If you are an amateur writer experiencing a sudden seizure of inspiration (or in other words, a writer’s itch) you might want to rush into writing immediately, regardless of any obstacles and circumstances, and put your pen aside only when you finish off a literary masterpiece. Though such an urge is definitely precious, in this post I’m going to act as a de-motivator, pulling you from heaven back to Earth. Why? Well, because I’m that bad, and also because chaotic spontaneous writing can hardly lead to anything worthwhile (okay, it’s good for noting down some of your new life-changing ideas, but you can’t write a novel this way).
First of all, you need to focus. No matter how breathtaking or innovative your topic sounds, think about it for a while. “A grandiose epic novel about space,” or “A convincing essay about how bad smoking is” topics won’t work. Narrow the scope down, find something specific in these topics and focus on it. “The Misadventures of Giant Women from Venus” or “The Three Most Destructive Effects Smoking has on Lungs” are examples of focused, sane topics.
Think about what exactly you want to write. Create a list of your story’s features, plot twists and turns, main characters; or, if you are working on an academic assignment, note down your core idea, the arguments you will use, list of evidence, sources to look for material, and so on. This way you will create what I call a thought container. It will help you store the brightest ideas you have in the beginning. As the writing process goes on, many of them vanish from your memory, substituted by other thoughts, but a thought container will keep them fresh and shiny.
What you are also going to need is a plan. Or, I’d rather say, The Plan. The plan must contain everything regarding your current project, such as terms and deadlines, working time, breaks, and so on. Start with general goals, like “Write my book until September.” This is your main direction. Now, figure out what exactly you will need to accomplish for each goal, and create a sub-list of steps needed to reach it. For example, it may be: “Finish chapters 1-6 before June 1st. Take a break. Work on chapters 7-9 throughout July. Finish chapter 10 in the beginning of August. Leave two weeks to proofread and edit. September 1st—final check.” Something like this. And, finally, create a daily plan based on these detailed steps. This way you will always know what you are doing, what for, and what’s next. And don’t forget about your thought container! Consider its content when planning.
And one final piece of advice for today: don’t become over-organized.
Well, these are the most basic steps you can take to make your creative and academic writing more organized and directed. Though organization is an important stage, don’t treat is as a boring “must.” I like to think of it as a game. You set yourself some rules, and then see if you can keep them throughout the entire game.
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