View From the Queue

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This week's View explores methods h2g2 writers can use to get inspired.

This Week's View

As I write this week's View, there are 378 entries left in the old queue. That's down from 417 entries a week ago, which totals a reduction of 39. This is about the same as the two previous weeks.

If this pace stayed the same, it would be about another 10 weeks before the old Queue disappeared at last. That means Dragonfly has the early lead on my contest to guess when the old Queue will die, with her guess of November 22nd. And it looks like my guess of September 18th was far, far too early.

Researchers have submitted 311 entries to the new Peer Review process so far. And there are 17 entries on the What's Coming Up page, which only includes entries slated for Peer Review. This means only 1 in 18 entries submitted to the Peer Review page have caught the Scouts' eyes so far. Don't be disheartened if you have submitted an entry that hasn't caught their eye yet. This will likely change as the Sub-editors get closer to clearing out that old Queue.

There are 60,771 registered users at h2g2, and there are 2024 editing entries currently in the Guide. h2g2 has finally topped the 60,000 researcher and 2,000 entry marks. Hurrah! Won't you join me for a glass of champagne in the forum below?

Getting Inspired

More often than not, your success at completing an entry depends on how committed you are to detailing the subject matter. To find one entry you are really dedicated to, you may have to consider and discard several ideas to find one worthwhile gem. For this reason, it's important for regular writers at h2g2 to generate plenty of ideas. The following are some methods researchers use to discover interesting topics.

Inspiration by Request

One way to get inspired is to read a list of topics people have requested entries on, and then pick one you feel confident handling. You can try the Index of Unwritten Entries and the Index of Entries That Need Rewriting for this. The best thing about this method is that you already know *someone* will appreciate your work. After you are done, don't forget to pop into the forum where the entry was requested to let everyone know what you've done. Otherwise, someone may duplicate your efforts.

Inspiration by Association

Another great way to find interesting topics is to check out the various clubs at h2g2. Many clubs include a comprehensive catalog of all the entries written so far about the club's interests. While looking over the list, you may notice a glaring exception, which you will of course have to remedy yourself. In this case, you will have the support of a club full of individuals, some of whom may be able to help you out if you get stuck. As I mentioned last week, you will find listings of the various clubs and virtual communities at h2g2 in the Overwhelmingly Huge Guide to H2G2 Clubs and the Quick Reference Guide.

Inspiration by Determination

Try keeping a small notebook handy to help you remember your great ideas. As Joanna wrote:

Well of course its logical to want to have pen and paper available at all times. They're just
so handy... writing guide entries, i dunno, writing down registration plates of the car that
ran into you.....

Many ideas are lost because we fail to write them down, and then forget them later. By carrying a notebook (or a handheld computer), you will be able to jot down these occasional ideas for your reference later. Be determined to remember all your ideas, and over time these will likely add up to several worthwhile entries.

Inspiration by Location

As JimiX wrote:

"All you need to do is pay attention to your surroundings and take a few notes and you
should be able to write a good entry about nearly anyplace!"

Keep track of the places you go and the things you do there. If you keep h2g2 in the back of your mind while you're out and about, this should help you discover entries you might not have considered from your computer desk. First make sure there is an entry on your home town. Then consider writing about your favorite restaurant, bar, bookstore, or other hangout. You could also try writing an entry about the location of your next vacation. The possibilities are endless. The nice thing about writing about the places you go to is that all the research materials you need are right in front of you. You might even let your local bar know you wrote a positive review about them when you're done. You never know -- you might get a free round for it.

Of course, you can also get great ideas by looking around you in even the most mundane places. Entries have been written on Post-it notes, spoons, and many other typical household and workaday items. Trying to explain the use and social function of ordinary items can be an interesting and sometimes humorous experiment. So don't turn a blind eye to your surroundings, no matter where you are.

Inspiration by Collaboration

Another easy way to get started is to find a subject someone else is working on, and offer to collaborate on the project with them. The most obvious example of this is the Weekly Topic listed on h2g2's Main Page. You will probably not want to contribute every week, but do pipe in when you have something interesting to say. The researchers who contribute do indeed get partial credit for the resulting entry.

You should also look at h2g2's University of Life. This is full of departments and sub-departments dedicated to various academic and semi-academic areas of research. You might find someone working on a whole series of worthwhile entries who could desperately use your help.

You could even consider submitting some entries or a weekly column to the Post. All of these options have the added benefit of a deadline, so you may feel more motivated to contribute in a timely manner.

Other Tips

Tips that work for other kinds of writers also work for writers at h2g2. The most common suggestions for writers follow.

  • Try brainstorming. Take ten minutes to write out as many random ideas as you can on a sheet of paper, without considering whether your ideas are silly or already covered at h2g2. When you're done, look over your list and cross out the obviously impractical ideas. Then lift the best ideas from your list and make them a reality.

  • Write what you know. Write about your career, your favorite hobby, or some other topic integral to your everyday experiences. If you have an advanced degree, explain the basics in your field of study. If you have collected some general wisdom about life, share it in the form of entries containing useful advice.

  • Force yourself to write regularly. Although inspiration is important, writing is still 90% perspiration. Set aside a time of the day or week when you can write regularly, and force yourself to sit down and work. Over a period of time, your subconscious will begin to anticipate this ritual and you may find the ideas are waiting for you when you sit down.

Next Week's View

Once you have been properly inspired, you will no doubt write an entry worth reading. But does this mean it will automatically be included in the Edited Guide? Not always. Next week, you'll learn how you can improve your entry's chances by satisfying the Scouts and making the Sub-editor's job easier. Next week's View is about about satisfying the staffers.

Written by Fragilis the Melodical

Click here to see previous weeks' Views from the Queue.

Opinions expressed in this column are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of h2g2 or the Post.

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