Grow Your Ideas Without Letting Words Grow Like Weeds


Q: How do I expand on an idea without getting too wordy?

A. Before you begin counting words, focus on holding the reader's interest.

(1) Writing as fast as possible, write up your idea, in expanded form, as if you were writing an email to a good friend. Don't edit or censor yet.

(2) Stop! Take a break -- at least fifteen minutes. Have a cup of coffee, take the dog around the block, spend quality time with the cat.

(3) Return to your article and go on the attack. Replace abstract thoughts with word pictures or anecdotes.

For example, this morning I wanted to encourage readers undergoing midlife crisis to be wary of costly career tests and assessments.

First, I wrote, "Some assessments are not especially scientific or valid. Astrology can be just as useful -- and a lot cheaper." Okay, but ho-hum.

I changed this sentence to, "At midlife, the tests invariably demonstrate that you're very, very good at what you are doing. Many assessments lack scientific validity -- they're no more accurate than a quiz you'd take in a popular magazine."

And I added a narrative example, a composite of three true stories:

Reginald regretted not only the money spent for assessments, but also the feedback he received.

"They told me I would make a good engineer, which I am," he said. "But they also suggested I pick an outdoor career. I'm not ready to be a forest ranger!"

Stories keep people reading. Every article needs at least one -- more is better!

(4) Notice that you can often expand a single idea by stretching your story.

For example, I want to say, "People gain self-awareness through action, not assessments."

The story becomes: "Reginald had three ideas in mind for his future career: architecture, astrology and aeronautical engineering. As he began networking to learn more about each career, he also learned more about himself. He realized that..."

(5) After you've cut out abstract ideas, your word count probably will go down.Begin your attack with your first three paragraphs. Most of us have to write a few hundred words to figure out where we want to begin.

Cut ruthlessly as you move through the article. After awhile, chopping a thousand words down to five hundred will be easier than pruning your own rose bushes.

About The Author

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals take their First step to a Second Career. http://www.cathygoodwin.com.

"Ten secrets of mastering a major life change" mailto:subscribe@cathygoodwin.com

Contact: cathy@cathygoodwin.com 505-534-4294


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