The advices and tips provided here are complimentary to the tips provided by Moonhunter in the Citadel Advice Codex and the General Advice on the Submission page. In fact, I think those should be read before this scroll because this one is less general in nature. That is, I have to say some of the tips and advices are coloured by my own method of writing which might not apply to everyone. But enough preamble.
Note: Additions to this on the use of Scrolls and Codices as a tool for organizing ideas amongst related submissions are welcom, so are new Scrolls on aspects not covered here.
I will break down a submission into 3 key aspects: Content, Structure and Organisation. These will be what this article focuses on.
Content is King! You absolutely cannot have even a half-decent piece of writing based on a fantastic structure and organisation of ideas but content that is little better than gibberish.
Having said that, I dont have much general advice to offer in this area except a little checklist for use once you are more or less ready to submit your piece:
- Logic: pretend your piece is any argumentative essay. Can someone see holes in your arguments?
- Clarity: are what you wrote conveying what you meant to say?
- Completeness: any aspects in your piece that begs the questions of Who, How, Why?
Luckily in the Citadel, you can submit your pieces as Advice Requested and there is the Sagely Advice section on the Forum for working out incomplete ideas. So utilise them. And then of course, there is the group of very helpful experienced Stronelites who will give advice on these areas.
A good structure will help so much in conveying what you want to tell in a coherent way.
1) When you write, work out your structure first once you have some handle on the key ideas of your piece. This can be just the section headings or you might want to read a few dot points under the headings. This way, you minimize the need to reposition sections since you have already got the flow of piece done by working out a structure.
I also find a structure helpful when I want to come back to pieces. Personally, I will always post something in In Work (private) first that is very incomplete (all dot point form) and then gradually move it out into the visible parts of the Citadel when its in a more presentable format, meaning with full sentences. This process, however, sometimes takes weeks to months. A further complication is that I often have multiple ideas and there are periods where I just dont feel like touching a piece. As a result, the pieces in my In Work (public) section tend to just pile up. Having a Structure there means I can quickly progress my pieces when Im in the mood.
2) When you do have to do some restructuring of sections, especially across submissions, utilize the Stub format.
Ive only recently found a use for this format, which Ive found to be very useful. For relatively new Citadelians like myself, basically these are really short posts detailing information that you might want to reuse time and time again i.e. have other submissions that link back to this particular piece of information.
In terms of redoing a submissions Structure, they come in very handy because you can put sections you want to relocate but isnt sure where to go into a Stub. The good thing with this approach is that it is costless to remove the Stub later. Also, sometimes its good to do so purely because the particular section might actually be better as a stand alone (looking at a particular section by itself might inspire you to substantially expand on it and make it a submission in its own right) or you can use this approach to find out odd sections, those ones that actually disrupt the flow of the piece rather than complement it.
Organisation of Ideas
This is more a point to do with related submissions, submissions originating from the same idea/concept. Specifically, this refers to issues such as which submission should a particular section go with amongst the multiple related subs, what should be the focus of each related sub and possibly how all the related subs go together in fleshing out a concept.
I’ve already mentioned that I often have multiple ideas in my head and Ive found that they sometimes merge or new ideas spring out of a piece in my In Work that are related but sort of on a tangent to the existing one. Hence my concern on the organisation of ideas for each of the related submissions and all of them looked at together. Maybe its a personal quirk, maybe not. I still have some unresolved issues with this point but I will share what tips I have on this topic:
1) Utilize stubs. Refer to tips no. 2 from the Structure section. Also, I might add the slogan When in doubt, use Stubs.
2) Put on your Marketing cap. Basically look at each of the related sub as a product. You need to advertise each of them and who wants to buy 2 products made by the same company that is 80% the same? (caveat: pretend prices don’t come in)
3) If you want to nestle a Codex within a Codex to achieve a two-level (or more) hierachical ordering of your submissions, don’t do it that way (refer to my thread on organisation of issues in Sagely Advice in the Forum and Dozus’ reply for why). Instead, use Freetext. Example: You want to have one World Codex where you summarise your World in terms of creation, geography etc. You might have a scroll on the Creation and another scroll on the geography etc. Then you want another Codex within the World Codex, let’s call it the Geography Codex, where you expand on each of the regions in this World i.e. you have one scroll for each of the region in your World. Using Freetext, you simly put the name of your World as the freetext in both your World Codex and your Geography Codex rather than using the link back.
* I know Scrolls and Codices are very useful with respect to this issue. But as I havent fully worked this aspect out, I cant offer any tips (Refer to my thread on the organisation of ideas in Sagely Advice in the Forum pt no. 2 for my concerns with horizontal and vertical subs). If anyone with more insights on this issue could offer advice, that would be great.
Additional Ideas (1)
Based on the comment by Moonhunter, I'm starting this scroll to talk about this issue but again this is my particular take on it. Others with different opinions on this issue are welcome to add Balancing Content and Presentation Scroll #2, 3 and so on. Scrolls on different aspects are also most welcome if the author thinks it relevant to posting in general. This scroll is meant to stand alone from the previous one so there might be some discrepancies with respect to the definition of terms used. In particular, in the previous scroll, I tend to define things loosely whereas here, all terms are defined more strictly. So firstly, let me define the 2 terms and some of the bordering terms associated with them and finally the term Submission. Any bolded term means that I'm using the term strictly according to the definition that I've provided.
