Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

Liberty LAX Feature: The Writing Process

After posting the final draft of my lacrosse feature Saturday, I thought I’d show some bits and pieces of its making — the writing process, if you will. Or “the chicken scratch,” if you’re my COMS 360 professor.

I started out by researching the sport itself. Even though the story wouldn’t involve much in the way of game specifics, I didn’t feel I could write the piece without having at least a good grasp on the basics. Wikipedia provided a solid starting place (naturally), and from there I moved onto various websites, the official rule book, and bugging Mike Zumpano (one of the players profiled in the story and also a coworker/friend) on the daily with well-developed, specific questions such as, “Can you teach me everything about lacrosse?” God bless ya, Mike.

I referenced his diagram of the field and positions more often than I’d care to admit, so I included it. (He also reminded me about a hundred times that “it’s not to scale,” so I feel obligated on his behalf to offer that disclaimer.)


Once I’d sufficiently crammed, I started interviews. The original plan was to speak with Kyle McQuillan, the head coach, and the six guys from the 2010 team, but I added several supplementary conversations and background research as well. Transcribing those was the most tedious part of the process, by far, but by the time I was done I had over 7,000 words of narrative to pull from.


Once the interviews were completed, the piece essentially structured itself. I scribbled down the final outline (pictured above) in the drive-through line at Chick-fil-A. Because that is where all top professional journalists get their inspiration: waffle fries.


The lead is almost always the hardest part of any story, for me, and this piece was no different. I threw the body and conclusion together first and then took my time — in class, on the bus, at slow points in the office — piecing the first portion of the story together in good old pen and paper.


I turned in my final draft to The Champion at approximately 2,300 words. The piece went through its usual rounds of editors before I came in to complete the cuts so the story would fit in the paper. Their insights were valuable — the phrase “love is blind” applies to work as much as romance. The story was so personal to me at this point, I needed others who weren’t emotionally invested in my words to clarify and develop them for our audience.


After a week or so, I returned to the pre-cut story with fresh eyes, applied the newspaper edits where necessary and then did two rounds of my own revisions. The result was an extended version of that which appeared in the paper, with a less formal voice and more vivid details.

2,100 words, approximately 87 cups of coffee and a few mental breakdowns later, I was proud to release the final piece. Hope you enjoyed their story as much as I did.

First LUVC Spotlight Released

Feature: Liberty University Men's LAX