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Life at East: A look at how to write this column

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014 10:24 p.m. CDT

Although no one has actually asked me, I know hundreds – no thousands – of you loyal readers are just dying to know my secret to writing such an engaging and witty column every week. I’ve decided that I’d give you the inside scoop on how I pull it off.

Every column has to have an idea – an inspiration for every letter that I type. It can be a funny thing that happened to me that week, or something bigger that I’ve been thinking about for a while. (Can you tell I didn’t have a good idea for this one?)

My columns all usually have a similar structure: the hook, an exposition, a middle and a meaningful – yet clever – ending that ties up all the loose ends.

I start the actual writing process by composing all of the thoughts that I have off of the top of my head. As the paragraphs form, I usually am impressed at how easy the words come out. Then I hit the 300-word count slump. In order to properly fit this opinion page, my column has to be between 500 and 550 words; the freeze-up happens just over halfway, so I struggle for more things to say. To help cure my writer’s block, I reread what I’ve written – adding filler words where I can – and try to add a paragraph or two. Occasionally, when it’s really bad, I give it a break or ask my mom for some help. 

Another important part of every column is the deadline. This occasionally (or always) helps to form the direction of my column, forcing me to build it up in some spots and scrap other sections completely. But definitely not because I procrastinate at all. I just get really anxious to turn it in early for extra credit and stuff. 

Once my work is a sufficient length, I copy on my tag at the very end, write an intriguing headline and double check my formatting: double spaces between paragraphs, proper punctuation and my name in all caps at the head. Pretty soon, it’s off to my editor via the Internet! I usually never see the column again. The day it’s in print, my parents tell me that they enjoyed it, and I thank them, but I never read it myself. Call it crazy, but it’s weird looking at it the way that everyone else does; I prefer to read it on my laptop throughout the many changes I make. Besides, I do not enjoy having my oh-so charming headshot stare me down in the morning. 

The powers that be at the Kane County Chronicle have made it pretty easy for a teenager like me to write a column; almost anyone could do it. It’s a great experience for young writers (cough, cough, future high school columnists), and I’m so glad I’ve made it work with my writing style.

• Brigid Ackerman is a recent graduate of St. Charles East High School. She enjoys playing the trumpet, eating bread,and writing this column, which now runs every Thursday. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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