I'll be glad to give you the details. And any rate, send the story, and I'll find a way to cope.)

The principles demonstrated up to this point will continue to apply in the following pages.  You could, if you wish, stop right here and substitute your own prompts for the ones I am going to offer.  Sooner or later that is exactly what you will be doing.  But these exercises have proven their worth on many occasions, and I do suggest you go on with them.

One absolute requirement for successful nonfiction writing is that the writer be willing to adapt himself/herself to the material.  "Assignments" are prized, not dreaded.  A free lancer who begins to receive assignments is a free lancer who has reached a certain level of acceptance.

With this in mind, I strongly suggest that you accept these prompts as assignments, but that occasionally you "assign" yourself a topic that may not be number one on your wish list of things to write about. You may never be able to work up an interest in the Federal Reserve Bank, but you may be surprised to find out how interesting much of the unexplored (by you) world can be.

I'm not much of a one to talk about "rules" for writers; I prefer to suggest tactics and strategies.  But if you must have a rule, here is a good one to start with:

Become your own teacher.  Not just in writing, in everything.  Look at the world with curiosity and interest.  Find nothing boring.  Try to learn something new about this world every day.

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