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  1. #1

    Writing long guides for WoW Related Forums

    Writing long guides for WoW Related Forums

    Table of Contents

    1. Planning your topic
    1.1 The Scope vs. The Title
    1.2 Plan your content structure
    1.2.1 Mind mapping
    1.2.2 Title bouncing
    1.2.3 The Incredible Growing Article (TIGA)
    2. Assembling the text
    2.1 Readability
    2.2 Writing style
    2.2.1 The Flowchart
    2.2.2 The Roleplay
    3. Using pictures to clarify
    4. Posting
    4.1 Pre-posting
    4.2 Posting
    4.3 Post-posting
    5. Credits


    1. Planning your topic

    Usually when an author writes a guide, the topic is born out of a sense of necessity. Either the author feels that he/she knows too little about a subject and decides to help others who are possibly in the same situation, or then he/she feels that other people know way too little and decides to do something about it. The latter type tends to be written in anger and unintentionally subjective.

    There are also two notable types of guides; The Tutorial and The Reference. The former is to be followed, step by step from beginning to end. The second can be read only when required. In other words, you can try to accomplish a certain goal and go about it as you would anything else, while just glancing occasionally at the guide. Most guides tend to be a hybrid of these, with more or less emphasis on one or the other. Knowing which one you're writing and supporting that particular reading style will improve the overall quality of your guide.

    1.1 The Scope vs. The Title

    The scope and title of the topic can be adjusted while writing, but it is usually best to plan ahead and consider the potential of a given topic. For example: the topic "How To Farm Herbs in The Twilight Highlands" is probably a really good and needed guide. But assuming you can do the research and don't mind the writing, it might even be a better idea to expand the topic a bit. Either "How to Farm Herbs, Ores and Skins in Twilight Highlands" or then "How to Farm Herbs in Cataclysm". This way more people would be interested in reading at least a part of your guide.

    When the scope of the guide is set and you know you want to write about the use of the Archeology equipment, it might be worth a few minutes to consider the title. As funny and witty a title like "No Country for Old Night elves" would be, it might just throw off anyone search for a topic exactly like yours. Usually the most popular guides have the most straightforward titles.

    An exception to this rule is the use of secondary titles (no, not subtitles, silly). As an example I could use any of the class/spec threads over at Elitist Jerks. Here's a pick at random: "Unholy DPS | Cataclysm, Say You'll Haunt Me", "Demonology in Cataclysm | The Demon Within", "The Way of the Shield: Protection in Cataclysm". These titles all clearly say what they're about, while at the same time show a title with a bit more depth. These titles usually attract spontaneous readers while not deterring the ones who actually are looking for that topic.

    1.2 Plan your content structure

    In order to make your text appear more coherent and the reading experience more enjoyable, the guide should have a clear structure. Sure you can write it as you come up with it, but that usually cuts down on the readability of a text. Certain details get unnecessarily repeated, sentences lack a clear structure and typos get more difficult to spot. All of these things make your text less fluent for the reader and the more times a reader has to stop and think "wtf does this even mean?" the less he/she will think of your guide. Unless a guide is good, there's little point to write it. Unless, of course, there's a dragon as a reward. *cough*

    There are a number of ways to think up a structure. Here are three examples on ways to go about it:

    1.1.1 Mind mapping

    The idea of a mind map should be familiar to most grown-ups by now. For those unfamiliar with it, you can check out Wikipedia's page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map. Using a mind map to plan a guide expands on this concept by letting you encircle suitable areas that can be written into chapters.


    After the mind map has been divided into chapters, one just has to consider the order in which to present these.


    1.1.2 Title bouncing

    Once your realize what the title of this strategy means, you'll find it surprisingly descriptive. The basic idea is to write down the parts of the guide in the form of a Table of Contents (ToC). This can be combined with the Mind mapping strategy in order to cover an area more thoroughly. The ToC could look something like this:

    Code:
    A Guide To Taking Down a Boss
    
    1. Introduction
    2. Loot
    3. Boss Abilities
    4. The Fight
    4.1 Positioning
    4.2 Things to keep in mind
    4.3 Phases
    5. Preparations
    That would be the plan for the guide. Until you realize that perhaps Loot is something more suitable at the end, while preparations probably should precede the actual fight. Better redo it:

    Code:
    A Guide To Taking Down a Boss
    
    1. Introduction
    2. Boss Abilities
    3. Preparations
    4. The Fight
    4.1 Positioning
    4.2 Things to keep in mind
    4.3 Phases
    5. Loot
    The reason why having a ToC like this visible is that you get a better view of the entire article. Depending on the guide, you might even want to keep it visible next to the actual text while you're writing. Say for example you're writing about stats for a certain class. The primary stats usually have more effects than one (spellpower+spellcrit+regen, attackpower+crit+betterluckwithwomen) and keeping in mind what chapter should say what might just keep the text more fluid and less repetitive.

