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Begin with a List

Where do I begin? That’s one of the most common questions I’m asked about writing.

I've been writing professionally since 1972, and one thing I’ve learned is that a piece turns out best if I allow it to follow its own path. I’ve often begun with an intention to focus on one topic and then find the work ends up veering in an alternate direction. If I allow the research and spirit to lead, the real story is a little, or a lot, different than I’d expected, but better for it.

Whether I’m writing an article, blog post, letter, or book, I begin with a loose outline. It’s actually a list with subcategories. As I gather research, I insert it under the correct categories. This makes writing easier. When I have all or most of what I need I can write straight through. Although, the beginning sentence or paragraph is often added later.

Editing then follows. I rewrite over and over until I’m at a point where I feel the piece flows well, is clearly written, and holds the reader’s attention to the best of my ability. Young writers often complain about this part, but I honestly enjoy it. I’m excited every time I find a better word or phrase, every step that takes the piece to a more beautiful end.


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