By: Marilyn L. Davis
Start with the Idea
“The true writer, the born writer, will scribble words on scraps of litter, the back of a bus ticket, on the wall of a cell.” ― David Nicholls, One Day
People write for many reasons, some tell stories, some educate, and the gifted writers enchant us.
The ideas and images crowd the mind of most writers, all vying for attention. Some are just the random musings; the overheard conversation at the next table that sounds just like your protagonist, others are reflections on your life for the memoir or your latest breakthrough moment on how to write better.
We tend to wake up thinking about what to write, or we’re trying desperately to remember that 3 AM title, or continue with the middle of the night inspiration.
When There’s Too Many Ideas
One way to make sure that you don’t forget that great idea, or remember to research an interesting topic is to carry a notebook, pad, or laptop. Since these are often just random ideas, what can you do with them to produce a great post, series, or book?
Expand the Idea
Once you’ve decided on the topic, what is an excellent way to develop it? Think about where the idea came from – a look, a passing remark, or a passage from a book?
- What do you know about this topic?
- Are you an expert on the subject?
- What experiences can you write about that lends a new voice to the topic
- Why are you focused on this idea or topic as opposed to all the others clamoring in your mind for attention?
- How can you write about the topic that adds new information, focuses on a specific aspect of the topic, or bring personal stories about the topic so that readers want to stay engaged?
These questions, and your answers, give you a sense of the importance to you and sets an emotional tone. These are all important considerations when you decide to write that next article. Each of the four developmental prompts helps you move forward.
1. Use Your Subheadings to Hone in on the Important Aspects
One way to start developing your post is to think of subheadings or sections as brainstorming aids in this process. Although we usually think of brainstorming in groups, this is solitary brainstorming, and house cleaning rolled into one.
2. Brainstorming Your Idea
Some people find this easier if they have categories for brainstorming, similar to having others prompt or spark the imagination in group brainstorming. Write for five to ten minutes; scribble away and jot it down. The key factors:
- Write down everything that comes to mind
- Do not judge the associations
- Do not go back and correct your writing, even the spelling at this point, regardless of the red underlining or the annoying green grammar alerts. Learn to ignore these disruptions in the process if you are brainstorming on a computer, or just turn off these features. They will hinder the process of free association.
3.Free-writing on Your Idea
When you finish, quickly review your brainstorming and start some Free-writing. You have your brainstorming ideas and a general sense of what you want to write about; now it is time to begin putting your perspective into a draft.
Free-writing is also helpful if you’re experiencing writer’s block. Too often this block is because we want to publish a post.
Free-writing doesn’t impose restrictions on tangential aspects and allows us to merely write words at this point, without an end objective in mind.
Again, time yourself for five to ten minutes; writing without editing or stopping.
Looping Your Ideas
Another technique that helps get those thoughts on paper is looping. I like the way that Andrea A. Lunsford, author of The Everyday Writer describes looping as “A kind of directed free-writing that narrows a topic through a process of five-minute stages or loops.”
Looping helps cull the vital information for an article from the rest that might work elsewhere. When you have too much material, but a particular aspect of the topic interests you, take that word, brainstorm, free-write, or cluster on that aspect.
4. Clustering: Associations from a Particular Word
When I was writing my memoir, I also started a post for Two Drops of Ink on the process of memoir writing. Instead of just one post, I ended up with several, expanding on one aspect of memoir and thus created a series of posts about the topic.
Again, my memoir posts reflect the in-depth perspective on specific aspects of the memoir. Without the prewriting exercises, I would not have created them.
Those particular posts were the result of clustering, as I ended up with too much for just one post, and the specific aspects of memoir each merited in-depth writing, so I created several posts. When you allow yourself to merely write, you might be surprised at what you create.
Idea, Post, Series, Book
With these few prompts, your written ideas might merit and gain you:
- Thumbs-up or likes
- A re-blog
- Guest post offers
- An agent
- A book signing
See, what a little association can produce?
But there’s one other benefit that might happen; I’ll get a comment from another writer, letting me know that something was beneficial to them or they will give me a prompt to explore another aspect of the idea.
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