    1.1.3 The Incredible Growing Article (TIGA)

    A friend of mine actually recommended this strategy for writing essays in school. No, he didn't call it by this awesome name, that's my idea. But for anyone struggling with improving the quality of said essays, this could help you quite a bit.

    You start off by writing a short version of the guide. Short sentences and not many of them. The goal is to get a micro version of the whole article.

    Code:
    How To Tame Legendary Pet
    
    Go to area. Scout for pet. If pet isn't there, kill other beast instead until pet spawns. Tame pet. Show off in Orgrimmar.
    This can give you a good idea of how large the guide will be. Once you have the entire storyline written down, divide the sentences into paragraphs and start elaborating on each sentence.

    Code:
    How To Tame Legendary Pet
    
    The pet only spawns in the Northern Barrens. Since the pet is level 20, you need to be at least that level to tame it.
    
    Usually the pet spawns over at the Sludge Fen and walks over to The Dry Hills. When it crosses the road it will usually be killed by random people walking/riding by, so make sure to camp the area before it. 
    
    If you can't find the pet anywhere and you've scouted the entire trail, you might want to start killing goblins. It seems that the goblins share the spawn timer with the pet. 
    
    Once you find the pet there are a few things you might want to take into consideration before taming. The pet is immune to the Freezing Trap, but it is susceptible to the Ice Trap. So you might want to use that if you're only barely above its level. 
    
    Once you have your pet, don't forget to post a screenshot of it in this thread. I'll see you in Orgrimmar, we can let our pets play!
    When reiterating this, you can get a better view of the storyline than if you just wrote all of it from start to end. If you do this on the computer you can just keep two documents open at the same time and keep track of things. If you do it on paper (don't mock it, some people still write on paper!) you'll want more than one paper. As a matter of fact, you'll probably want about half a dozen so you can reiterate properly. This will give you plenty of opportunities to let it grow or shrink, depending on how elaborated you want the article.

    2. Assembling the text

    When doing the actual writing, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind.

    The finished article should have coherent text, as little typos as possible and be as easy to read as possible. Coherence in longer texts is mainly noted by two things: sentence coherence and story coherence. So not only will each individual sentence need to make sense, but also the entire article as a whole should have a clear direction at all times. Shocker, right?

    People who have more experience writing longer pieces accomplish both of these without having to think twice. But a slightly more inexperienced writer might want to start off by re-reading his/her own text and additionally ask a friend to proofread it. Incoherence in the individual sentences can easily be found by quickly scanning through the article, but larger flaws like storyline incoherence can usually only be detected by fully reading the entire piece.

    2.1 Readability

    The Princeton WordNet Lexicon defines "readability" as "the quality of written language that makes it easy to read and understand". In addition to the previously mentioned coherence and spelling, there are other things that affect the readability. Sentences should start with a capital letter and end with a dot/full-stop, sure. But in addition to this, longer articles should be split into chapters and preferably numbered. If a chapter is too long, it should be split even further. Splitting articles into chapters allows the reader to take subconscious breaks between the separate parts. These breaks aren't usually long, but they are enough to let the reader's brain gather itself and consider the contents for a while. An even more important part is paragraph length. Personally I'd recommend varying between the lengths but never exceeding 5-7 lines, depending on the font. An optimal paragraph length would be 3-5 lines. Since I gave these measurements in amounts of line, it means it is up to the writer to adjust the sentences according to the layout of the forums. Wide forums equals more text per paragraph and vice versa.

    The first paragraph in this chapter is an example of a too long paragraph. A paragraph like that will rapidly increase the "tl;dr"-factor as well as increase the probability of someone referring to your guide as a "wall of text". Enough paragraphs like that and someone will claim you critted something/someone with your article.

    Pro tip: Paragraph numbering similar to what I've used in this post allows for the reader to search the document for the header of choice. This is a really handy thing if the forums don't support internal linkage. *cough*Admins*cough*fixit*cough*

    TL;DR: Keep it short and concise, but to the point. Or you'll lose readers.

    2.2 Writing style

    There are a number of approaches to write a guide. Most of the articles you've seen in the MMO-Champion Forums have probably been of the more factual kind. "Do this. Do that. Profit." But there are other approaches to do this.

    2.2.1 The Flowchart

    These are surprisingly popular and I'm quite sure some people don't even consider these guides. The most popular by far must surely be the Cat Druid DPS Flowchart. I don't know who made this, but kudos. I've been told this one was made by Vertidog. Kudos to you, Sir/Madame.


