You are sitting in your chair. You have opened Microsoft Word. The white sea of emptiness blinds you. OK, you have the title. The first sentence is the always the worst…This thing just needs to be written. Deadline is closing in… but how to start? The f**king first sentence. You need to start working on this thing but the words are simply not coming to you. Just impossible! You had spend so much time studying this topic…
Writing is a craft which can be mastered. Even if you have no talent whatsoever… Of course talent helps, it speeds up the process a lot, but everybody (even totally talent-less person) has to explain himself every once in a while. And more and more and more often it occurs, that those words of explanation have to be written down. Typed even(Side note: Writing is still usually OK… the real nightmares come with talks and presentations, but let’s keep that for another day, or let’s let other people handle that topic)
You might be following these suggestions already, you might have developed your own method, which works better for you. That’s cool… This is more for people who are not sure how to handle an article or text they ought to be working on. Or people looking for inspiration. Well get ready because here it comes: My know-how, my writing approach:
Step one: The storm in your brain (and on your paper)
Start with a brainstorming session. You probably already know something about the topic. Maybe you had taken some notes, maybe you had read something. You can always look up stuff. Yes, that is the other window, next to your blank MS Word document. Ignore it for just a few minutes and jot down everything which comes to mind, everything which could make its way to the final draft. Everything. Names of chapters, anecdotes, analogies, case studies, formulations, what general sub-chapters to include… Don’t cross things out because they appear to be weird, write everything. Every thing.
Step two: Form outline (seriously… do form your outline)
Now it is time to harvest the fruits of your brainstorming session. You are very likely to see some clusters. Organize these points into groups. Some of the bullet points you had made are probably names of chapters, other points are anecdotes illustrating something within one of these sub-chapters… Group these points and you will get an outline which will assure, that the text you are going to craft is coherent, logical and structured. These three characteristics have the potential to make your idea shine! You might not get fan-mail or deals from publishers right away, but it insures your brilliant ideas will make it to the mind of the recipient.
Step three: Write (duh..!)
Writing at this point is just a breeze. You have your structure (outline) and chunks of text from the initial brainstorming session. Just connect everything you have prepared with meaningful text, keep it simple and you should be fine. This is the part which is hardest to provide advice for. The most important in my case is the gut-feeling. Do not resort to using too complicated sentences. Big words are usually also just making it harder for everyone. Imagine you and your typical reader (or someone who is interested in the topic of your writing) in some general offline setting (Is it a conference? Are you sitting in a cafe? Talking over telephone?). How would you talk to him/her/them? That language is very likely what you want to use.
Don’t forget to proofread. Ask a friend, a colleague. Do read it after yourself. But never proofread right after you finished writing. Go for a walk, wait until the next morning. Just forget as much as possible about the text you are going to read after yourself. Professional blindness is your enemy.
The empty window of Microsoft Word you are sitting in front of. The words you were waiting for. You still do not have them, but the problem is not the first sentence. The problem is you were thinking about the first sentence when your mind was swarming with ideas. Let’s start with that brainstorming phase…