On fat outlines and shitty first drafts

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The idea that you would just sit down and write a beautiful draft is deluded. The best writers do this on the best days; you, on the other hand, have to work even when you are not the best writer and it is not the best day. You can solve this my way — with … Continued

Writing backward and forward

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There are two challenges with writing anything — flow and impact. The flow problem is this: does each sentence lead into the next, and each paragraph lead into the next, in a way that draws the reader along? The impact problem is this: does the piece take you with ironclad logic to a place where … Continued

How to plan and write pieces of any length

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What’s the best process to write something? The answer depends, more than anything else, on how long it is. You need a plan, but that plan depends on the length of what you’re aiming for. (This advice is for nonfiction. If you write fiction, I’m curious how much the process differs for you.) This post … Continued

Four steps that enable you to write in flow

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I remember editing people at my last job. I would give them the charge on what to do, and then check back two days later. “How much did you write?” I would ask. “One paragraph,” they’d say. You will never achieve flow that way! Flow is effortless writing. You know how it feels. You sit … Continued

Fat outlines help you write without anxiety (Ask Dr. Wobs)

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When you’ve completed most of the research for a writing project, but before writing, you should create a “zeroth draft” — a fat outline. Fat outlines are both easy and helpful, functioning as an onramp to your writing process. But as today’s Ask Dr. Wobs question shows, fat outlines are unfamiliar to people. Dear Dr. Wobs: What … Continued

Editing week, Level 2: Editing structure

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You’ve got a decent idea, now write it! If only it were so easy. Poor, uneven, or murky structures can sink you before you’ve started. Today I describe how editors and writers can collaborate on the best structure for a 1,000-word-plus piece, before anybody actually begins writing. What is structural editing? The structural edit is … Continued

How to treat and cure 8 kinds of writer’s block

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What should you do if you need to write something and you can’t seem to get started? The answer depends on what’s stopping you: lack of ideas, lack of material, or lack of the will to live . . . I mean, will to write. I thought about this when a participant asked it in … Continued

Your outlines are useless. You need a fat outline.

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When you’re planning to write, but before you’re actually writing, you create an outline. Unfortunately, most outlines are worthless. You need a better outline: a fat outline. Outlines are helpful for mapping out the structure of a long piece of writing — anything more than 1,000 words (a couple of pages). An outline ought to help the … Continued