The Art of Inventing Topics

Written by Adok

You may have noticed that every editor with a little experience has his favourite topic. As regards me, it is diskmags, and as regards Makke, it is music.

You probably also know that there are many ways of writing an article. You can, for example, first think about the whole thing until you have the article in your head and then write it down. You can also write down the article in short words and sentences, not minding your language and mistakes but just caring about the structure of the thoughts, and then make an article out of it. But it is also possible to write just what you think at the very moment you are writing and produce an article out of it, which by the way I am just doing, although I am following a certain concept I have already thought about for a few seconds.

And another thing you certainly know is that diskmags are always hunting for articles. Although a magazine can be even good if it only has a few articles, decent editors will try to fill their indexes' pages with tons of headlines in order to make their zines look bigger.

How are the three things connected now? It's very simple: In order to fill their magazines, editors have to write articles. And in order not to get them too boring, they have to invent new topics. Since, however, there are special topics one loves writing about and others one does not like so much, many articles in reality deal with topics that were already covered in older articles by the same author, but with a slightly different headline and slightly different aspects of the issue.

Do you remember my article "Demodiskmagscene Today" in Hugi #11? Actually, it partly deals with the same topics as "Newsletters vs. Diskmags vs. Online-mags" two issues later. Only are slightly different aspects of these topics revealed and new ideas brought into the discussion.

It is a widely spread trick of diskmag editors to repeat the same topics again and again, only with slightly different headlines and from slightly different aspects, to fill their magazines. It's also common to limit the topic and make it more abstract. For example, while "Demodiskmagscene Today" was an overview of the state of the PC diskmag scene that covered a vast amount of topics in 21 kbyte, "Newsletters vs. Diskmags vs. Online-mags" deals with only one of these little issues - in 8 kbyte. The same applies to the articles "Our Scene is in Danger", 19 kbyte, and "IRC Addiction Kills the Scene!", 4 kbyte. The latter exaggerates a little detail of the whole matter that is explained in the first article. And, to make it even weirder: The two articles were published in the same Hugi issue. Yet nobody complained that they dealt with almost the same problem. People seem to like repetition, to read about the same things in several articles with different writing styles. So why should the editors not take advantage of it?

Already in the times of Imphobia it was common that editors wrote more than one article about basically the same point in order to stress their message. Aap/ACME once even admitted doing so. Nobody complained. Besides, it is of course interesting to read articles about the same topics by various authors, showing their individual opinions and thoughts.

At the same time the articles a person writes often get more abstract the longer he or she has been active in the area of diskmag editing. Why that? Because the scene is not really something that offers concrete topics for hundred thousands of entirely different articles. Many of the concrete issues we are discussing nowadays, like sloppy coding, design in demos, mailswapping, parties, and so on, have already been discussed in diskmags years ago. If we want to write about the scene, we gradually have to move towards abstract topics. For instance, first we write about the diskmag scene, which is still very concrete, then about the advantages of diskmags compared to newsletters, and the next article could be what an ideal diskmag should look like. If we still want to continue writing about diskmags, we will inevitably have to move to topics such as "How to write articles", "How to become an editor", "What makes a diskmag proud", "Diskmags vs. professional magazines", "What is the psychological sense of making a diskmag", "What kind of people are editors", "Comparing some editors' writing styles", "The Art of Inventing Topics", etc. They become more abstract all the time.

That, however, just comes from the fact that the demo scene does not change too much in general. However, the emphasize is on SCENE. Demo coding still offers a lot of yet uncovered topics, as well as there are many unexplored issues as regards graphics and music. Also the Internet, Computer Science in general, Biology, Politics and other fields of life steadily offer new, interesting, and concrete topics to write about.

Why did I mention the writing style in the beginning? Because it also plays an important role in articles. When I read a diskmag, I do not only care about the content of its article but also about the artistical aspect, namely how the articles have been written. How important an interesting writing style is, I only realized a couple of months ago when I read some really well written diskmags. It gives articles a completely different touch. Reading an article about a topic you already know everything about that is written in an extraordinary style can, for some people, be an experience just as reading about an interesting topic on which you did not have much information yet. Therefore writing about an already covered topic in a different style is another means of getting articles for a disk magazine.

Besides, I also realized that people like reading articles which present opinions similar to their own ones very much. On the other hand, if an article is provocative enough, it often results in an outburst of response articles, which is not bad for the diskmag either, is it? After all, the editor has reached what he wanted, namely to get interesting articles for his mag.

Editors who love writing much, however, often think they have to make long articles about simple topics in order to attain a good writing style and be appreciated by the readers. That is a common mistake. On the contrary, when someone reads a mag he wants to be entertained, and to get entertained he wants an article to start off right at the beginning, and if an article does not awake his interest after about ten sentences he will skip it and look for another headline that seems interesting to him. Once a professional journalist wrote in a newsgroup: "An article is not finished when you cannot make it any longer, but when you cannot make it any shorter." So better write short articles about well-defined topics, otherwise you will be likely to lose the thread and ramble about topics you are actually not supposed to. And... erm, I just realized that I was actually doing that. So let's end this article here.

- adok^hugi

"dance in my dreams, dance, dance, dream, dream, dreams in my dance"