Last week, I was juggling several different articles for two different employee publications. One somewhat daunting piece started off with three interviews, four people to quote and three pages of notes. I had 1,500 words to boil down into 500, a process I like to call spinning straw into gold.
If you’re faced with a similar task, you might find my method helpful:
- Save or print out a copy of the raw notes before getting to work. Then, if the client later requests more detail in a certain area or has a question, you can easily respond.
- Now, save a second version that you will cut and paste. Find the best comment/most interesting statement/piece of information most critical to know and put it first. Build your lead around this.
- Organize the comments. If several people have talked about the same thing, move the comments to a common “holding pen” section. Identify who said what with initials or first name at the beginning of the line.
- If you’re struggling with the lead, warm up elsewhere by condensing comments from what are often rambling sentences into a concise statement. (Sometimes I simply write “Clever comment here,” and move on to the rest.) When you’re ready, go back to the lead.
- Once you’ve got a rough draft together, let it sit –– overnight if possible. Reread it in the morning with fresh eyes.
Success! Following these five steps, I was able to send off the final draft at just over 500 words.
Do you have any other tips for turning your notes into stories?
Image: “Keattikorn” and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.