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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how to identify your next writing steps. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me or tweet me @pubcoach.
Have you ever struggled to identify your next writing steps? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach.
I have a question from Mark Modesti, a writer based in McKinney, Texas. Here’s what he asked by email…
“You make a strong case for writing every day. You also recommend that we prepare before we write. So, my question is, if I have a goal of 500 words a day, should I be going through the first four steps (described in your book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better) in each daily session?”
Thanks for your question, Mark. Before I answer it, let me list the four steps so that people who haven’t read my book know what we’re talking about.
The first four steps of the writing process — before you actually write a word — should be:
- Make a plan
- Do your research
- Think and rethink
- Find your lede (your way of getting into the writing)
Basically, it’s true to say you shouldn’t start your writing until you have done each of these four steps.
But, and this is a big ‘but,’ the TYPE of writing you’re doing makes a difference. Let me make this clear with a couple of examples.
First, let’s suppose you’re working on a 1,000-word blog post. Further, let’s imagine that you can write 300 words in 30 minutes. So, if you write for 30 minutes per day, it will take you three days to finish this piece.
So, here’s how the four steps would play out. It seems logical to me, that for a 1,000-word piece, you should be able to do all of the research upfront. So, you would not need to repeat that step daily. I’d also guess that the planning and thinking would need to be done only once, too. And of course, once you’ve written your lede, you won’t need to do that again.
So, for the 1,000-word blog post written over three days, the answer is NO, you would not need to repeat the four steps before each writing session.
But now, let’s imagine a different scenario. Let’s say you’re able to write the thousand words in one day, leaving you the time to tackle a DIFFERENT blog post the next day. In that situation, yes, you’d need to start all over again with each of the four steps.
And then let’s visualize yet a third set of circumstances. Let’s say you’re a business owner writing a book. Most books are somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000 words so this is likely to be a project that will take you a year — or longer.
I’d suggest approaching this project one chapter at a time. In other words, make your plan for one chapter, do your research for one chapter, think and rethink for one chapter and find your lede for that chapter. Then, you can start writing. And you won’t need to repeat any of those steps until you get to your next chapter.
In summary, there’s no single all-purpose answer to your question about writing steps, Mark. A variety of factors — such as the nature of your project and how much time you have to write — will need to be taken into account.
Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “The court generally moves in small steps rather than in one giant step.”
Mark, many writers make the mistake of mooshing together what should be distinct and separate steps related to writing. But be sure to apply common sense to the formula I’m suggesting. Once you have completed a step, there’s no need to do it again.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link below.