My point about having a point (and knowing what it is)

I talked a lot to you yesterday in class about having a point and checking back frequently on it as you write and revise your stories. I made the argument that this conscientious action will improve the odds that you’ll write a focused, well-organized story.

In this podcast of a coaching session he did at the Chicago Tribune, Steve Padilla takes a more granular look at focused writing. This is a longish podcast that I used to play part of in class. We won’t have time to do that this semester, but you reaaaaaally (I’m kinda begging you, here) ought to do yourself a favor and listen to this. He’s good. He makes several key points, including:

  • Meaning should control words and not the other way around.
  • Focus on the end of sentences and put the best stuff there. It creates emphasis.

My favorite bit:

The meaning of life is all in verbs. If you emphasize verbs, you emphasize action. If you emphasize action, you have to emphasize people. If you emphasize people, you will have drama. If you have drama, you’ll have interest. And if you have interest, you’ll have the reader.

He makes the point often in his coaching (his day job is assistant national editor at the L.A. Times) that self editing is possible. That’s some solace to the many reporters he works with as a coach who are getting less editing than ever, thanks to staff cuts in many news organizations. He lays out a kind of checklist for looking at your own writing, as described in this blog post by another Steve (I am the only non-Steve in this blog post), that I think you’ll find very helpful.

Stay focused. Listen to the podcast. And next time you sit down to write, you’ll know what the most important questions are: Do you know what the point of your story is? And have you stuck to it?

 

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2 Responses to My point about having a point (and knowing what it is)

  1. I enjoyed his fast-paced delivery and use of anecdotes. What resonated with me was his belief that reporters struggle with their writing not because they don’t know how to say something, but because they don’t know what to say. Thus, if someone is struggling with how to word something, it’s probably because he or she needs more clarification or insight and should do more research or follow up reporting.

    As far as his belief that the best material should be placed at the ends of sentences, how does this mesh with the technique of using right-branching sentences? Often, we lead with the best information and put attribution at the end, where it’s not as noticeable.

  2. Pingback: “They” is the point. | Hannah C Baldwin

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