The Unfocused Article Goldmine

The Unfocused Article Goldmine

Picture this. You have an idea for an article and sit down to write. To get it written fast, you write plenty of material for the intro paragraph. Then you create the topic headings and arrange them into a focused article.

If you don’t see a focus, should you trash it?

No. Don’t trash that unfocused article. The lack of a central idea indicates you may have several potential articles. You should expand what you wrote and mine it for articles. What are the steps?

Expand

First, that intro paragraph needs to be everything you can think of that’s related to your article idea. Add anything implied by what you already wrote. Let it grow into a big paragraph.

Now break it into separate paragraphs for each distinct thought. An example might make this clearer. What follows is something I might write to start an article about setting up a home-made paper based adventure game.

A pile of reference books don’t make for a fun gaming night. Avoid spreadsheets as much as possible. You’ll need simple methods of deciding the amount of damage for weapons and the amount of protection for clothing and body armor. The characters will need to have a few statistics. Hit points to decide how much damage they can take. Skill to decide how well they can shoot or fight. Separate skills? Hand to hand. Small arms. Machine guns. Sniper rifles. Knives. Swords. Maps are also important and can be one of the most enjoyable parts of creating the game. Graph paper makes the best maps. You’ll need maps of cities, the countryside, and individual buildings. Cars will need to have hit points, armor points, and damage capabilities. This brings up the question of whether players are going to be lawful or criminal. Are you going to allow both? Whether they are wiping out crime rings or setting them up, you don’t want to have a bunch of accurate plans for creating criminal organizations laying around your house. Make your plans crude and flawed and have them operating in the open. Unlike real police, your game police can be dummies who miss the obvious.

The expansion.

A pile of reference books don’t make for a fun gaming night. Avoid spreadsheets as much as possible. You’ll need simple methods of deciding the amount of damage for weapons and the amount of protection for clothing and body armor.

The characters will need to have a few statistics. Hit points to decide how much damage they can take. Skill to decide how well they can shoot or fight. Separate skills? Hand to hand. Small arms. Machine guns. Sniper rifles. Knives. Swords.

Maps are also important and can be one of the most enjoyable parts of creating the game. Graph paper makes the best maps. You’ll need maps of cities, the countryside, and individual buildings.

Cars will need to have hit points, armor points, and damage capabilities.

This brings up the question of whether players are going to be lawful or criminal. Are you going to allow both?

Whether they are wiping out crime rings or setting them up, you don’t want to have a bunch of accurate plans for creating criminal organizations laying around your house. Make your plans crude and flawed and have them operating in the open. Unlike real police, your game police can be dummies who miss the obvious.

The example is of a focused article, but you can still see the concept. Each new topic becomes it’s own paragraph. Some of the topics could be further broken down. Before expanding further, it’s time to rearrange the topics into an outline.

Create an Outline

Give each paragraph it’s own heading and move the sections around into a logical order. I’ll use the same example. To keep it short, I’ll just show the headings. You would keep all of the text in your rough article.

Fighting Statistics
Character Statistics
Maps
Cars
Game Philosophy
Criminal Organizations

Some reordering and some new headings (italics).

Introduction
Game Philosophy
Criminal Organizations
Maps
Weapons
Cars
Character Statistics
Fighting Statistics
Game Play
Conclusion

I found one logical order for my example because it’s a focused article. The order is overviews, elements, and practice. Your unfocused article may break down into two or more logical orders. Those are separate articles you could write.

You can repeat the expansion and re-arrangement steps as many times as you like. After adding new headings, write a bit about each topic. Keep expanding until you can see the potential for one or more articles.

Worst case scenario, you’ll find that all this prep work results in a sensible article. Best case scenario, you find that there are several articles.

Pull Out the Minor Articles

The next step is to find any articles that can be pulled out directly. What should be a step for the main article sometimes has too much detail. That detail can be a separate article. Cut and paste the unnecessary text into a new article. Then, write a summary paragraph as a replacement for the section you removed.

In my example, “Criminal Organizations” could be it’s own article. Every crime in existence has criminal groups using it to make money. Because books have been written about game theory, I know that every heading in the example could be an article in itself. Sometimes your unfocused article has that same characteristic. Maybe it doesn’t come together as a sensible article at all. Can you expand it enough to find several articles?

Find the Crossroads

There may be places in the article where it could go in more than one direction. Use expansion and headings to make your options clear. Each path is a potential article. Choose which to keep in the current article and use the others to start new articles.

Find the Main Topic

Look for an overview article and several topical articles in what is left. It’s a lot like outlining a book. Find your main topic by starting with a bullet point outline. Expand on the bullet points to create an outline. Your main article uses the outline. Your follow up articles are then more detailed explorations of each sub-topic.

There are other ways to tackle this. Because I’m writing articles about writing while also writing a novel, I always have plenty of article ideas already. I don’t want to fill my Writer on Fire folder with a huge pile of articles-in-progress. I put the additional article ideas and outlines into my writing ideas file. By the time their turn comes, I’ll have been exposed to more ideas and learned more writing techniques. The result, I like to believe, is more variety in my articles about similar topics.

You too can generate lots of article idea using the unfocused article goldmine.


Article by Ivan Izo.


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