This article was first published over at Write Anything.
Time management, goals and a commitment to your outcome will ensure you a certain amount of success within your writing career; but if that all sounds like too much hard work – it probably is. Although I am still relatively new to the writing game, I have discovered through trial and error, and by applying my knowledge from other areas within my life; techniques to write smarter, which doesn’t necessarily mean writing harder. By writing smarter, your articles and stories will become less of an odious task with the possibility of you rediscovering the joy you had when you first started writing.
For those familiar with mindmapping, writing smarter integrates a few key elements; that of collecting as many often unrelated information bites about the subject area, then categorizing or grouping similar ideas and branching them out into fuller texts. Both non-fiction and fiction writing can be brainstormed and shaped in this manner with little reason poetry could not be approached in a similar manner. ( Note for the purist Buzan Mindmapper – this is about as close as it gets to mindmapping)
Writing Articles/ Non Fiction – There was a time when I wrote an article and it would take me days. Thorough research, mulling the ideas over in my head, note taking and rewrites – all for one article often under 1000 words. I still undertake the research and note taking but work smarter with these concepts. I am always on the look out for ideas for articles and am a shameless eavesdropper in the supermarket, on the bus and in the shopping centres. These real life situation gives me the buzz, what’s happening, what’s important for the average person and instigates my interest in the subject are of concern. I will follow this up with google searches to see what is being said out in the web, in newspapers or online magazines. I also use a search to check what the blogosphere have said about the subject.
After allowing all the information to settle, I’ll begin brainstorming everything I know about the subject in blast of bullet points. If you have a large piece of paper or white board this works just as well – it depends on how visual you want to be at this stage. I’ll then work through the list grouping words into rough categories. I follow this with a series of headings surrounding the topic I have been researching. An example of this might be Babysitting with branches into what makes a good babysitter, how to find a babysitter, how to treat a babysitter, how to hire a babysitter, how to keep a babysitter. Under each branch I jot notes, quotes, ideas or observations I have picked up. This is all done quickly with little editing. I will then come back to each branch writing a first draft using the grouped words as a basis. After editing and restructuring a final draft is done before publishing or sending it off to the editor for review.
Writing Fiction – There is little reason fiction writing can’t be structured in a similar way. Although much of my fiction is character lead ( and I carry the risk of being branded a loon here) where I wait for the story to reveal itself; I have employed the steps I use for articles to write fiction as well. In the past I have revealed my partiality for people watching. Its true that real life is far more fantastic than fiction – for some of the relationship tangles and personal errors which occur to common folk seem too far fetched to write even as fiction. I may hear a snatch of conversation which strikes a cord or see someone who would make a great character in a story I have brewing. Again, I will start with a key word, a feeling or a character and brainstorm everything I know about it at the time. I’ll then start a series of topics or situations to place these pieces in and branch them out – exploring where my imagination will take them. Again, like the articles, I will write points, or blocks of ideas which include what smells there are, the textures, the tastes, the feelings; rather than flowing sentences. I will often write three or four stories at the same time, jumping from one idea to the other, an idea from one sparking new life within another. A similar completion set of steps is then undertaken with first drafts, restructuring and final drafts.
This may sound very messy or inconsistent – especially for fiction – but there is a certain freedom by not being tied to one story at a time. With so many potential characters and stories, if you find yourself stuck at a point in one, immediately focus on something else, and you will be surprised how quickly the characters from the first story will demand your attention back!
Writing smarter, for me, has brought back the impromptu joy of discovering a story in a supermarket, with my fingers itching to get to my keyboard; then remembering a snippet of conversation on the bus and releasing that was the perfect introduction for a character into another story. It has brought me freedom and allowed me to ride the flow of creativity. Its my hope that it brings this to you as well.