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My Writing Process. What's Yours?

Discussion in 'Copywriting' started by Roy Harmon, Jun 29, 2013.

  1. #1
    I've got my own method of writing, but I'm always looking for new ways to be more efficient, productive, prolific, etc. I believe consistent, quality posting is the future of SEO (some might argue it's the present), so good writing will only become more crucial going forward. And the more quality articles you can churn out the better.
    So here's my writing process. I'd be interested to hear yours.
    My Writing Process
    I'm a big believer in freewriting. I heard people mention freewriting from time to time over the years, but I never took the time to try it until this year. It always seemed like a waste of time. A creative writing exercise meant for hippies and wannabe poets.
    But it turns out even Ian Fleming (the father of James Bond) advocated freewriting (though he didn't call it that):
    Those words were excerpted from an essay- purportedly by Fleming- titled How to Write a Thriller (that I am now only able to find in cached form for some reason). I read it almost five years ago and it made sense to me at the time, but I didn't try it until earlier this year when I listened to Accidental Genius by Mark Levy.
    I downloaded a copy of Accidental Genius on Audible and Levy explained freewriting in a way that really clicked with me. So, when I found myself struggling to come up with an idea for a weekly political column, I turned to freewriting.
    Step 1: How I Come Up With Ideas
    First, I take a cheap kitchen timer that I bought at Target and I sit down at my computer. I set it for some amount of time (usually twenty minutes). If I need to do any research I take care of that first, but I try to keep it to a minimum until Step 3. Then I start my timer and I start typing in a Google document.
    I'll start out by writing about what I'm trying to do (e.g., come up with an idea for a political column) and then I'll start typing my thoughts, whatever comes to mind. If I run out of things to write, I'll write whatever random thoughts are going through my head or I'll just type the same word or phrase over and over again. Sometimes I just write "blah, blah, blah" for a couple of lines, but I try to bring myself back to the task at hand as quickly as possible.
    Almost without fail, I'll have an article idea by the end of twenty minutes. It's like a magic trick. I'm still amazed at how well this method works. (If I'm really stuck, I'll take a short break, do a little more research, reset my timer, and hit it again.)
    Step 2: How I Write 3000 Words in 60 Minutes
    Once I have my idea, I'll set my timer again. Sometimes I'll set it for an hour, sometimes less. After I start it, I'm freewriting again. I've found that I can usually write about 3000 words in an hour with this method. Not all of these words and ideas will end up in the final product, but by the end of an hour (much less for shorter articles), I'll have the bulk of a great piece. Then I put away my timer until next time.
    Step 3: How I Revise
    When I'm done getting all my ideas into my Google document, I'll start rearranging them. I'll write more, adding words and phrases here, rewording things there, inserting quotes and background information. Eventually, the final product starts to take shape. At this point I'll add subheads. I won't always included them in the final article, but they help organize the ideas and ensure that the article flows well for the reader.
    If I have the time, I like to let the article sit for a day (or at least a few hours) so I can read over it again when I'm fresh. I'll usually make a few changes and then send it off.
    How Do You Write?
    So that's my writing process. I'd like to hear yours. How do you come up with ideas? How do you flesh those ideas out? I look forward to hearing some tips and tricks from masters of the craft.
    Roy Harmon, Jun 29, 2013 IP
  2. TextServices

    TextServices Active Member

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    #2
    I just simply sit down and type. I don't concern myself with a timer. I can't set some sort of time limit to reach a set word count in a set time. I find myself thinking about meeting that time limit, checking the clock more than I should instead of just letting the writing flow. I mentally start stressing and beating myself up. "Oh my! I have 10 minutes left and I only have 650 words and I need 1,000. Geez... I should have been closer to the 1,000 word mark by now!" Completely ridiculous. Such nonsense to do that to myself. A timer or some variation of it, is a distraction for me. It interrupts my thoughts.

    I've done the research already, took notes, bookmarked sites for future reference. I already have ideas in my head what I want to write. Then, I simply sit down and start writing. When I'm finished, I'll edit the text copy as needed.

