Every week, I write an article on a particular aspect of the writing process. They are all listed below. Also available on this site are weekly writing tips, blog posts on the writing process (signalled by the fountain pen icon) and short videos on a writing topic that is close to my heart.
HOW TO… #1 – PLAN YOUR WRITING
Whether you’re writing an article, report, short story or novel, you need to start by planning your content. This means doing the following:
- Imagine you’re explaining your main themes and ideas to a friend. Then write everything down in a Word document.
- Ask yourself: ‘what is the central idea?’, ‘what direction is my text going to take?’, ‘what do I want readers to be left with when they’re done reading?’
- List your main themes and ideas.
- Prioritise them in main and sub-categories.
- Organise those categories following a logical arc.
- Put aside the document and review it a couple of days later.
- Be prepared to review and edit this document throughout the whole writing process, as your content will inevitably change and evolve.
- Don’t panic if you are re-organizing your whole planning document. You’re allowed to change your mind! [Well, as long as you don’t change it too often, in which case, you need to come back to your original questions (2.)]
- Enjoy the process! It might not look like it, but you’re already writing!
HOW TO… #2 – KEEP YOUR FOCUS
Whatever you write, you need to maintain your focus, not just by concentrating solely on your writing – which, in itself, can be a challenge what with the constant access to online tools and social media – but by going back regularly to your notes and plan (see How to… #1 – Plan your writing).
First thing first, have a routine. Allocate time for your writing and be realistic about said time frame. It’s better to give yourself one hour a day, for example, and find out later on that you are able to write longer than the reverse.
Once sat your desk, make the most of that hour by picking up where you left off the last time. Never start in the void, it’s the best way for your critical voice to step in and convince you that you cannot write. When picking up your last bit of writing, whether it is a simple sentence or ten pages, be kind and constructive. Your aim is to improve your writing not to torture yourself! I will come back to that topic in a later video post.
By editing your text, reviewing your ideas and plot, you will generate the next sentence, the next idea. In other words, and to use the running comparison again, one stride will lead you to the next. It seems obvious, yet it is worth keeping in mind, particularly when you start doubting yourself.
And, most of all, remind yourself that you chose to write, that you’re pursuing an idea, a theme that you are interested in and writing is your own space to express yourself, even if it is to write a commissioned piece. Your focus will depend on how much your motivation can supersede any negative comments your critical voice will throw at you. The more you keep on writing, the less you will notice it and the more focused you will be.