Wednesday, June 1, 2005

How I Write: A 12-Step Process

Step 1: Rack my brain for ideas and approaches. Make fun little diagrams all over a piece of paper, connecting the ideas and coming up with new ones.

Step 2: Feel proud of myself for coming up with new ideas. Procrastinate for a couple of weeks.

Step 3: Glean what I like from my brainstorming session, and make a rough, rough outline. Make a general list of the types of people I might need to contact for quotes, or places I might need to visit for photos.

Step 4: Feel proud of myself for coming up with so much stuff. Procrastinate for a week or so.

Step 5: Procrastinate for a few more days. The deadline is still a few weeks away.

Step 6: Refine the outline. Maybe write a few draft “transition sentences” here and there to keep myself on track when writing the draft later (after another week or two of procrastination). Look up phone numbers for those folks I needed to contact.

Step 7: Call/e-mail people and ask questions and interview, as needed. Ask if I can use their online photos because they’re much better than anything I could take. OK, I really ask this question because I'm too lazy to take my own photos.

Step 8: Take all the quotes I have, and organize them according to the outline, thus making it easier to pick and choose them as I’m writing the draft.

Step 9: Feel proud of myself for getting all this work done. Procrastinate for a few days.

Step 10: Write draft (now that the deadline is hanging immediately overhead). Get really excited about it. Wonder why I procrastinated so much before. Have fun. Listen to loud music. Drink lots of coffee. Don't worry about the word-limit. Just write whatever needs to be written.

(Step 10.5: If necessary, go into a panic and call/e-mail sources to clarify anything I didn't clarify before.)

Step 11: Take a walk. Go grocery-shopping. Play piano. Blog. Get away from the bloated draft for a few hours.

Step 12: Go over a print-version of the draft and mark changes. This nearly always includes shortening the draft by at least 40% since I write far too much the first time around. Make changes in final document. Voila and tah-dah! Article done! With minutes to spare on the deadline!

Deadline is today. I’m on Step 11. My 800-word article is currently 1,300 words. One more step to go!

(Note: Waiting until the last minute for the final revision is not recommended for most! It can be very stressful!)

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