    Yesterday, I took my 13 month old daughter for a walk. We went to the grocery store. As I was walking, pushing the stroller, my mind drifted to a project for a client I needed to do once I put the crib midget to bed for the night. The project is on a subject I already know well because I'm trained and work in the field. I mentally began to toss ideas around, organizing them, creating a draft of sorts in my head. Taking mental notes of what I want to write. Tucking them away for future use. Later, I just simply sat down and started to type.

    I do this with work that I need to research way more than a subject that is second nature to me. I'll take time to research, become familiar with the subject / topic, make notes, and then I simply start forming ideas in my head. I'll start writing. If the thoughts aren't flowing easily, I'll do a household chore, play with my daiughter, play an online game on FB, meanwhile, forming some sort of an idea what I want to write next without the pressure of sitting at my desk forcing myself to write something. When I return from my brief distraction, I can write again.
    TextServices, Jun 29, 2013 IP
  3. Roy Harmon

    Roy Harmon Member

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    #3
    Thanks for sharing. :)

    It's always nice when inspiration strikes at some random moment. I like to use Evernote to collect those flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately I'm not as good at developing those ideas in my head. I think better in writing, but I'm not as focused if I don't impose a time limit on myself. I don't set any rules or goals other than writing something (anything) nonstop until the timer goes off. The rest takes care of itself.
    Roy Harmon, Jun 29, 2013 IP
  4. alinasandor

    alinasandor Active Member

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    #4
    I've noticed that when I have my spell checker turned off I'm much more productive. If it is turned on, I stop every few minutes and correct my errors. Waiting until I'm done writing to correct errors makes me much more productive.
    alinasandor, Jun 29, 2013 IP
  5. Roy Harmon

    Roy Harmon Member

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    #5

    I think I would have a lot of trouble stopping myself from going back to correct spelling and grammatical errors immediately. In fact, I haven't even seriously considered trying to stop yet because I'm so compulsive about it. Ian Fleming would be disappointed in me.

    I'll try to do better. :)
    Roy Harmon, Jun 30, 2013 IP
  6. rihannsu

    rihannsu Member

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    #6
    I never write and edit at the same time. As a matter of fact, if I have more than one ebook that I'm working on and one is in the editing stage, I'll close out the file of the one I'm writing. Then I take a break for at least 15 minutes and them open the file and start editing.

    Ideally, I wouldn't write and edit on the same day. But usually that's not feasible because I'll have too many projects going on at the same time. One I go into editing mode, it makes it hard to get back into the free writing mode.
    rihannsu, Jul 1, 2013 IP
  7. affilorama

    affilorama Active Member

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    #7
    I'm not a professional writer so I've never really *had* to write. I do my research first on my subject, make sure I've read everything there is to know about it. After that, I sit down and write. Like some of you, I don't edit as I write. I do the editing after I have completed my draft.

    Have a good day!
    affilorama, Jul 1, 2013 IP
  8. Web Outsourcing Gateway

    Web Outsourcing Gateway Member

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    #8
    Writing is not an easy thing to do, as a matter of fact you need more time to have a very nice article. But one way or another time pressure is one thing that can challenge your creative mind to write things in your mind. There are a lot of ideas that you want to right, but when you face your monitor or paper you tend to lack information, but don't let things bother you. It can also help you in what area you should focus. Feel free to Free write then proofread after, this will result to a creative article after all. Don't pressure yourself, just write. Ideas will flow freely if you let them.
  9. jeewant_gupta_051275

    jeewant_gupta_051275 Active Member

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    #9
    I follow one rule when I write, just this one, simple rule:
    Write early in the morning, right after you wake up.
    Why?
    Well, imagine a regular blogger when he wakes up. He has his daily coffee, does the morning chores, reads the newspapers, checks mails, checks FB updates, reads his whatsapp messages and then looks at his schedule. In the process, the mind has been cluttered with a lot of information and getting fresh ideas gets tougher and tougher as the day passes.
    Thus, whenever I am writing a narrative, or a creative blog- I spend about 2 hours in the morning framing the draft and revisit it multiple times during the course of the day in order to perfect it over time.
    jeewant_gupta_051275, Jul 11, 2013 IP
  10. sircurtis

    sircurtis Member

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    #10
    When in college one Professor showed me how to make a double list. She would time me for 10 minutes and tell me to write pros and cons of the topic. What ever came out of my head.

