Structure your message like Wolfe, Faulkner and Nabokov
When William Faulkner couldn’t figure out how to structure A Fable, he wrote a simple outline — directly onto the wall of his writing sanctuary.
A Fable won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize. Hmmmm … maybe Faulkner was on to something.
You needn’t write on the walls. But you do need to outline. Mind mapping works. Even bullet points on the back of an envelope can help you resolve structural flaws, avoid awkward transitions and write to your word count. (I call this editing before you write.)
Here’s how four other writers have figured out what goes where:
1. Tom Wolfe outlined.
“I make a very tight outline of everything I write before I write it,” said the author of The Right Stuff.
“By writing an outline you really are writing in a way, because you’re creating the structure of what you’re going to do. Once I really know what I’m going to write, I don’t find the actual writing takes all that long.”
2. Chip Scanlan “collages.”
“Don’t get stuck in linearity,” writes the affiliate faculty member of The Poynter Institute. Instead, he writes in segments, then “collages” the paragraphs and pages together into a whole.
3. Donald M. Murray used Post-its.
“I use a yellow highlighter and Post-it notes,” wrote the Pulitzer prize- winning journalist.
“Since I’m not comfortable using split screens and electronic files to write from, I make a printout of every interview, staple the pages, and spread them out on my desk. I separate the stacks with Post-it notes: pro sources, anti sources, the experts, etcetera.”
4. Vladimir Nabokov used index cards.
Nabokov wrote most of his novels on 3-by-5 cards, keeping blank cards under his pillow for whenever inspiration struck.
How to organize writing projects
Whether you’re writing on the walls or using Google Drive, a lot of times, organizing your writing projects is the hardest part of the writing process. Use these techniques to make the process better, easier and faster.
How do you organize your writing projects?
Work with — not against — your brain
While we talk a lot about what to write — More stories! Fewer words! Shorter sentences! — we don’t focus so much on how.
Writing is hard because we weren’t taught how to write. Instead, we were taught how to edit: how to spell, punctuate and use the right grammar.
But there is a how to writing. Learn a few simple steps that will make your writing time more effective and efficient at How to write Better, Easier & Faster — our writing-process workshop starting March 21.
You’ll learn to invest your time where it’ll do you the most good … stop committing creative incest … even save time by editing before writing.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.