How to write in 6 steps
I was asked a little while ago about how to approach writing a blog. My first thought was, well, you just think of an idea for a post and then you write it. But there is more to it than that and I realised the strategy for writing my little blog is not just about writing a blog. It’s about writing, be it posts, articles or TV episodes. So here is my little guide to writing:
1) Set a deadline
I always post here on a Wednesday. So I know for the rest of the week that, one way or another, I need a post ready for Wednesday. It must be posted. The same is true on TV shows or delivering content – productions are expensive and delays can cost serious money so you have to deliver on time if you’re going to remain working. Deadlines must be respected. Once you realise this, you will deliver. So there is nothing like a deadline to cure writer’s block. Just set one and then stick to it.
2) Jot down every idea
Ideas come and go so quickly. They’re like sparks. So don’t assume you’ll remember a good one and don’t judge a bad one too harshly early on. Note every idea down and come back to them later. This is especially important when writing on a series, where you often have to come up with a large amount of stories. When it comes to that next script, you’ll need a bank of ideas to draw upon. So create that bank – jot down all ideas as they come.
3) Search for ideas
Yes, many ideas just come to us but it’s not always that easy. There are times we have to actively search for them. How do we do that? Depends on what we’re writing. For blog posts, I often go through the process of what I do and I ask myself, is there something interesting here? Is there something I have learned that might help others? I write keywords and see if anything leads somewhere. For stories and shows, I take a similar approach writing lists of activities, places, events and seeing if they form together to become a story. If I get stuck, I’ll start doodling scenes. Often seeing your characters visually can lead to a moment that leads to a whole story.
Yes, you actually have to write. People write at different times of day. I tend to work best in very quiet places in regular hours free from interruptions, leaving the evenings free to clear my head but I know some people are night owls and do their best writing at night. Whatever works for you is fine as long as you do the writing.
It is rarely right first time (for me, it’s never right first time). Whether just a little blog post or a feature script, it’s going to need another pass. It could need several. If you’re on a regular schedule, this is important to factor in when getting close to your deadline – you don’t want to be clicking ‘post’ as soon as you hit that last word. Give it time so you can come back to it and do another pass.
6) Build in a buffer
I never deliver late and I feel uncomfortable even coming close. I want to deliver early or, if something goes wrong, at least on time. To do that, you have to factor in the unexpected. Something can delay you, stop you working when you need to work or you may actually really face a hideous case of writer’s block. So how do you still deliver on time? You build in a buffer. Write more than you need when you can. On my shows, I wrote furiously at the start so I was always a few episodes ahead of schedule each time. That way, if I needed to take a week off for any reason, I had scripts ready to go into the system and nobody was held up. Same is true for blog posts. Have a few sitting there ready to go in case you need them.
And that is how to write. Seems so simple. Of course the challenge is often not how to write, but how to write well. That is a whole other topic but the best way to get to a point where you’re writing well is to keep writing. So write!