    2.2.2 The Roleplay

    These guides don't come along all too often. As a matter of fact, the only one I've seen in a while is this scanning guide for EVE Online.
    (Sorry Bibi, I know this goes off the grid a bit. But I can't help it if people don't write these here too often.)

    http://www.eveonline.com/devblog.asp?a=blog&bid=642

    These guides are really fun to read even if you're not interested in the subject. But at the same time there is a certain risk that this format will render the guide useless as a Reference Guide (first chapter, if you skipped it, this is now a reference guide).

    3. Using pictures to clarify

    Along with the announcement for the MMO-Champion Guide Contest it was mentioned that any possible pictures be uploaded to imgur.com. I've been using this service myself now for the same purposes for a while and I've been quite satisfied. I also recommend using this site.

    What you want to keep in mind when using images in forum posts (not just guides) is size and focus. The image should be of a suitable size and the object of the image should be clear. An image portraying the addon you're writing about should not be an unedited screenshot of your full resolution. If users tend to end up thinking "where/what is it?" when looking at your image, you've failed.

    Usually a good picture should be about 40%-75% of the width of the written area and 2-4 times a max paragraph. This usually leaves the layout of the forums intact and allows the reader to see the purpose of the image quite quickly. As an example, some work from our favorite blogger.


    Bibi here uses an image that's 75% of the text, which suites the wide layout, and a height of approximately two times the paragraph height. For a forum format where the writing area is more slim, a less wide image would fit better.

    Regardless of the size and form of the picture, it's still really important to focus on the important contents. Here's how Bibi didn't do it. Notice how you'll continue scanning for relevance in the picture.


    Note: When using imgur.com you can set it to automatically resize the pictures to 640x480. This even mentioned being "for message boards" and works surprisingly well.

    4. Posting

    Some people write a long thing in their browser and post it. Sometimes it's good, other times it's not. Sometimes the browser fails and deletes the entire post before it's been sent and that person has to rewrite the whole thing. I've been that person a few times. It's annoying as fuck.

    That's one of the many reasons I've come up with a form of a list of stuff to check before you post you guide, during posting your guide and after posting your guide.

    4.1 Pre-posting

    While still writing, do yourself a favor: don't write in the browser or in a document editor like Word. As soon as you write a longer text, you will be much better off writing it in a program that doesn't allow for text formatting. Writing it in a text editor like Notepad will keep your text free of weird character mutations like the ones Word does with quotations, and it will also keep you focused on the text instead of the layout.

    Writing in something else than a browser will allow you to save your work locally in case something should happen while you write. Net connection breaks, electrical shortage, a hoard of yetis storming your room and ripping apart your computer, etc. Anything can happen.

    It is also a good idea to read through it once, in its entirety, before posting. But that's just a logical recommendation, nobody does that anyway.

    4.2 Posting

    If you've followed my recommendation in the previous chapter, your text should now be unscathed from the yeti attack. All there is now is to paste it into the editing field at the forums.

    After you've pasted it there, make sure you scan through it and edit all the headers and images that you've linked to in the post. In order to try it out, there's usually this nifty "Preview post"-button next to the "Post"-button. It comes in handy when you've written something that you want to be correctly written and I suggest using it.

    Once you see how the text is laid out, make sure you can't see any incomplete tags or brackets.

    Pro tip: search for [ or ].

    4.3 Post-posting

    After the post has been released into the wild you will want to keep an eye on it. Trolls will bait it with all kinds of stuff, but you should learn to wade through those layers of filth untouched, so that you can find the pieces of gold hiding in between them.

    Things you'll want to look for are positive and constructive feedback, corrections and further questions about things you left unclear. Most forums will have an "Edit post"-button so that you can update your Guide should it become necessary.

    Good posts get most of the things right the first time, great posts fix the errors that are noticed and stay up to date on details in the contents.

    5. Credits

    • Thanks to the admins for doing a great job with the site and especially Bibi for giving me this awesome signature.
    • Thanks to the people who have written awesome guides during my time on the Intarwebz. Here's looking at you, Alamo, without your comprehensive durid guide I'd never have figured out my roles as a druid.
    • Thanks to whoever came up with this competition for making me post.
    • I'd like to thank you, Dear Reader, for reading the first paragraph, then deciding it's way too long, scrolling down until you saw some interesting pictures, deciding maybe that paragraph was interesting, changing your mind, scrolling down to chapter 3, shaking your head at the fact that I used a screenshot from Bibi's post and then scrolling down to read the comments and accidentally finding the credits. You've made writing this guide worth while.
    • Thanks to #mmo-champion over at QuakeNet for keepin' it geeky!
    • Last but certainly not least, thanks to Xzibit for giving me the idea for this post. I hope I made you proud.
    Last edited by flyonthewall; 2011-01-03 at 09:28 PM. Reason: Added credit for the John F. Madden Flowchart and corrected spelling errors.
    bragging about sex is just like bragging about world first kills, people won't believe you until you release a video
    - Bibi

    good lies are like good pants, you know they'll support you when you're busy spreading shit
    - Bibi

  2. #2
    Loved it! ;D

  3. #3
    MAN. Mest's Avatar
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    Oh god I laughed so hard.

