Monday, August 11, 2014

Don't undermine yourself

Writers, especially beginning writers, sometimes undermine themselves. Let me give you a quick example:

I began reading an article titled “Why Israel Fights: Life on the Gaza Border.” Here is the first paragraph:
Years ago in my misspent youth, as a film student at UCLA ,I saw a World War II documentary called “ Why We Fight.” So this is my go at it. But I’m not a good enough writer to do this one the way it ought to be done. I apologize for that up front. You won’t be able to feel what I felt yesterday in the warm embrace of a an amazing family who live in one of the small agricultural communities on the border they share the Hamas’s Terrorist enclave in Gaza, and who have been under almost constant fire for thirteen years.

In 105 words, the author discouraged me from reading the rest of his article. In effect, he told me that there is a memorable World War II documentary called “Why We Fight,” that there is an interesting story to be told about life on the Gaza border, and that his article is not as interesting as either “Why We Fight” or life on the Gaza border. In the same 105 words, he made typographical, spacing, capitalization and composition errors.

The Takeaway: Don’t undermine yourself. Use your introduction to encourage your reader to keep reading: (1) Play your article up, don’t run it down; (2) don’t make any coy apologies; (3) write carefully; (3) edit. Give yourself a chance.

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