    She said to take the best thought from both pro and con list and run with it. Each pro or con can easily be turned into a paragraph or 3-4 sentences since one is already done for me. (I seem to think in sentences) Once in paragraph form I can arrange the paragraphs in any order in Word.

    Subtitles I have a problem with and always did. I try to get a few subtitles that cover the paragraph or paragraphs that I want. Sometimes you can take a pro and a con and run them back to back. You get the idea on this.

    Then I go do research. Why? My article is in my words and comes out with a better thought then if looked at research from other peoples ideas. I then truly have a totally original article.

    I do not waste time thinking about if it is correct or what if this, or any of that. If i do not have a clue what the topic is I must research a bit but i am only skimming to get the general gist of what the topic is, not individual ideas. I then write it down a thesis style sentence and run with the double list. This helps me focus the main idea of the topic.

    In a way my research is more for added information than anything. It could be just for supporting data to back up what I am saying or something along those lines.

    By doing this I can usually write a really great article that is unlike any on the net or in print because it is totally mine. It usually takes me about 15 -30 minutes to write a decent article using this method.

    If your writing an ebook I would also suggest sitting down with a few other people and hashing out ideas for the double list. It gives you more minds and different thinkers to cover all aspects. Since more than one person is going to be reading an ebook it also will give you ebook a wider variety of people that could enjoy it because you have incorporated more minds, more thoughts, more perspectives.

    This took me 5 minutes to write while doing corrections.

    I would like to point out one thing for the jury. Everyone has their way of doing things and no one way is wrong. Sometimes people want to open with something like this:
    'You have to be wrong because...' or 'You can't write great articles in such a short time...'

    Everyone has their style, time frame and it comes out their way! This is the way I learned and it has suited me well enough to become a good article writer.
    sircurtis, Jul 11, 2013 IP
  11. cjp214

    cjp214 Member

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    #11
    Great post, Roy. Killing the inner critic - or at least silencing it for the duration of the first draft - is something I've been actively working on over the past few months. I used to be pretty bad about checking sentences I just wrote, and 99% of the time that happened I started beating myself up about how "terrible" what I wrote was. It definitely interrupted my flow and stifled my creativity.

    A few things that have helped me turn down the inner critic:

    1) Write first thing in the morning or last thing at night - I like to write right after I wake up and have my coffee. I feel this is the best time because you're still in the process of waking up so your conscious critic isn't totally alert yet.

    2) Shoot for a certain time - I write for a minimum of 1 hour a day. Usually I'm in the zone by the end of it and keep going after the hour is up. But the key here is I force myself to write for an hour a day; how I feel about writing that day is irrelevant. I've found this has gotten easier and easier over time, to the point where it's become a ritual I enjoy every morning.

    3) Write down new ideas every day - I got this idea from James Altucher (check out his blog if you haven't seen it... it's great!). One of his posts discusses how he writes at least 10 ideas in a notebook each day. These ideas can be on a variety of topics, but the important thing is to make a habit out of coming up with new ideas daily. I see creativity ability as a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes.

    Thanks for your post. Interesting stuff about Ian Fleming, by the way. I'll have to track down that essay.

    -Corey
    cjp214, Jul 11, 2013 IP
  12. Doug

    Doug Member

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    #12
    Jason Fladlien says he doesn't get up from his chair until he has finished each report he is writing. I don't have that much discipline. I don't even use a timer although that would be a really good idea I think.

    I just try to draft out an outline with ever how many points per topic and then fill those in based on what I already know about the topic, research, etc. Add an introduction and a concluding summary and its ready for polishing.
    Doug, Jul 14, 2013 IP