Getting Started with Your Writing

Don't let questions keep you from getting started with your writing.

As much as we know we have a story to tell, questions pop up along the way and stop us in mid-sentence. Questions keep us from sending a query letter, or writing the first chapter, or delving into publishing, or marketing our finished pieces… We want to know that we’re doing it right. Well, sometimes there is no one right way. Sometimes just getting started is the right action to take.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of people lately who want to know how to get started, so I thought I’d share a simple action plan. Remember, this is just one way, but maybe it will work for you.

1.) Get fresh piece of paper (or a blank screen) to write on.

2.) Brainstorm the different key points you want to cover on your topic.

  • If you’re writing a how-to article or book, what are the different steps your readers need to take?
  • If you’re writing a personal story, what are the milestones that stand out to you?
  • If you’re writing a profile on a person or a business, what questions do you have? What questions would your readers have for this person or about the business?

3.) Use what you’ve just written as a loose outline for your writing. Go back and fill in the gaps, include how-tos, add color, quotes and context.

Don’t let questions keep you from taking action. When in doubt, start writing. One of my clients says she just “throws up on the page.” I visualize words spilling out of her mind into a pile on the table. That’s an excellent place to start.

The first draft isn’t the final draft. Just get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper! You can always go back and make them pretty.

And, if you’re waiting for the right moment to start… it’s right now. There will never be “extra” time for writing, so make some time today.

Before you go… leave a comment and tell us what you’re writing about right now.

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Tyson - April 8, 2011

Erin-
Great post – this is exactly what I needed to hear (and thank you for your response on 48 Days as well). I’m actually going to bookmark and print this article out as I begin my story on how my family got caught in the debt trap, escaped, and how others can as well. The Debt Trap….hey, that’s a good title!

Thank you again,
Tyson

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    Erin K Casey - April 8, 2011

    Fantastic! I’m glad it was helpful. I like the title, too! Can’t wait to read your story.

    Best,
    Erin

    Reply
Grace - April 8, 2011

I love that picture of throwing up words on a page! I made the decision at the beginning of last year to treat writing on my blog as an ‘expression’ rather than an ‘expectation’, so rather than set myself targets of how much and how often to write, I simply used it as a way of expressing my thoughts, and do you know what, I actually wrote more that year than any other year before it. Funny how the creative juices get flowing when you just start ๐Ÿ™‚

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    Erin K Casey - April 9, 2011

    Getting started can be tough… especially when you feel like you HAVE to write. Shifting from “must do” to “want to” makes a huge difference. Congrats on making such great progress on your blog! Thanks for sharing!

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Deby - April 8, 2011

This is great advice! I love the ‘when in doubt, start writing’ part! Thanks for helping us move forward with our writing.

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    Erin K Casey - April 9, 2011

    My pleasure, Deby!

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Theresa Lode - April 9, 2011

Erin- Your blog header alone got me drooling…I LOVE to travel! And I love to write so your blog feels very cozy to me.
I’m so glad you got to attend the 48 Days event; I’m sure you added much to an already wonderful line up. (The Millers are very good friends of ours; we lived in Franklin up until last June.)

What am I writing about? Most recently, on charter schools since we’re trying to get some legislation passed here in Montana….a bit of a tangent from my usual theme of learning differences and encouraging people to rethink education. I like to think if I can challenge parents’ views on education, it may spare *their* kids from having a midlife crisis 30 years down the road. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Wish I could join in on the London trip….we’re up to our eyeballs with 3 teenagers right now. ๐Ÿ™‚ London is a lovely city.

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    Erin K Casey - April 9, 2011

    Thanks for your note, Theresa! I’m glad it feels cozy – feel free to make yourself at home. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I went to the “Write to the Bank” event in September (and learned so much!), not the most recent one. But I will be going back this year for a “refresher” and to say hello to some of my favorite people.

    I guess the header is doing its job! I’m extremely excited about the London retreat. Getting away from the normal routine–whether that’s going to a quiet coffee shop across town, or heading halfway around world to see new things–is one of my favorite ways to shake up my creativity.

    If you can’t make it to London, consider the cruise in the fall. It’s all-inclusive and a ton of fun.

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Gabriela Rosario - May 22, 2011

It is a great post. Useful to most…but I can never plan my stories, my characters tell me what happens next.

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Carol J. Smith - June 26, 2011

I am writing six days a week this summer in between doing life! My challenge: completing one project. I am working on several coaching resources for life planning:
FlashBack – Life Review
FlashNow – Life Design
FlashForward – Life Action
I am converting several seminars into E-Books on the following topics: renewing the mind, forgiving, strongholds and surrendering.
I want to complete my life story: Transforming Losses To Triumphs
New blog: Abundant Spiritual Well Being
So I get started on one, make progress and then switch to another. Any feedback is welcome. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

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    Erin K Casey - July 21, 2011

    Wow, six days a week! That’s great! It sounds like you have an good action plan for what you want to accomplish. For you book, outlining what you want to include and then breaking it down into manageable sections may help you stay on track. You can even use those sections as blog posts–test the waters and see what people respond to, what questions they have, etc.