Content, Idea and Concept
Content, as I think of it in general, is the meat of a piece of writing. This might encompass a few different definitions. For the sake of this scroll, though, let¡¦s restrict its definition to the following: content is basically the sections of a submission , that describes to the readers all the key ideas of the piece in its most raw form that stands separate from grammar, expressions and such like. Under this definition, content is basically the written form or physical manifestation of the key ideas or the underlying concept that form a submission . So then what is an idea and what is a concept? Well, I consider something to be an idea if it can be summarized within 10 words. More specifically, I would say the 5 Ws (What, Who, When, Where and Why) and 1 H (How) is each an idea, in addition to Origin, Major Events (describing some sorts of changes) and Currently if you want to add a timeline component to your submission . I consider there to be missing components if the content of a particular submission is not based on at least 3-4 of such ideas. As to concept, I see it as the 3 or more such ideas that flow together coherently and logically.
Presentation, Execution and Prose
Presentation is the way you provide your content to your readers, the wrapping paper that goes over it. This includes aspects like spelling and grammar, clarity, elegance of expressions etc. In a similar vein, execution is the way you formulate and articulate your ideas into a coherent and quality submission . Now, as to prose or writing style, I am thinking of it not in terms of (insert your own name)¡¦s prose, but rather in terms of the prose for argumentative essays, descriptive essays, informative essays etc.
Submission, as I define it here, is the actual post that you post up to the Citadel when you click on the Add Submission button. A submission , I contend, is basically Content plus Presentation. Given these definitions, I want to offer the key aspects of Content and Presentation that should be considered when posting before cutting to the meat of this scroll:
- Solidity: How sound is the underlying concept on which your submission is based on? Can anyone poke holes in it?
- Completeness: How self contained your submission is or whether there are any aspects that felt left out in the submission? Any parts that people read and think this begs the question of why?
- Coherence: Do the central ideas of the submission fit with each other or do they appear to be forcefully lumped together?
- Creativity: originality of the ideas on which the content is centered on. Of course this is a rather subjective thing so more generally, I would say: "Are there interesting twists to your submission?"
- Spelling and Grammar: Some typos are unavoidable but really the spell check is there to be used!
- Clarity: Are you getting through what you want to say? Does your way of expression hinder this? Also, are there bits of background information that needs to be explained for readers to understand the underlying concept of your submission?
- Elegance: Can you find an alternative way of expression that enhances the feel of your submission? How are you going to draw your readers into the atmosphere of your submission?
Now on balancing between Content and Presentation, my personal formula is 50% Content + 50% Presentation for all categories except Articles or maybe Societies and Systems (for Societies and Systems, it really depends) where I suggest a mix of 70% Content+30% Presentation. Under my definitions, I don't think there is much room for changing this broad formula but maybe 5% shifting is sort of acceptable. As to how to allocate weight to the different aspects within Content and Presentation, which I think is the more practical and difficult side of this issue, I offer some tips below but again this is my particular take on it:
- Spelling and Grammar is 10% of the Submission
- Clarity is at least 10% of the Submission
- Make sure all aspects of Content and Presentation right first before you start work on Elegance (unless you are a natural born with this aspect)
- The order in which I present the different aspects are pretty much my suggested order on which aspects to tackle first in writing so yes, I belong to the Contents school and I think one first have to have a solid concept and then you see whether there are holes in it or you can expand it out etc. until you come to the final stage of seeing whether you can enhance the atmosphere of your submission
- An easy way of enhancing the elegance of your submission is to insert italic text or blockquotes in appropriate places
- A trick of finding such appropriate places is to view each section of your submission as a separate thing after your final write-up and then ask yourself whether you need more atmosphere for that particular section
- For me, I see there being 2 types of submission: a solid submission where the selling point is Solidity, Completeness, Coherence and Clarity (plus Spelling and Grammar of course) and a artistic submission where the selling point is Creativity and Elegance. Of course, they don't have to be 2 different types of submissions and I¡¦m not saying in a solid submission, one should forget all about elegance and creativity or that for an artistic piece, the underlying concept doesn't have to make sense at all. And of course, someone can write a piece that is both solid and artistic. In general, though, the point I want to bring across is that you might like to choose from these 2 selling points and work on the relevant aspects as your focus when writing a particular submission.
- For those aiming for a solid submission, I propose the following weighting of aspects: 30% to Solidity, 15% to Completeness, Coherence and Clarity respectively, 10% to Spelling and Grammar and Creativity respectively 5% to Elegance.
- For those aiming for an artistic submission, I propose the following weighting of aspects: 25% to Solidity, 10% to Completeness, Coherence, Clarity and Spelling and Grammar respectively, 20% to and Creativity respectively 15% to Elegance.