Eddie's writing advice

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The rugby commentator and sports journalist, Eddie Butler, gives us his tips for writing under pressure.

Hi my name is Eddie Butler. I am the rugby correspondent of the Observer newspaper, I also work for the BBC in Wales and the BBC in London. As I do a little bit of radio and a bit of television, it means I have to write.

  • Don't be afraid of the blank page
    I've been doing this a long time, and the blank page still spooks me a bit. Don't worry, it can be filled.

  • Keep it simple
    In exam conditions, when you're writing under pressure, the temptation is to pour it all out. Write short sentences, don't use over-cooked, long sentences. Use simple words. Break the piece down into simple building blocks.

  • The start is the key
    That's the hook that's going to make a reader think 'I like that opening.' You've got to get somebody hooked, so they'll carry on reading.

  • Make the end refer back to the beginning
    That way you've always got some semblance of a structure, and it gives the piece shape. Then all you've got to do is fill in the middle. That piece looks after itself because you know where you're going after the start.

  • It's about telling little stories that create one big story
    Whatever you're writing about, whether it's nuclear physics, going to buy a bottle of milk, or a rugby match, it's all about the story.

  • What should I do if my mind goes blank?
    I get up and go for a stroll. That's the best thing to do. Go away and something will come. If I can't do that then I ask myself, are they playing well? How's the scrum? How's the line-out? Just get something down.

  • Don't be afraid of full stops
    When people start writing they think 'I've got to have long sentences, I've got to get this information in.' The best thing you can do is keep it all very short. I love the full stop.

  • Go with it
    Once you're on a roll, and everything's tumbling out, go with it. Don't stop, you can always come back to it and tinker later.

  • Stop and read it through
    I remember finishing essays at school and just going 'The end.' Throw it all down, and on with the next one. It's very important to stop and read it through. Take a step back from it and ask yourself 'Is this going to read as easily and as smoothly as it came out?' If the answer is 'No,' change it.

  • Don't tinker too much
    You've got to have confidence that the first draft is going to be it. Don't be afraid of changing it, but do be wary of saying 'I hate it all, I'm deleting everything and starting again.' That could get you in a real pickle, especially when the old clock is ticking.

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