Why do writers like to write? Part of the appeal has to be that it’s a totally self-centered activity. Pick up a pen, or sit down at a keyboard, and you can go on and on about whatever interests you at the moment.
Or you think you can.
More and more I’m coming to think that writing isn’t about I: It’s about you. The first requirement of good writing is figuring out what will entertain, amuse, or enlighten your readers. Often you have to take a familiar experience, idea, or feeling and transform it into something new and unfamiliar.
Not easy to do. Welcome to staring-at-a-sheet-of-paper-or-a-blank-computer-screen.
My current project is writing material for a continuing-education module on police report writing. Looked at one way, it’s an easy task: I know the content, and it’s easy to organize and write develop.
But there’s a problem. My future readers are experienced police officers who have been writing reports (probably good ones) for years. How am I going to hold their interest?
Aye, there’s the rub.
So what I’m doing is looking for “potholes” – issues that officers might not think about during a typical shift. I’m also seeking practices that have changed or need to change. Traps and pitfalls. And some stories about police reports gone wrong…or right.
Remember the Navy Yard shooting? Turns out that several months earlier, a Connecticut police officer had interviewed the shooter about his claim that aliens were pursuing him. What seemed like an ordinary police call turned out to have national significance.