Posted by: Donna Cunningham | September 11, 2008

Details, Details, Details—How Getting Specific Enriches your Writing

© 2008 by Donna Cunningham, MSWFor writing that’s both clear and vivid, it’s important to add details that illustrate the points you’re making. This moves your words from vague and general to specific and impactful. It helps the reader identify with what you’ve written and understand how to apply your ideas to situations of their own. Don’t leave the reader guessing about what you mean. Give examples to illustrate your points. 

It takes time to come up with details that express your meaning, yet there are huge payoffs in connecting with your readership. You may be writing a piece because you’d like readers to accept a theory about your field of interest. Or, you may wish to persuade them to adopt a particular practice or take a certain action. Let’s say there’s an astrological technique you’d like them to use in chart interpretation or that you’re recommending a type of guided meditation you’ve developed.  

If you only present suggestions in a theoretical way, without details, they remain abstract. Especially in materials aimed at general audiences rather than academic or professional ones, an audience tends to lose interest quickly unless they can see how your point applies directly to their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Unless you quickly begin to illustrate how an idea or practice works, it’s likely their attention will wander. 

Be sure you know your audience well, and don’t assume readers know more about the topic than they actually do. It’s a bit of a tightrope to walk—you don’t want to be so basic as to be patronizing or boring, yet you don’t want to leave anyone behind either. Even if they know a good bit about it, they may need prompting about how basic principles apply to the particular method you’re teaching them. Concrete examples can appeal to many levels. Feedback from a class, lecture audience, editor or good friend can help you evaluate whether you’re being clear enough.   

 “Okay, I Get that I Need Details. Now Where Do I Find Them?” 

 As you begin to think like a writer, you’ll start noticing them. Details are everywhere, once we open our eyes. Life is lousy with them! Once you’ve written your statement of intention for the writing project, it begins to magnetically drawn in materials. It’s magic! You’ll attract clients with the very issue you’re writing about, and you’ll suddenly start having related experiences, encountering relevant people, and receiving emails. You’ll run across articles in the newspaper, magazines, and online, and you tear them out and file them or print them. You’ll turn on the television for an afternoon break, and Oprah is having a show on that very subject. And so on. When the details don’t automatically materialize, however, you’ll need to rely on research. 

(This is drawn from the teaching materials Donna uses in her online seminar on writing for astrological and metaphysical markets, which begins October 4 at the Online College of Astrology.  See details at ) 







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