When you write more, you earn more. Unfortunately, many writers (including me) tend to freeze like a rabbit mesmerized by a snake when we begin a new project.
Aristotle quoted the proverb “well begun is half done” 2,000 years ago. It’s as true now as it was then, so here’s how to begin well.
Writing made easier: create templates and boilerplate text for everything
I install Textexpander (Mac, Windows, IOS) on all my computers before I install anything else. Not only do I keep all my text shortcuts in Textexpander, I keep many of my templates there as well.
That means I can start any project, large or small, with a few keystroke abbreviations, including:
- Blog posts;
- Press releases;
- Proposals, quotes, Terms of Service, invoices…
Using abbreviations saves me time every day.
Tip: create abbreviations for your primary characters’ names in fiction, as well as for place names. In nonfiction, create abbreviations for any text you use over and over.
Of course, once you’ve got your boilerplate on your screen, and have created your initial abbreviations, you need to outline your project.
I suggest you start with a brain dump.
1. Start by dumping your brain to conquer inertia
Do you stare at your computer screen, hoping for inspiration to land on your shoulder? I used to do that too, until I discovered brain dumps.
What’s a brain dump? From Creativity For Writers And Authors: A Big Outlining Secret:
Basically, in a brain dump, you make a list of everything you know about the topic of your book. If you’re writing fiction, you dump down any ideas for characters, plot and conflict which occur to you. You’ll be amazed at how much material you “know”, when you sit down and make your brain dump list.
You can use brain dumps for everything and anything, from tiny ads, to 100,000 word novels.
A brain dump has this major benefit: you’ll become inspired.
You’ll gain more inspiration from an Idea Board.
2. Create an Idea Board for your novel (or non-fiction book)
Watch any crime series or movie, and you’ll see the detectives creating an investigation board or wall. The material on the board summarizes the information the detectives have gathered.
Why do they do this? Primarily to keep track of the investigation at a glance.
Grab a cork board or whiteboard, and create your own Idea Board. Paste photos, mind maps and snippets on the wall so you see possibilities and connections.
Your aim isn’t to put everything on your Idea Board. I like to paste images of my main characters, a map or two to show locations, and anything I want to remember because I’ll need it later in the novel.
3. Add your milestones to your outline: they’re a map of your journey
We covered a novel’s milestones in this article.
If you’re writing nonfiction, there’s a template for a nonfiction book here.
Make a note of the milestones/ content of the template, and add them to your outline. I add them to the corkboard in Scrivener.
4. Focus on your characters in your fiction outline: what kind of people are they?
I have an “attribute” abbreviation in Textexpander so that I can quickly add a character’s traits to each character’s description.
The fact that your character has a short temper, or is obsessive about something or other is much more important to your novel’s plot than whether his eyes are blue or brown, because his traits build your plot.
You’ll need to SHOW your characters displaying their primary attributes somewhere in the setup phase of your novel — the first 25%. This list of character traits will help you to develop your characters.
To remind myself of what a character’s traits are, I make a note on the wall, usually a sticky note pinned to the character’s photo.
Each character’s traits/ attributes affect how he reacts to what happens to him. An easy-going character will react very differently to a threat than someone who is impulsive and hot-tempered.
Writing becomes easier with these simple outlining tricks
Try these tricks yourself. You’ll be amazed that your writing goes more smoothly because you’re capturing ideas, which lead to more ideas. These tricks also make writing more fun. 🙂
I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.More info →
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.More info →
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