Minister's Blog

Hot tips for writers

By Steve Jeffery, 11 Mar 2013

Hot tips for writers

Every blog must have an article about how to write effectively. Especially if (as in my case) the blogger still has very little clue.

In my case, the problem might be labelled the curse of perfectionism (which is unfortunately not the same as the blessing of perfection). The major consequence of this unhappy malaise is an obsession with tiny details that prevents the frustrated author from seeing the wood for the trees. Or, quite conceivably, prevents him seeing the wood for the third left leg on the little black beetle on the underside of the topmost leaf on the nearest tree.

As a sufferer (no, recovering sufferer - let's live by faith, shall we?), I'm still at the stage of culling cures from other people. So here, with thanks to DK for pointing it out, are some tips inspired by a post by the Thesis Whisperer whose title ought not to be spoken before the 9pm watershed but whose content is nonetheless quite useful:

  1. There's no such thing as writing; only re-writing. So the critical first task is to get something (anything) down on paper that you can then tinker with.
  2. To this end, limit the time at your desk. 2 hours max. Don't aim for 8 hours of uninterrupted creativity; you'll either fail and get depressed, or you'll succeed like Van Gogh, and that ain't the kind of success you're looking for.
  3. Eliminate distractions. Email can wait. Really.
  4. Chunks, not chapters. Maybe you want to have an idea of the content of each chunk before you begin.
  5. The critical step: Splurge. Forget style, order, syntax, elegance. Just sketch. Enjoy yourself. Don't worry about footnotes and quotations; just guess and roughly what x said and leave a highlighted footnote. Writing facilitates creativity, so write as fast as you can, not as well as you can. Give yourself permission to write badly - you'll find it's pretty easy to do. Aim for between 1000 and 3000 words in two hours.
  6. Take a break, then re-write again and again and again. Out of 6 hours of writing, perhaps 4 hours should be spent on the re-writing process.
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