Let’s look at some writing tips which which will help you to develop a writing process which suits you. After working with students for many years, I’ve convinced that 90% of their challenges arise because they don’t have a process. If you don’t have a process, these tips will change your life.
Your process eliminates challenges like:
* Weak writing;
* Lack of clarity;
* Poor results – your writing won’t do what you want it to do;
* And on, and on.
You’ll develop your own process over time. These tips will help.
1. Start With a Blurb.
Perhaps you’ve made this nasty error as I have: you didn’t read something carefully enough. You simply assumed. And you made a horrible mistake. Once I almost signed a book contract before I realized that the sneaky publisher had included a clause which assigned the copyright in the book to the publisher. That was a close call.
Other things I didn’t read carefully include:
- A copywriting brief. I quoted on catalog copy which I assumed would take three hours. It took most of a weekend – and I couldn’t invoice the extra work, since it was my mistake;
- A book proposal. I blithely wrote a proposal for a light, sweet romance. When I reread the contract, just before sending the proposal, I realized that I’d been thinking of a phone conversation I had with a ghostwriting client… I wrote the proposal for the wrong book. Sigh…
I could go on.
Over the years, I’ve learned to write a blurb, before I write anything at all, even an article. A blurb’s just a short description. It may be just a sentence or three. Or several paragraphs.
I write the blurb on an index card. When it’s time to work on the project, I find the card, and reread it.
Your blurb not only prevents mistakes, it keeps you on track. Your writing is less likely to go off on tangents.
Before you read on: write a blurb for a project you’re working on. Blurbs can save your sanity.
2. Write Drafts – as Many as You Need.
Whenever I start a project, I just start writing. If it’s a long project, I create a bunch of index cards in Scrivener. This acts as a basic outline. If it’s something short, I create a bunch of headings in Markdown, then I write away.
Your first draft is written straight through, without stopping if it’s a short project.
By “without stopping” I mean without correcting errors or going back and rewriting. You’ll stop after 20 minutes or three hours, whatever time you have to write that day. The next day, start writing again – keep moving forward.
If I need to look something up, I just put “XXX” into the text, and keep writing. I do brainstorming right within the draft itself, because it’s useful later.
Think of your first draft as being similar to an artist’s sketch. It’s nowhere near complete, it just gets you started.
3. Rethink, When You Revise.
Once your first draft is complete, read it without changing anything. I like to create a PDF for the reread, so that I can’t tinker. If it’s an ebook, I’ll save it as a MOBI (Kindle) file, and read it on my iPad.
Your aim at this stage is simply to see the project as a whole. You want to see what you have. Your creative mind thinks in wholes, not parts. If you resist the urge to make notes too soon, you’ll get better ideas.
Next, without going back to reread, make a revision plan. I create one revision note per project in Evernote. I drag the note into the sidebar, so I can find it quickly.
Then I rewrite, according to the plan in the note. With fiction, I delete superfluous scenes, and create new ones. With nonfiction, I create examples, explanations, and exercises.
4. Consider Your Transitions.
Once your revision is done and you’ve read through your project again, consider the transitions. Does one paragraph lead on to the next?
With fiction, are the characters’ motivations clear? It’s a good idea to create a timeline for your fiction too. You don’t want a character to have a three-month pregnancy, or (as I read recently) to travel from London to Scotland in eight hours. Yes, that’s possible today. However, the book was set in 1806, when the trip could take a couple of weeks, if not longer.
5. Read It Aloud.
Your final step, aside from proofreading, is to read your project aloud. Yes, you can whisper if you like. :-) Reading aloud solves a lot of problems. You’ll catch many errors this way – and you’ll grain fresh inspiration.
I use a program called Text2Speech for proofreading. It’s a Mac app. Both Windows and Mac have built in apps which will read text, so explore your operating system’s Help files.
So there you have it. A basic writing process. Customize it to suit the way you like to write.
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