My writing advice good enough to steal

My husband stole my writing advice.

Noah (a business consultant who also makes games) recently met with a friend for beer and interview tips. Part of her interview included writing a consulting case study, and she was stuck. Just stuck. No traction on writing the thing, and it was due in two days. If she didn’t write and submit the case study, she wouldn’t move forward in the interview process.

He told her: “Here’s what you do. Write a list of 10 things that you want to cover in the case study. Spew verbiage on a page about all those 10 things. It’ll be terrible writing, but that’s okay. Then, sleep. Tomorrow, edit the verbiage into something presentable, and then you’re done.”

He came home, told me the story, and said, “Thanks, wifey!” in his most chipper way. I’m still amused to be worth stealing.

So, why not give it away for free to all of you? Here’s my slightly more involved version of this advice:

Imagine the writing project you need to finish as already done. You wrote it, it was great, you submitted or published it, and now everything is fine again. Now, accept that you are at least three writing sessions away from that feeling of finishing the project.

Session 1: Write a list of all the things you want to cover. 10 things is a nicely round number for a few pages of writing. If you’re writing something that is less than two pages long, aim for three to five points to cover.

Session 2: Write it out. Spew verbiage. Write a shitty first draft, something that no one will see but you. One approach: Set a timer for 20 minutes, and write as many words as you can, as fast as you can. Repeat as needed to cover all your points. Another approach: Going point by point, write out all your thoughts related to Point 1, then Point 2, etc. You’ll repeat yourself several times, but you will end up with enough writing to revise later.

You are now free to sleep off your post-writing exhaustion.

Session 3: Revise as needed. Delete what doesn’t need to be there. Make paragraphs, if you didn’t before. Put it into the format it needs. The key to this part is to sculpt the raw material of yesterday’s spewed verbiage.