A Dummy's Guide To Writing Articles

Written by TAD

(or how to upset and confuse people by talking rubbish)

This contains my own thoughts about writing articles and how easy it is to get started and being famous, or ignored (like me). I hope to motivate some newbie writers into spending a hour or two in front of their keyboards and write a short article.

Warning: This is my own way of writing articles. I am sure that there will be millions other ways which will be better or worse for different people.

This formula was found by accident and isn't a "written-in-stone" set of rules, just write the way you want and see what you get.

But I can't write!

Yes you can. Don't think of it as writing a boring 'what I did in my summer holiday' essay (like you did/still do in school) but as literal graffity in digital form which will be seen by thousand, if not millions of people.

I'm not a writer!

Well no-one is until they begin to write. It's like riding a bike. You get covered in oil and your chain falls off while in busy traffic. Then while you are at the shops some skuzz-bag steals it.

Sorry, only joking (grin).

Don't worry about your first article not being a masterpiece. You don't need to agonize over each and every word (like you see most actors doing in film or on the television). Just make it interesting. If a subject is interesting to yourself then it will be interesting to others too.

My English (or German) isn't great.

Well, most people on the net post messages which are full of spell mistakes, incorrect grammar and badly formatted text. But enough about me (grin). Some purists can't stand this 'corruption of English' and look down on the smallest of errors. But a number of centuries ago English had no proper spelling for words. Look at some of the old parchments and manuscripts and you will see different spellings of the same word on the same page. This is something which the purists seem to overlook.

My philosophy is that if people understand what you are saying then screw the spelling, grammar and the rest. It's just a form of snobbery. A cave painting isn't the Mona Lisa, but it still communicates ideas, anyway most English words are spelt completely differently to how they sound. To me "creative writing" is finding new ways to spell old words (heh heh).

Okay, how do I start my first article?

First decide on a topic. This can be a subject which you are an expert in or just beginning to learn about. I think some of the best articles are the ones were the author learns and develops ideas while writing it.

All the usual areas in computing like compression, graphics, sound and algorithms are always worth reading and writing about. From the recent issues of Hugi there seems to be a lack of articles about sound and music, so if you have coded some nice new tricks or have just learnt about the principles of programming sound and music code then why not write a short article. You may find that this helps to clarify your own understanding of a subject.

The way I got into writing articles was by reading an article by Dario Phong (hi Dario) and thought that there were a few areas which could use a little more explanation, or improvement. Now I've written close to 30 articles (and they haven't got any better, hee hee).

Here is the basic format I use:

1. Introduction.

Give a quick, easy to read outline which describes what the article is about. It makes it so much quicker to find articles you want to read and makes finding them again later on much easier.

For example: "How to fake your own break-in and get lots of money from your insurance company without going to jail".

2. Warning.

I use this to give the restrictions or problems which a article has. Also any reference or previous knowledge which is required to understand an article.

For Example: "This assumes that you already what NURBS and B-SPLINES are."

3. An overview or Aim.

Give a short description (and perhaps code) about why you thought the article needed to be written. What you want to accomplish in the remaining text.

For Example: "The problem with the X algorithm is this..."

4. Terminology.

Sometimes, especially if you are a newbie coder, there will be unfamilar jargon which you don't understand, or you may use incorrect naming of methods which might confuse others. I admit to being very guilty of this.

For Example: "Phraze = a collection of sequential symbols."

(Is this right, Dario?)

5. Your main text section(s).

All your groovy new stuff with psuedo and C++, Pascal, Basic, 80x86 code snippets. This is just the main body of the article. If it is very long then perhaps you might consider breaking it up into small sections.

6. Improvements.

Most coding articles have this section. It just explains your own thoughts about how to improve the previously presented code or algorithm. The most common subject is optimization, in the size of code, memory required or speed of operation.

For Example: "A binary search or small software cache would help to speed up this algorithm. You may also want to try buying a new CPU too (grin)."

7. Credits/References.

Give credits to any reference papers, or existing algorithms on which your article is based. Not only does this make the original author happy but it helps the reader to find more information if they wish. Let's face it, you probably have missed a few tricks or a vital definition which prevents the reader from understanding your article.

For Example: "Check out the X newsgroup, or the Y website..."

8. Closing words.

Give a quick summing up, a working e-mail and your home page address. The e-mail is vital because it allows the readers to post their suggestions, comments and bug reports. Without this feedback articles will not get any better.

What document format?

I suggest using a plain 80-column ASCII text format such as .TXT or .DOC which can be created using the NOTEPAD, WORDPAD or similar application that came with your Operating-System.

I personally use my trusty old BRIEF editor in MS-DOS mode as it's nice and easy to use and never crashes.

The Editor(s).

Once you are happy with your article simply e-mail it to Adok/Hugi. He will be happy to scan through your article, reformat it for the Hugi magazine and send the edited version back to you.

Closing words.

See, it's really easy writing an article. Go on, you will be surprised how much fun it is to spread your words across the world and cause arguments by simply saying:

For Example: "Linux really sucks..."

Then wait for all those Penguin freaks to hurl verbal abuse in your direction (grin). But seriously, if you do intend to slag off someone else's code or ideas just remember to give reasons for doing so, explain WHY you think X sucks or Y is better. And prepare to recieve some abusive criticism in return (i.e. When you throw a grenade...... remember to duck!!).

All you need to write a short article is an idea, a working keyboard and a free hour or two to type the words in.

The scene needs new ideas and new people to make it more dynamic and ground-breaking than it currently is and a good way to do this is to exchange ideas and algorithms with others. Every coder, musican and artist has different ways of producing their own form of art. There will always be people who know a trick which you don't and vice-versa. Who knows, your article might be the start of a ground-breaking technique or the road to fame, fortune and lots of bare flesh (grin).

Happy writing.


TAD #:o)