    Keep writing!

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Connie Foster - July 20, 2011

Erin – checking out your blog for the first time and enjoying your guidance. Here’s my secret – sit down in front of my computer and I can write. And sometimes my planned 20 minute write will turn into an hour before I know it. I’m currently revising my novel with a focus on place and landscape. My next pass will be reviewing each character’s sections independently to refine their voices. It takes a lot of time but I’m totally enjoying revision:)
Thanks for what you do and I’m looking forward to future posts.

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    Erin K Casey - July 21, 2011

    Thanks for stopping by, Connie! It’s nice to connect.

    I love that idea: Commit to just 20 minutes, then see how far you go.

    Best of luck with your novel!

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Michelle - July 20, 2011

Erin,
Love this post. I’ve been writing, and recently got sidetracked away from it. But if I wait for the right moment to start up again, it won’t ever come. So your post was a needed kick in the pants.
I’ve got two novels that need to be finished. One is almost complete, but I can’t get the ending until I do some in-depth research to make everything realistic. The other novel is only halfway complete, but the story is in my head and I know where it needs to go to be finished. Just gotta do it!
I love the concept of “throwing up on the page.” I feel like that’s sort of what I do, every November, when I participate in National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in 30 days! You can’t stop to edit; you just have to get the words on the page(s)! Total insanity, but loads of fun too!

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Erin K Casey - July 21, 2011

Thanks for the note, Michelle. You’re right, you have to make time to do it–time never (or almost never) just opens up for us. Do you keep something with you to write on? I find it helps to keeps a small journal in my purse/backpack all the time. It’s not a journal in the diary sense, but a place to keep all my random ideas together until I get back to my computer.

I think I’m going to participate in the Novel Writing Month this year. I’ve heard about it, but it’s time to DO IT!

Good luck with your novels!

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Anne-Sophie - November 14, 2011

This is a great post. Thanks for sharing this with us. I want to write a book about my 14-year long struggle with anorexia, but I have no idea where or how to start. Thanks for giving us something to work with. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    Erin K Casey - November 14, 2011

    Thanks, Anne-Sophie. I’m sure your story will help others facing the same struggle. I hope the tips here help you get started! Let us know how things progress.

    Best,
    Erin

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Beth Douglass Silcox - January 4, 2012

Ready to roll on this end! Thanks for the inspiration here, Erin, and on the Writer’s Cruise Retreat. That book that’s lived in my head for the last few years will definitely be hitting the page this year. Reached out to an illustrator friend of mine and had a great brainstorming session. I’m psyched!! You simply are the BEST, you know?

Happy New Year!

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Dave McCarty - January 5, 2012

I have three “major” stories in various stages of development – some years overdue for completion. I have finished, though, in 2011 two short “children’s (read that: grandchildrens’) stories”, one just in the last 7-10 days based upon a Nativity scene and a child’s question, “How Far Did He Come?” Since I have been “forced” into “retirement” (i.e. unemployed for 2 years) I should have had lots of time to dedicate to writing but have had other tasks competing for my time and attention. With the advent of 2012 I am trying to assign the first 45 min to an hour for writing after I get my bread-winner wife off to work.

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Henry Matlock - July 10, 2012

Erin, great tips for jumpstarting the writing process.

“Your first draft is not your final draft.” Intuitive – obvious, even – but still a needed reminder for many of us.

I still haven’t gotten the hang of throwing up on the page. I semi-edit as I go. So I guess that equates to throwing up a little and cleaning up a little as I go.

I have no major writing projects I am working on currently. Just blog posts, and a few ebook ideas on the horizon.

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    Erin K Casey - July 14, 2012

    I know you’re in the “get the word out” phase of writing and I wish you continued success there!

    Just getting the words out and on paper is a big hurdle for many people. If you can keep yourself from re-writing as you go, you move a little faster. That said, I know it’s difficult! That’s why we can stare at the page all day and end up with one meager paragraph.

    Thanks for your comment, Henry.

    Wishing you the best,
    Erin

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Carrie Lynn Lewis - May 15, 2015

Erin,

I heard your podcast with Rory Vaden this week and subscribed to your blog, so this is the first post I’ve read.

What a great first post; it certainly meets me where I am in my writing life.

Getting started is the biggest hurdle I usually face. That and finishing once I’ve started, at least with novels. So thank you for the tips!

As far as what I’m writing: I maintain two blogs of my own (one for writing and one for art) and partner with a writing friend on a third blog. I post three or four times a week on writing tips and encouragement on my writing blog, once a week art how-to tips on the art blog, and once a week on a variety of topics on the co-authored blog.

I also write once a week for an online art magazine, journal extensively, and am in the middle of writing nonfiction book on writing.

Then there’s novel writing, which is on a hiatus for the time being.

Thank you again for this post. I enjoyed it thoroughly and look forward to more.

Best wishes,

Carrie

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    Erin K Casey - May 15, 2015

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the podcast, Carrie. Thanks for introducing yourself and connecting here!

    I wish you the best of luck in all your writing endeavors,
    Erin

    Reply
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