By ricklakin

Sheila Dobbie has been writing most of her life beginning with her first published piece in the fourth grade for her elementary school newspaper. She has contributed countless articles over the years to area newspapers about the arts, edited a professional environmental publication, has been a lobbyist for the arts in the schools, and a PR director and founding member of a community arts association.

Ms. Dobbie is also a former English and journalism teacher, construction reporter, entrepreneur, and certified paralegal. As a free-lance writer, she assisted with the research of a book about the Scots at the Alamo and many other projects. Regarding her nom de plume, she says, “I write under my full name to honor those who were an important part of my life when I carried that name and who helped shape who I am.”

She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, John, a dog and a cat. She maintains a blog, Notes from the Pond—in the spirit of Walden, where she records her observations on everything from politics to nature to movie reviews. Visit her at or or


There is no right way to write. There are probably as many
different ways of writing as there are authors—published and unpublished.
However, I will share my writing process or what works for me.

I have broken down the procedure into six steps. They are:

first step begins with an idea or topic. Many times I let the idea roll around
in my head for weeks before I sit down to write. Is it an original idea? If
not, what can I do to make it different? As an example I am currently working
on a book about the Civil War. This is a topic so vast that if I read every
book ever written about the war and viewed every movie and TV show I doubt I
would finish in this life time.

next step is research—tons and tons of research. My general rule is I begin
reading as much as I can about a topic and, when I begin finding the same
information in several publications, I then feel I have covered the subject
adequately. Along with this research it is important to take accurate notes including
where the information came from and, if it is taken from a periodical or the
internet, it should include the date as data changes rapidly in today’s world.

Now, what do I do with this research? The next step is organization. A rough
outline is helpful. It will probably change a lot by the time you reach the
finished product but this is a good beginning step. From this outline you may
want to start naming and organizing your chapters. Now, consolidate your notes
according to your outline.

hard part is the actual writing. Most authors and artists will tell you that
facing a blank page or canvas is somewhat intimidating. By this time there are
usually so many ideas in your head that knowing where and how to start is
difficult. That is why I have developed what I call my “Shot Gun” style of
writing. I put every idea on paper as fast as I can without worrying about
spelling or grammar. I want to get the ideas and wording down before I forget it.

for any mistakes is the next step. Once I finish the essay, news article, or
book chapter I then go back to read for spelling, grammar, and continuity.
Merriam-Webster defines continuity as:
con·ti·nu·i·ty : uninterrupted connection, succession, or union.
Does the
subject matter flow or do ideas jump around? Is each paragraph a complete unit
or is another subject introduced? Are there any vague or unintelligible
sentences? Do I need to elaborate on a topic? Have I been too wordy or repeated
myself and need to delete? Do I need to move sentences or paragraphs around for
a better understanding of the topic? Does the writing flow? Is it easy to read?
Does it communicate?

the writing is finished the most crucial step is edit, edit, edit! Nothing turns off a discerning reader faster
than misspelled words, poor grammar, and sloppy work. The author instantly
loses credibility if he/she cannot express himself properly. Anyone who turns
in a piece to a publisher without first editing it is a fool. Even the pros
review and revise their work before turning it into their publisher. Many times
it will then be turned over to a professional editor for more polishing. Think
of it not as someone critiquing and criticizing your work but someone polishing
it so all your prose and ideas will shine. This is the icing on the cake for
all your hard work.

My attitude is if my name is on it I want it to be right!

Sheila Dobbie, Author

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast;

Surviving a Life Altering Event


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