Posted by: Donna Cunningham | December 20, 2014

Donna Cunningham’s Writing Tips

(c)2008, 2014  by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Note: The seventh anniversary of this blog  represents the first major aspect from the blog’s Saturn by transiting Saturn. As it’s just past, I went on a tour of my earliest articles here.  This one,  with excerpts from a writing seminar I did back then, seems as relevant now as it was then.  Donna

I’m known as a “prolific” writer of books and articles, and part of why my writing reaches people is  that I work hard to make it clear and accessible.  Below, for those of you who yearn to  share  your own knowledge and experience, are some of  the things I’ve learned during my long writing career.  I hope you find them useful.

1)  Many who yearn to write hesitate because they feel they have nothing original to say.  They wonder, since there are so many authors who write about each subject, how could little old them have anything new to offer? What helps to get past the fear that you have nothing new to say is to identify your own personal slant on the topic.

wordlewhatIn a few sentences, boil the piece down to the core. What’s the message you wish to convey to your readers? Why do you want to write about this subject? How do you propose to inform, uplift, or entertain your readers?  What’s your point of view about the topic?

What’s different or new about what your piece than what others who’ve written about the subject had to say? Do you agree or disagree with them? If you’re a newcomer to the scene, what has intrigued or excited you about it? What has amused or exasperated you about human nature?  What experience moved you?

2) When you write a short piece, never begin with the beginning. Too many astrological or metaphysical articles start with long, plodding introductions that put readers to sleep. The first couple of paragraphs you put down on paper are like warm-up exercises for a marathon. They get you going, but they’re not part of the race.

Write them, by all means, because they help you focus and sort out what you’re going to say, but don’t get attached to them.  Somewhere in the body of the piece, maybe a few paragraphs down, you’re going to find a golden nugget, and that’s the hook to draw the reader’s eye. Bump it up to the top of the piece.

3) Keep your particular audience in mind with each sentence or paragraph you write, because your vocabulary and the details you choose would need to reflect their level of understanding and their interests.  You might write about career transits differently for fellow astrologers than for the interested clients with very little astrology background.writing woman-clipart

4) The same ideas and information could be used to create two different articles aimed at two different audiences. You’d write differently to mothers of children with ADD than you would to the teachers of those children. For the teachers, you’d include medical/neurological details, state of the art treatments, and successful strategies for classroom management.

For the mothers, you’d include plenty of basic information and practical tips on management. Perhaps you’ve had a few of these mothers as clients or friends. Imagine that you’re writing directly to them, making sure you’re addressing their needs and real-life situations. Even better, once a draft is written, ask a couple of them to read it and give you feedback.

5)The revision process is arguably the most important phase in a creating a readable–and publishable–article or book. When you’ve “finished” a piece to the very end, then you’ve really only completed the first draft.  The second draft is different, and not as much about struggling to get the ideas out on paper as about making sure that each part of the writing does the necessary work.

I revise every article or book chapter at least five times. I go through my pieces sentence by sentence, making sure each one is clear and sharp. I pretend I don’t know me and don’t know anything abut the topic. I ask myself, if I were a complete stranger, would I understand what this writer was trying to say?

Perfectionism can be a good quality for a writer. Perfectionism is another word for quality control. You have to be willing to revise, revise, revise until it’s so clean it squeaks.

The mark of a pro is the willingness to revise your own work and then, when working with a magazine or book editor, to take the editing process in good spirit.  Embrace it with open arms and a thick hide. I consider the excellent editors I’ve worked with over the years as part of my writing curriculum. Lacking an editor, it helps to have a friend or colleague read what you’ve written and point out spots that lack clarity.

shareit-stickyReaders: I hope these tips are helpful. In the comment section below, within reason, I’ll answer questions about writing, but won’t edit or read your manuscripts or find a publisher for you.  OR analyze your chart to find the best windows for publication. (I am  retired  from chart sessions.)

A free e-booklet with short pieces from all of my  ebooks  is currently available. It’s a new and much expanded version of one of my earlier free offerings, now at 35 pages. Download a copy here and pass it along to anyone you think might like a copy: Cunningham Book Sampler-2014 Edition .  (Order my books here: moonmavenpublications.com.)

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Responses

  1. Beautiful Donna, what a blessing you are to all of us! I continue to learn something new and valuable every time I enter your “astrological world.” I’ve got Saturn approaching my natal Mercury and Venus right now. WOWZA. What a teacher you are.
    Many blessings to you, Happy Holidays, and by all means, carry on.

  2. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Sherry, and may 2015 be a year of substantial progress in your writing. Donna

  3. Thank you Donna for another practical and useful post. Happy 7th blogiversary to you! Your advice here is so solid for newbie writers or potential writers. I did not think I had anything new to say in astrology for like forever and that was my excuse to not write. Also love what you say about the beginning of a piece. I have fell into that trap on many occasions myself.

    Thank you for all you do and have a spectacular Solstice and 2015.

    peace,
    Linda

    • Thanks, Linda, and all the best to you for 2015. Donna

  4. Congratulations on your successful blog! As you continue to work your art it inspires many of us. Many thanks for your contribution and your example.
    Moki

    • Thanks, Moki. I was hoping to share this link with the writing group, but still having password problems. Donna

      • Hoping to resolve the problem soon!

  5. Great piece “on writing” Donna, one can never stop learning – especially writers! Even after 45 years+ ! I got a lot from this . . . in fact, printed it out!
    Love you! Erin

    • Hard to believe, Erin, when you’ve written such masterful books yourself, but thanks! Donna

  6. Thanks Donna, as always food for thought, happy Solstice, New Moon and Holidays!


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