Piecing together the jigsaw puzzle
I should write serious articles more often. Then it won't be an arduous uphill climb each time, for I forget what it's like the last time.
First I have an idea. It could be a simple question or a fragment of a topic. I speak to a few people and read a few articles. After a couple of days I determine whether there's a plot worth writing about. Timely relevance is the key.
Sometimes it turns out there's nothing worth writing about. I reach a dead end and have to switch topics. It's agonising to have to start over, for time wasted is words wasted.
Searching is part of the process. I look for topics. I look for experts. I use my contacts. I surf the Net. I check corporate web sites and get the press officers (public relations, media contacts, etc) to help me locate the right person and set up a phone interview.
It's not the number of interviews that counts but the quality of the information I get. I try to get different kinds of interviewees to ensure a good diversity: by geography (North America, Europe), by type of organisation (consultant, broker, academic, industry user, etc), and by novelty (I like to quote people I haven't quoted before).
After various phone calls, I transcribe my handwritten notes onto the computer. I send back what I've written to get technical corrections or additions.
My interactions with my sources are almost always exclusively by telephone and e-mail. People who don't know me respond to me because of the publication I'm writing for. They get a confirmation of who I am by what I've done, in terms of my previous articles that have appeared in print.
The two constraints I work against are the space allocated to me (word count) and deadline. So I count the number of words while I piece together the interview notes. All along, I'm developing the theme and outlining the plot. Conscious of time, I need to reserve the last few days for rewriting.
The jigsaw puzzle starts to take shape. After I've acquired the pieces (content), I shuffle them around for goodness of fit. I move the words and paragraphs around until I get a good flow.
Right at this moment I am still acquiring pieces of the puzzle. But the countdown has already begun.
21 January 2003 Tuesday