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How To Get Started And Finish Any Writing Project In 6 Steps

start and finish your writing projectsIt seems as if a lot of people who want to become writers don’t know how to begin a writing project. I get questions about how to start everything from an article to a book. I’m sure if I talked about poetry writing on this site I’d be asked how to start writing a poem.

Getting started on a writing project has rarely been a problem for me. It seems I’ve always had the idea that if I want to get something written I have to start by writing.

But I’m not sure that’s particularly helpful for folks who feel stuck.

Maybe if I take you through an example it will help. Here’s how this post came to be.

I woke up this morning with a head full of mush. It’s either because of a weather change or I’ve got a migraine coming on. I had coffee, an allergy pill. I meditated for half an hour and actually went back to bed for an hour. Not an auspicious start on a working day, but one that happens to all of us one way or another occasionally.

I wanted to get a blog post written here today and hadn’t a clue what I wanted to write about.

The first step in getting started is deciding what you’re going to write – blog post, tweet, book chapter, article, poem, etc.

Since I’ve got this contest going that requires people to comment or ask a question I scanned those and saw several that, one way or another asked about getting started.

The second step is finding the core idea you want to write about.

I realized I had written How To Get Started In Magazine Writing Tuesday, which would mean I’d have two “How To Get Started…” titles showing on the home page, one after the other – I decided that was okay.

Your mind is likely to come up with objections along the way – they may be worth considering or they may not be. Don’t let them stop you.

I paused for a moment and thought about how I wanted to open this post. This could be called figuring out your approach to your writing project. With a blog post it’s often writing the first sentence. With a longer piece you might even want to do an outline (gasp) or list of what you want to include. I’ll call this the third step.

The fourth step is getting the darn thing written – word after word, sentence after sentence.

The fifth step is deciding how you’re going to end it. Sometimes this is obvious as it usually is with my blog posts. On other projects this may take some time to figure out.

Wow, now you’ve got a draft of your piece.

The sixth step is the rewriting, and editing you need to do to make the piece really work. This may take almost as long or even longer than writing the draft. One trick is to read the piece out loud so your ear can hear what you’re eye won’t see.

When you finish editing and polishing, and be careful you’re not trying for perfect here. There is no perfection in a written piece; they can always be improved. You don’t want to get stuck in an infinite editing loop, so do your best and call it done.

Is this the only way to get started? No, of course not. It is, however, roughly what I do to get everything from blog posts to whole books written.

Can it work for you? I suspect it could if you give it a try.

What do you say? Does this spark an idea or two about getting started? Tell us about it in comments.


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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Kathryn Pless

    As always Anne, you give great advice. I can seem to start non-fiction and get it finished, but my creative work stalls in the middle. I’ll use these tips to spark up some new ideas and get some of my unfinished fiction works done. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • Kathryn, let us know how it goes, or if you find something I’ve left out.

  • janice

    Thank you Anne for these wonderful tips! I realize that I did step one..decided to write and article..step 2…started writing and bringing in all of my journal entries related..now I found myself wanting to get a deeper understanding of the subject…so I’m researching…now I LOVE researching…wondering if you use that step…I just hope I’m not “getting off-track.” Thanks again!

    • Research is good and some people make a career of it… might be worth looking into.

  • Love the tips, Anne!

    I have had my share of “blank moments” when it comes to sitting down to write an article, a blog post, even a message in a forum.

    I have found that if I pick a topic, say pet grooming, I will focus my attention on what I know about pet grooming (which is nothing) and do some free-flow writing first. That is, I write without giving thought to grammar and punctuation. The goal is to get out thoughts and ideas.

    If the writing flow is smooth, I know I have a decent piece in the making. If I find myself struggling to find points of interest, I move on to another topic that suits me better.
    Jodi Hughey recently posted..A Writer’s Two Cents About the Content Mill DebateMy Profile

  • Well described, this is one of many procedures I follow when writing a blog post, an article, a book, a webiste. It can work for both longer and shorter pieces of work.

    What other procedures do I follow?

    “Sometimes the words almost string out of my fingers like by themselves; others, it’s only the main point I want to make that guides me to the end page. A few fortunate times, a subtle thought or image finds, through my finite skill, the linguistic means to appear clear on my screen.”

    (Wow! I’m gonna use this! Thanks, Anne, for a morning inspiration.)

    The visualizing and the re-writing/editing parts are very, very important!
    Helene Poulakou recently posted..The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad PigMy Profile

  • I’m not that experienced when it comes to writing, so this surely helps a lot. It allows to be better organized and do a better job.
    dojo recently posted..Debt: 11 habits that will always keep you in debtMy Profile

  • I’d say you nailed it–the process I intuitively follow to get writing done. It can be hard to stop and figure out how the process actually works, so thanks for stepping it out. And I hope that mushy head went away.
    Charlotte recently posted..How to Go Places That Scare You In Your WritingMy Profile

    • Mushy head slowly dissipating… glad this made sense!

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