Writing Up a Mess - 5 - get it down
In the Beginning
Right from the start, we have so far had Tip 1 , Tip 2 , Tip 3 and Tip 4 , covering the use of a notebook , a journal , an outline and a drawing or map of what you want to write. Now it's time to get a bit of writing done.
Writing out of order
Sometimes, when you're writing a book or play or a piece of fiction of some kind, a particular scene comes to mind and you haven't a clue where it fits in. WRITE IT DOWN! Do it straight away. This is where your notebook comes in handy. Even write it on the back of a napkin or envelope if that's all you have handy! Just write, don't worry about grammar, spelling or anything else, get it down . The same goes if you are trying to write an article, a "how to" piece or a technical manual, get it down !
Don't even worry about how the story comes round to that - GET IT DOWN - the storyline (or article) will work itself out eventually.
I had a boss one time who was really good at making presentations and always remembered anything that was said to him or that he heard. He was NOT good at reading or writing (I think he was probably a bit dyslexic.) When it came to preparing a presentation (using Power Point) he would dictate it at great speed, just as the thoughts came out of his head. Now, I was not a secretary and although I can use a computer and keyboard, I am not as fast as a trained typist, so I just typed as fast as I could, head down, watching the keyboard and ignoring the screen. His ideas were always amazing and he ignored the screen too, because (a) his reading was not great so he didn't realise a lot of it was not spelt correctly and (b) he was always on a roll, so he didn't want anything to interrupt the flow. Once he had the ideas down, THEN that was the time to get everything into the right order, check spelling and add graphics. You cannot write and edit at the same time. They are different skills. When it's time to write - then write! When it's time to edit - then edit.
I used to save all the old presentations because we could use parts of them again, repurposing them to a new situation. And once they were down, they were there, ready for use. It's the same for fiction writing factual writing, such as manuals and academic writing too. Get it down.
It works for Academic Articles too
If you are writing an academic article or a very long report and are getting lost in it, then write an Appendix. What do I mean? Well, in a long report or an academic article there will be lots of sections that have to fit together into a coherent "story", just like any detective story (more on fitting it together later, for now, just do the writing). Sometimes you can get lost (believe me, you can get lost big time). And if you have left it for a while, it can be VERY hard to get back into writing it. If you have an 80-page report, you need to have the structure of it all somewhere in your mind, in order to add any pieces to it. So what did I do, when I had a big piece of writing, had left it for a while (life and babysitting and illness (not mine) happens) and had to get back into it or quit altogether? I wrote an appendix or ten.
What is an Appendix? What about a Codex?
An appendix contains material that provides extra information that is relevant to what is in the main text but which should not be in the main text because it hinders the flow of the article. I have written a separate (LOOOOONNNGGG) article on how to write an academic appendix here . It covers how to get started on a report or thesis again after a break, by using appendices. If you are writing a piece of fiction and you don't know how to move it forward, you can write a codex or back story covering that part. A codex or backstory is something you write to tell you how all your characters got to the point they are at. You generally don't publish these, they are just for the author's benefit, however, some authors, especially those who have written very long series novels have published their codex. A codex might tell a story of one character's childhood or a particular period in their life. It provides the author with the type of background knowledge they need for ensuring the character's motivation is correct or in character. Often, these bits are the "tell" sections authors write when they should be "showing" what is happening. Write the "tell" but keep it separate for your own benefit.
Keep it Safe
Make sure you keep it all safe because we will be putting it all together later. Even if it ends up being a series of post-it notes on a pinboard. keep it safe. it WILL come together!
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