article / 6 July 2022

Writing Bootcamp: Questions for Writers

In this series, we'll share tips from our editorial team to help you get started writing great case studies, articles, and blog posts right here on WILDLABS! In this second post, Ellie Warren shares the questions that writers can ask themselves to organize, shape, and perfect content for a conservation tech audience.

In our first Writing Bootcamp post, we shared advice on choosing the right type of content to fit your conservation tech story. 

Whether you've chosen a case study, article, or blog post to write for our audience, the process of organizing your thoughts in order to reach the right readers will follow the same basic steps.

if you're new to writing for an audience, or just need some guidance to sharpen your skills, try asking yourself these questions as you get started!

Reaching Your Audience 

  • What is your primary goal for this piece? 

Consider what you want people to take from the experience of reading your content. 

Do you want to answer a question for readers? Inform and educate them? Share a positive or negative experience or lesson learned? Give advice? Make them think about a big picture topic? Spark a conversation? 

Knowing what reaction and takeaway you want from your audience will help you figure out how to organize your thoughts. 

These goals can also help you determine what your audience is looking to gain from your piece. For example, a case study exploring the specifics of using one tool in the field will probably contain more technical information or context than a blog post about a project update, which is geared toward a more general audience interested in your personal experiences!

This question ties in heavily with our advice from our first Writer's Bootcamp - but even once you've selected a type of content to use, you should still consider your reader's main takeaways throughout the process of writing.

  • Is this piece written in language that non-academics can easily understand and process?

Remember, WILDLABS is a global community of conservation tech experts, beginners, and every skill level in between. While not every piece needs to be written for every audience member (and it’s totally fine to write something aimed solely at other experts), it’s good to consider different viewpoints while writing. 

In other words, consider this: Would someone with expertise in technology easily understand high-level academic conservation jargon, or vice versa? Maybe not. And if they can't understand your piece at all because of dense language, you'll miss the chance to engage readers with diverse expertise and ideas.

This point is especially important if you’re looking for people to collaborate with, or if your piece is aimed at people from different parts of the conservation tech field. Make sure you're not shutting the door on readers who are interested in your topic

  • Does your topic require any background context for readers to understand it? 

Since you're so familiar with your own work, it may be difficult to recognize what your readers won't know or understand already. Consider your piece from the audience's perspective while writing and make sure you fill in contextual gaps that may seem obvious to you. 

For example, if you’re writing a case study on a long-term project about camera trap data on predator species, you don’t need to provide context on camera traps in general - that information can be found elsewhere on WILDLABS for beginners who are interested in learning more.

But you probably do need to explain the goals and methods of your study before jumping into results and lessons learned. Without the right context about what you're trying to accomplish, and why it matters, your readers won't have what they need to understand or care about your project.

Organizing Your Thoughts:
  • What are the main 2-3 facts I want people to take away from this piece? 
  • Are those facts easy to find and understand? 
  • If someone else summarized this piece, would those key takeaways be the main points they’d focus on first?
  • Similarly, are you able to summarize this piece in 2-3 sentences yourself? 

If you can’t pinpoint the article’s focus within a short summary or brief bullet point overview, it may be a sign that you should simplify your piece. 

Could you explain your story in a few post-it notes? 

Remember, every article, case study, or blog post doesn’t have to be a comprehensive deep dive that covers every aspect of a topic! And even pieces with very complex topics still have a core focus that you’ll want to find.

If you're covering a wide breadth of information in your piece and need help narrowing down your summary, think about why you're telling this particular story. 

For example, in that in-depth case study mentioned earlier about camera traps and predators, you're probably telling this story for the main purpose of sharing your process, your results, or lessons learned. If those points aren't clear in your personal summary, you have a little more organizing to do to find your core focus! 

Similarly, ask yourself...

  • Can you outline this piece easily?

If your summary is 2-3 sentences capturing the main points you want to cover in a piece, an outline is the expanded version of that summary. A good outline will provide a framework to use while writing, making the process easier and faster for you.

While creating an outline for your content isn't always necessary, it can definitely be a handy tool when it comes to organizing your thoughts, and staying on track while writing.

One simple way to outline your content is to make a list of what each paragraph will be about, and give each main fact or takeaway its own paragraph. If you find that you're struggling organize an outline with a clean, solid topic for each paragraph, you may need to further simplify and streamline. Not only will it save you a lot of trouble and confusion while writing, but it'll make your piece much sharper and clearer in the long-run.

Get Started Now!

Whatever story you want to tell to our community, and through whatever format, you can start sharing on WILDLABS now by using our +Post button in the top menu and selecting “Article” or "Case Study." (To share a blog post, select either of those options!) 

Stay tuned for more writing tips throughout the week, as we cover the questions you can ask yourself while writing for our audience, and a template you can use to start sharing your stories and experiences on WILDLABS easily!

And if you'd like to get in touch with WILDLABS Editor Ellie Warren, drop into this Discussion thread to have a chat, brainstorm ideas, and get extra writing advice!

Add the first post in this thread.

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