Instructions for use

Welcome! I'm Sven and this is a guide to my life in Australia. Join me in discovering the do's and don'ts of living down under. Like that box of crap in the bottom of your wardrobe, there's useful stuff in here. Somewhere.

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How to: plan a magazine article using masking tape and Sharpies

Gnightgirl asked what I was doing with masking tape recently, and lamented the lack of embiggening on the photos.  It sounds like a cheap and easy way to keep the posts coming and the hits up, so here’s an explanation.  Anthea Turner, Perfect Housewife recommended using masking tape and a Sharpie marker (other fine-point permanent markers are available) to create cheap labels for things you stick in the fridge, like this mayonnaise:

Mayonnaise and a home-made label. (Click to embiggen.)

Being a resourceful chap I adapted this to suit another need: my inability to plan my writing using conventional systems like brainstorms and outlines.  This is how it works.

You will need:

  • 1 roll of masking tape
  • at least two Sharpies in contrasting colours
  • a wall/whiteboard/kitchen cupboard/desktop
  • paper and a pen/Word (because isn’t that the twenty-first century notepad?)

Method:

1. Stick big strips of masking tape over your whiteboard or equivalent.  In this example I am using the kitchen cupboards because they are easier to clean if I stray off the tape, but you can use your walls if you don’t care about the paint job and have no deposit to lose.  Write all your ideas on the tape in whatever order they come out.  Don’t worry about structure or form, just get them out: phrases, references, research, whatever.  Write it all down any old how.  This article was about the sexual preferences of cartoon characters but yours may look slightly different.

Sveny planning an article using masking tape and a cupboard door. (Click to embiggen)

2.  Looking at these, loosely plan your article.  Take your inspiration as the starting point and think about what you want to say, how you want it to develop and where you want to end.  Hopefully while you were throwing out ideas connections starting forming which makes this part a little easier.  I did this part on Word and summarised each paragraph or topic with a few words.  If you only have three paragraphs and your goal is 3,000 words, you can take action now – that’s what plans are for – but don’t worry about the word count too much here, and certainly don’t divide it up amongst the paragraphs: you don’t need more rods for your back.

3.  Write your paragraph summaries on masking tape in a new colour (I used blue but you can choose whatever you like) and stick them up in order, leaving space underneath each one – you will need this in a moment.

4.  Returning to your whiteboard (or kitchen cupboard), cut up all the ideas into individual little sticky labels.  I fold over the ends to make them easy to remove and re-stick, but I’m anal like that: you can choose to make your life as difficult or easy as you desire.  Stick these labels in the spaces under the paragraph summaries as you like.  You can stick and re-stick each one as many times as you like.  I used a two-stage approach, sticking them into categories first, and then into what I thought was an order I could use.  You should end up with something looking roughly like this:

The 'finished' plan. Individual results may vary. (Click to embiggen.)

5.  And there you have your plan.  Now write your article.  What?  This is a recipe for a plan – I can’t do everything for you.  Sheesh.

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