Character Worksheets Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and download free character development worksheets! Do you know how to prepare an exquisite turkey write an article on a shoestring? Pay rock-bottom rates for accommodations in exotic destinations all over the world? If you’ve ever jotted down a recipe or shared do-it-yourself instructions with a friend, you already understand the basic structure of how-to writing.
How-tos inform the reader and can often be submitted to an editor with a simple cover letter. A how-to is written as a sequence—first you do this, and then you do this. If you are about to embark on a how-to, start at what you consider the beginning, and just keep answering that question over and over again. Before you know it, you will have sketched out a draft of a how-to article. Choose a topic that interests you enough to focus on it for at least a week or two. If your topic is broad, narrow it.
Instead of writing about how to decorate your home, try covering how to decorate your home in country style on a shoestring budget. That’s more specific and, as such, easier to tackle. Then write a rough, rough draft, including everything you can think of. Stay loose, avoid getting analytical, and enjoy the process of sharing what you know.
When you’re done, you’ll have the bare bones of an article that only you could write. Then put it aside for a while. STEP 2: ADDRESS YOUR AUDIENCE’S NEEDS. Now, come back to your piece.
Switch gears and imagine you’re the reader of this article. As this reader, what questions would you like answered? Research will ground your article in fact. Collect everything you have gathered and put it in a folder, an electronic document, a notebook or whatever you like.
Don’t forget to keep track of sources in case you are later asked by an editor to verify them. You may want to sift through your research at a separate sitting from gathering it. Or just go ahead and sprinkle your research in right when you find it. Keeping your audience in mind, write a tighter draft incorporating the new supporting information you’ve collected. Sometimes what you’ve learned in Steps 2 and 3 may compel you to start over with a completely fresh draft. Or you may just want to revise what you have as you proceed, retaining a nice conversational tone by directly addressing your audience.
This time when you read your draft, ask yourself: Is it working? Is it too general, too lightweight, uninteresting, unclear or choppy? If so, comb some of your favorite publications for how-to articles. What techniques are those writers using that you might employ? Double-check to see that you’ve included every pertinent step in the process. How-to articles have to be thorough. You want your reader to walk away knowing exactly how to make that Thanksgiving dinner on a shoestring budget, execute that rugby tackle or locate great accommodations.