Whether it’s for a school assignment or for a novel manuscript, everybody writes. For many people, however, writing often becomes a chore: time-consuming, demanding, and unsatisfactory. The problem is that most people don’t stop to think how to write. Just as there are steps to solving an algebraic equation, there are several steps that can be followed to produce a more satisfactory essay or story, some more obvious than others.
Perhaps the most tricky part of writing is figuring out how to begin. The first steps to writing – getting a concept, planning out a piece, and working out a draft – aren’t usually the most fun steps, but they are all often overlooked. Here are a few tips for starting your work quickly and without much hassle.
First, decide what you actually want to write. Getting down the bare minimums for your piece will help you construct a bare draft for whatever it is you’re planning to end with. Either jot it off on a sticky note and put it next to your notebook, or write it on the top of your Word document.
How long is whatever you’re trying to write? What are you writing about? Are there any other requirements you have to worry about? While you might know exactly what you need before you start to write, putting it down is a good way to focus your mind on exactly what you need to accomplish.
Make sure you’re interested in what you’re writing. If you aren’t fascinated with the subject you’re writing about, it will almost certainly show in your writing. If you don’t have a choice as to what to write about, try to find some element in your subject that interests you, and focus on it. If you’re just writing to finish whatever it is you’re supposed to write, getting yourself to write it will take much longer than if you take just a little time to get yourself interested.
Outline the basics of what you’re trying to get done. The most monotonous example of this, of course, is the five-paragraph essay most high schoolers are forced to learn about. While an overly-forced rubric can lead to an unoriginal paper, some structure can only help with your quickly jotting out a draft, which is the most important part of writing. If you have five pages to fill on a paper, decide how long you will write about each different point you have to make.
Outlining also helps with creative writing: even though creativity can’t be forced, it helps immensely to have a general idea of what’s going on in your story. Just look at Harry Potter, which concluded last month: the final book had strong ties with the six before it, even though it was written a full decade after the original book. Without some sense of direction, J. K. Rowling would never have been able to create such a powerful conclusion.
Stop everything else and concentrate on writing. The draft of any piece is almost always the hardest thing to write, since you have nothing to base your writing on. While you’re writing your draft, try to concentrate on it as much as possible. Turn off your instant messenger, if you have one on. Don’t take a break to check your email. Any interruption might destroy your focus on your piece, and it is far harder to return to writing a draft than it is to write it all in one go.
If your piece is a long one, this might not be entirely possible. Still, try to set aside at least an hour at a time when you’re trying to write, so you can get into the flow of your writing.
Lower your standards. Writer’s block really originates from high standards: often, you will sit down to write but not like what you’re producing. The trick to eliminating this? Stop worrying so much over whether or not every little bit you write is a good as it can be. Either way, you are probably going to have to return to your draft several times an revise it: don’t attempt to revise every line as you write it.
If you have a section you think is of a particularly low quality, make a note of it, but keep writing. Revision is when you’ll go back and fix all the errors you’ve written. The draft is just your chance to write quickly and get the foundations of your piece over with.
Take your time before revising. You won’t be able to assess your piece immediately after you’ve written it: give yourself time before looking over your work. Read a book, talk to friends, perhaps exercise… just make sure that when you go back to read over your draft, you’re in a different mindset than you were when you were first writing. If you spend too much time looking at your work, you won’t be able to revise objectively. There’s no rush to finishing your work after you’ve begun: just take your time and you’ll be far more able to produce a quality piece of work.
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