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Write like a spin doctor? That would be a miracle.

6 eager learners gathered round Sara Spillett's kitchen table on Monday.  Our aim?  To glean words of wisdom about the art of writing news stories.  Who from?  Our local expert, Glenn Hickling, copywriter and writing coach. 

"Keep it short," he said.  "The first paragraph must catch the reader's attention.  You will lose 50% of your audience with every paragraph."  "No more than 10 words per sentence or phrase, and more short words than long words".   (Errr, um ... have I succeeded in this piece? ....maybe not!)  

So, how to structure a news story?  Our first exercise, using the ""inverted pyramid", was to put the most news worthy information first, with the formula: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?    

And our topic to practice on?  The miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  Our task?  To rewrite this well known story into a catchy newspaper article.  "Weave in quotations" said Glenn "and be creative. It doesn't matter that the character didn't actually use those words".   

Next exercise - pick a nursery rhyme from a hat, and reduce the number of words without losing any of the important information.  So Rock-a-bye Baby, Jack and Jill, and Humpty Dumpty and others were chipped away to minimum length.  Mine reduced from  26 words to 19, others were much more succinct.    

And then - HEADLINES.  The most important part, and more eye-catching and successful if emotional words are included.  A list of 180 to choose from - "free", "colossal", surprise", "special" and, fortunately, "miracle".   

Then the final exercise - re-write the miracle remembering all these points.  So, here goes.....



A miracle saved the day yesterday at a wedding in Cana.  Jesus, that up-and-coming young teacher from Galilee, pulled off a remarkable feat. Encouraged by his mother, he turned a large quantity of water into top quality wine.  "I noticed the wine had run out," she said, "and mentioned it to my son.  He's a good boy and sorted it all out.  I'm so proud of him."  

The Master of Ceremonies was complimentary about the quality.  "The bridegroom kept the best wine until the end" he exclaimed, little realising that it had been water only minutes earlier. "I must find out his supplier." Michael, the bridegroom, was delighted that an embarrassing shortage of wine had been averted. "What a man. I can hardly believe what happened."  

Remarkable indeed.  This young man is worth watching.