What to type first

Where in your text should you begin typing? At the top, of course, and then wend your way to the bottom. Actually, that’s an assumption, often coming from the idea that you have to have a perfect first sentence to write the rest, which is also an assumption.

You can start typing anywhere. You should start wherever works best for you, and it may vary from day to day, piece to piece.

You can start at the beginning, type through the middle, and end at the ending. Most writers who do it that way don’t know any other way. If you’re developing an argument by writing it rather than planning it, straight through may help you.

My colleague Roy Clark doesn’t like to start writing, so he begins with whatever’s easiest, just to get going. He says it’s “all downhill from there.” I tend to start with the hardest part, usually the core of an argument, because for me, it’s all downhill from there.

I know some writers who begin with what they know best. By the time they get that part written, they’ve figured out how to handle the part they know least. I’ve never met any writers who start with what they know least. [Anybody know one, or do it that way?]

Some writers organize by typing a draft of what they do know, and read it over to discover holes in their knowledge. Then they do some more gathering, and rewrite the draft. This technique works best if you draft without revising; otherwise, it tends to be slow.

A friend of mine invented a method he called “From-Through-To.” He thought of the ending (“To”) as a target he shot at from the beginning (“From”). So he wrote the ending, the beginning, and the middle in that order.

Some people, sometimes including me, write the framework and then fill in. I often write the answer to the question “What’s this about,” then the first sentence of each section, and finally the ending. Then I fill in the rest. A copy editor told me he did his best work in big type. So he wrote a headline and the subheads, and then filled in between.

If you’re a plunger and figure out what to say by typing it, it doesn’t matter where you start. You just write a lot of paragraphs until you think you’ve got it all down; then you rearrange it to make sense.

Writers who work for online and print at the same time under deadline tend to write an online brief first. After the short version, they have a better idea of what they want to say.

I know what you’re thinking: some of these methods sound nuts; nobody would do it that way. But real writers do use these methods. I use most of them myself at one time or another. Today, I started typing this blog in the second paragraph.

That’s what this blog/book in progress is all about. Do it your way. To find out your way, try different ways.

[Do you start pieces in ways that differ from the above? Let’s hear them.]

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 2:46 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What is your Twitter ID?

  2. What is your Twitter ID?

  3. I’m not on Twitter yet. Next week, thanks.

  4. According to Michael Ruhlman, who heard you speak at the conference at the Greenbrier this week, you Twitter now to promote your blog – you spoke of it as part of your presentation. ???????

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