Start with the End

September 26, 2012

  You’ve probably heard motivational speakers tell you to keep your eye on the prize, or keep the end in sight, or set your goal and focus on it, blah, blah, blah.  They all make the same point. No matter how they say it, what they’re really telling you is to start with the end if you want to succeed.

I’ve mentioned before that a mystery writer friend of mine always writes the last chapter of her book first so she can refer to it and stay focused on getting to that end result.

Nonfiction writers, too, can start at the end by beginning with the table of contents. Granted, the table of contents is an outline of the book, but it’s so much more. It’s also the road map that takes the author to the end destination of covering the book’s purpose.

Once you’ve got the table of contents, I encourage you to list the key points and supporting elements for each chapter.

After you’ve got the “bones” of your book done, go back and write the first sentence of each section within each chapter. Don’t get bogged down writing the entire section. Just write the first sentence in a section (or subsection), and move on to the next section, etc.

Before you know it, you’ll have the essence of your book captured so all that remains is filling in the details, examples, stories, or whatever you need to make sure you’re getting your point(s) across to your reader.

You can do this with fiction writing as well. Instead of titling your chapters the way nonfiction authors do, just use chapter one, chapter two, etc. Then jot a note of what happens in that chapter to move the story closer to the desired ending. Once you know what happens in each chapter, write the opening sentence to each chapter.

When you go back and actually write the book, you’ll know what happens in the next chapter and you can use that to help you write a chapter end that will make your reader want to turn the page and keep reading. One caution: Your characters may nag you to keep writing so they can get on with their parts in the story. (The first time my characters took over my story was surreal, and if you write fiction, you know that can happen.)

If you’re struggling with writing your book, consider starting with the end.

Happy writing!


Ignore Your Inner Critic and Write

September 24, 2012

All writing begins with an ugly first draft. But you need that first draft to serve as a foundation for the wonderful end result.

Unfortunately, each of us has an inner critic who belittles our ideas, our “author-ity” to write, our research, our very writing. And the inner critic seems so credible that we often succumb to its criticism, so we quit writing.

If your inner critic wins and you stop writing, you deny yourself the satisfaction that comes from writing the story or essay or article or book that cries out to be released. You also deny your readers access to your good work.

I know I repeat myself when I say that only you can write from your perspective, but when you realize your writing (your way of saying things) will reach people other writers haven’t, you’ll realize that it’s important you ignore your inner critic and write that ugly first draft. The polishing (rewriting and editing) come later.

Happy writing!

Create Your Writing Place

September 17, 2012

  I’m sure most everyone’s heard about Ivan Pavlov (pictured) and his conditioning experiments with dogs. He rang a bell in conjunction with serving food to a dog. Before getting the food, the dog salivated. Eventually the ringing of the bell (with no food in sight) was enough to make the dog’s mouth water. This is called “conditioning reflex.”

Imagine what would happen to your writing if you created a writing place that conditioned you to write when you went to it. You wouldn’t have any more excuses for not writing because you’d have a place set aside just for that purpose.

Your writing place doesn’t have to be a separate room in your home. It could be a corner of a room. Or a desk in a room. Or a table at a coffee house. Or a spot in a library or other quiet place. One mystery writer I know rented an office near her home and went to it to write as if she were going to work (because she was).

Depending on the place you create, you can make it as elaborate or as spartan as you want–it is your place. If magazine or calendar pictures of scenery or people help  you write about places or characters, post them. If classical music gets your creative juices flowing, listen to it. If you’re concerned about interruptions, hang up a big sign in your corner that says, “I’m writing and will be available after (put in the time).” Or, close the door if you have a room, and tape your sign to the door. If you like a beverage when you write, bring it with you before you start so you won’t stop to get it and interrupt your flow. Finally, block out a set amount of time and honor that commitment to yourself.

Over the years, I’ve done several college workshops on writing. One was on finding time to write while working, and I gave tips such as writing while waiting for appointments, waiting during kids’ activities, etc. I suggested the obvious of getting up earlier or going to bed later. I even suggested actually scheduling writing time. Any of these ideas can become part of the conditioning reflex you create when you create your writing place. The only thing really stopping you is you. If you want to write badly enough, you will.

Happy writing!

Get Yourself Clear about Your Writing

September 13, 2012

You’re living a fulfilling life and want to share your thoughts with others. Speaking in front of groups doesn’t sound like much fun, so you choose writing. Sounds easy, but it isn’t. There’s a lot that goes into writing well.

Before you put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, you need to get yourself clear about your writing. The very first step to good writing is living. Yep, living. If you watch others instead of experiencing life yourself, you’re missing all the aspects of whatever it is you want to write about. I understand not everyone can do everything, and that’s why they interview other people. But to the extent you live something first-hand yourself, you’ll do a better of job of writing about it than if you write from a second-hand perspective.

The second step to getting yourself clear about your writing is determination. You need to determine that you are really going to write your book or article or blog or whatever.

In the third step, you need to determine why you are writing. Is your motivation to gain attention? to gain clients? to claim expertise? to serve your reader? to satisfy your own desire to write? Be honest with yourself about the why and your writing will be open and honest.

Now that you know why you’re writing, envision your reader. Unlike face-to-face communication where you can see your reader, written communication is one-on-one communication without feedback. That is, your reader cannot ask you for clarification, and you cannot see when your reader is confused or frustrated. The best way to figure out what your reader wants (or at least needs) to know is you envisioning your reader while you write.

The fifth and final step to getting yourself clear about your writing is to write in your own voice. Just about everything’s been said and said and said, but it hasn’t been said by you. There are insights only you can provide. There are expressions or ideas you have that your reader will find valuable.

Avoid the gremlin on your shoulder that whispers negativity. You lived something, are determined to share it, know why you want to share it, have figured out who you’re writing for, and have something to say in your own voice. That’s all you need to get yourself clear about your writing, so get busy!

Happy writing!