In corporate and media environments, I’ve learned to write to meet deadlines. Sometimes, just after receiving an assignment, I had to sit down immediately and pump out a story for a newsletter, brochure, newspaper or blog.
What to write? Confronted with that white space, where do you start?
At first, this was reminiscent of college papers. Such pain, on deadline, with so many other projects to juggle!
Through the years, I’ve found strategies that removed the pain and created a way to get started with a writing project. No, I’m not a trained writer monkey – or maybe I am – but I’ve won awards and often the appreciation of people and businesses I’ve written about.
What it comes down to – for fiction or non-fiction – is to take a moment and see what rises to the top or resonates. Exactly what was the most interesting thing you learned?
For a real person or a fictional character, who are they and why are they worth knowing about?
What makes them worthy of a story, inclusion in a book or even development as a character? Do they have original ideas or a back-story that could wind up as a movie?
Readers like to learn about people they can admire or despise. Extremes work.
So, once you have a core idea for your writing, jot down a few points you’d like to make about that character or person. What do they look like? What do they do for a living? What have they accomplished that people would find memorable?
Even reporting on what seemed like an endlessly boring meeting, there was some germinal idea that would be fascinating to readers. Was it the shortest meeting on record? Were attendees lined up to speak on an issue that dominated the meeting?
For a character you invent, try thinking about their childhood, a critical event, their family, their love life, their aspirations and career. Again jot down short notes to get you going.
Now, you might want to close your eyes – not to rest – but to think and conjure up an image of what or who matters for your writing.
Then, begin. Yes, just start writing. If it isn’t magical, write anyway. Keep going. When you’ve told your story or written your page or chapter, you can go back and edit. In the meanwhile, you have something solid you’ve created and have moved forward.
If you are writing for a self-imposed deadline or have a true deadline facing you, you’ve gotten closer to completion.
Good-bye, writer’s block! Not that we’re not hospitable, but writer’s block is not welcome!
Ezekiel’s Restaurant, Phoenix (Ahwatukee), Arizona had people lined up out the door – for two days – after the story I wrote. Where do you start with a story that could start anywhere? At the beginning! Write about the people – and food is always popular!