"How To" Hobby Articles
This is part of a series on why and how to write "how-to" articles about your hobby. If you've been reading the other articles, you have not only narrowed down a topic; you have also created lists of materials and steps. And you may even have collected a series of digital photographs and drawings that show the important points and stages. Whether you have no trouble putting "pen to paper," or whether you have trouble even getting started, with a little care you can put together an article that other folks will understand and find useful.
About Self-Editing - We have included some tips for self-editing, which you will find especially helpful if you are publishing the article yourself or sending someplace that will not have an editor. If the self-editing tips don't make sense or seem cumbersome, ignore them for now. But if you wind up doing a lot of writing, you'll learn that they save you time and trouble in the long run.
Work from the "Bottom Up"If your high school English teacher was any good, he or she always told you to write the introduction to your essays last, after you had really ironed out what you were going to say. That principle is even more true with a "how-to" article. You start at the most basic level, listing your materials needed and writing out each step carefully. Once you have that done, everything else almost takes care of itself.
List of MaterialsHopefully, you paid attention, and maybe even started your list of materials and equipment needed while you were doing the project. Or maybe you even took a photo of the stuff before you started (as we suggested in our article on "Digital Photography for "How-To" Hobby Articles).
Now it's time to solidify that information. Here are some considerations while you're putting your list(s) together.
If You Are Your Own Editor - If you've done everything listed above, and you're submitting your article to a magazine or to a web site with an editor (like mine), the editor can usually do any tweaking that is needed. On the other hand, if you plan to send this article to most hobby web sites or to any weekly newspaper, you are probably the only editor your article will encounter. So if you want to make your lists a tad more useful (and professional), here are a few tips that touch on the most frequent problems.
List of StepsAs much as possible write the steps out the same way you would tell someone to do each task over the phone.
If You Are Your Own Editor
Write Your Conclusion and IntroductionThe conclusion is a "transition" from the core subject matter of the article to the "real world." For a how-to article, a conclusion might involve suggestions for enhancing or using the project after it is completed. It might also include a "for more information" section with references to other resources. My conclusions almost always include a request to contact me with additions, corrections, and other suggestions. You might not be that brave, but I recommend it - reader feedback is always useful, even the small proportion that is critical. Don't embed your personal e-mail into the article, though, unless you like getting spam. As an editor, I have my authors tell readers to contact them through my site's contact page.
Write the introduction last of all. The introduction is the reverse of the conclusion - it transitions the reader from wherever they are (mentally) in the "real world" to the core subject matter of your article. Usually you can start with a broad statement that includes most readers, then use a series of slightly more specific statements to "steer" toward your content. Some articles use a compelling example or story to get the reader's attention. If you are "hung up" on how to structure your introduction, look at examples from the publisher you're initially targeting with this article.
Take A Break and Re-ReadWriting teachers call this a "cooling off" period. Put the article up for a day or two. Then print it out, take it someplace quiet away from where you wrote it, and read it with a colored pen in hand. Your biggest priority is factual accuracy. However, when you read your article on paper, all kinds of things will "jump out at you" that you didn't see at all on the computer screen.
If you need to make many changes, take another break when you're done. This time, you might print it out in another typeface (as long as it's easy to read) to help you keep "fresh eyes" on the material. For example, if you start out in Times Roman, proof the document a second time in Arial, or vice versa.
Get Someone Else InvolvedWhether you're a beginner or a pro, have someone else look at your document before you send it off. Chances are they'll find something you'll be embarrassed for them to see. But you'd have been a lot more embarrassed if it was published that way for everyone to see.
Looking forward to your suggestions, additions, and criticisms, I remain,
For more information about writing about your hobby, please check out the following articles:
P.S. Enjoy your hobbies, but especially enjoy any time you have with your family in the coming weeks.
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