  4. #4
    Very cool!
    This should be a check list for every upcomming guide.
    Could also be used in a lot of "non-guide-writing" ways!

  5. #5
    High Overlord Marzenia's Avatar
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    Good job sir. It is indeed a win.

  6. #6
    Bloodsail Admiral zozobra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flyonthewall View Post
    I'd like to thank you, Dear Reader, for reading the first paragraph, then deciding it's way too long, scrolling down until you saw some interesting pictures, deciding maybe that paragraph was interesting, changing your mind, scrolling down to chapter 3, shaking your head at the fact that I used a screenshot from Bibi's post and then scrolling down to read the comments and accidentally finding the credits. You've made writing this guide worth while.
    It's kinda scary 'cause this is exactly, word-for-word, what I did. Great guide.
    Dear forum users,
    I'm sorry the internet hurt your feelings.
    Love,
    -Zozobra

  7. #7
    Best Kitten Simca's Avatar
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    I'd like to thank you, Dear Reader, for reading the first paragraph, then deciding it's way too long, scrolling down until you saw some interesting pictures, deciding maybe that paragraph was interesting, changing your mind, scrolling down to chapter 3, shaking your head at the fact that I used a screenshot from Bibi's post and then scrolling down to read the comments and accidentally finding the credits. You've made writing this guide worth while.
    That is absolutely brilliant.
    Global Moderator | Forum Guidelines

  8. #8
    Brewmaster Cairm's Avatar
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    +1 internet! Nice thread

  9. #9
    Amazing guide!
    Quote Originally Posted by Ershiin View Post
    Oh.. My.. God..
    This is petty beyond belief.

    Why dont we start complaining about how M&Ms should be color coded while we're at it?
    Or how it should be called a Burger with Cheese because Cheeseburger is misleading?

  10. #10
    This is awesome because it's something that nobody else had thought of to make a guide on. It's neat!
    Personal site: http://fuh-q.com
    My Kitteh's personal site: http://kitteh.in

  11. #11
    Stood in the Fire
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    This is truly awesome, loving the credits part.. you really got me there. But then, only because of that.. I had to read it
    7-11 never stop

  12. #12
    Good idea !

    I would just like to add...

    Last edited by Yörgle; 2011-01-03 at 01:51 PM.

  13. #13
    Awesome guide, good read.
    [2. Trade] [Bloodspace]: Can someone tell me where UC graveyard is?
    [2. Trade] [Notbob]: You fight the elevator boss in UC, if you win, you get to the graveyard, if you lose, you get to the graveyard.

  14. #14
    yo dawg we heared you like guides so we put a guide in your guide so you can learn while you learn
    Quote Originally Posted by Yörgle View Post
    I was waiting for that... LOL!

  15. #15
    +1 for Notepad! Some of this stuff can be done in your head and doesn't need to be explicitly mapped/thought out.

    Quote Originally Posted by flyonthewall View Post
    Pro tip: Paragraph numbering similar to what I've used in this post allows for the reader to search the document for the header of choice. This is a really handy thing if the forums don't support internal linkage. *cough*Admins*cough*fixit*cough*

    TL;DR: Keep it short and concise, but to the point. Or you'll lose readers.
    Great point! Something I'm sure even seasoned writers have to remind themselves of.
    officerchat.org - Guild leadership blog and community
    revivedguild.com - EU 3-raid day progression focused raiding guild

  16. #16
    John Fucking Madden!

  17. #17
    I just want to say thank you all for your feedback and nice words!
    I'm really happy the guide has gotten such a positive reception. =)

    Quote Originally Posted by lument View Post
    +1 for Notepad! Some of this stuff can be done in your head and doesn't need to be explicitly mapped/thought out.
    The longer the guide is, the more important that it remains consistent and to the point. Some people can do this in their heads, but the ones who can't aren't always aware of it. Even if you can keep track of some of the details in your head, writing them down just might give your guide/essay/article a better structure. Better safe than sorry! =)
    bragging about sex is just like bragging about world first kills, people won't believe you until you release a video
    - Bibi

    good lies are like good pants, you know they'll support you when you're busy spreading shit
    - Bibi

  18. #18
    oh god I laughed

  19. #19
    The Lightbringer MonsieuRoberts's Avatar
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    A guide to writing guides! Genius!


    Also, nice guide.
    "In short, people are idiots who don't really understand anything." -Seramore

    Old Warrior - New Warrior

  20. #20
    tldr.

    We really need a guild to making short guides. So far everything has been so long-winded as to become next to useless. Fluff is fluff.

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