Build Yourself A Writing Process.

When I sit down to write, I almost always have a strong argument in mind — which goes on the stickie note on my wall. But this doesn’t mean that I have the entire essay formed in my mind. There is still a lot of work in putting words to Google docs.

Allow me to tell you the process I follow to get the draft out.

Step 1: The outline. This is sometimes on paper, at other times on the document itself. This is in no order. It’s just a list of points I want to cover. For instance, in a film review, I might jot down:

  • Aishwarya Rajesh is awesome.

  • Dream scene is interesting.

  • Dialogues are off.

  • Slow in the middle.

  • Convenient plot points.

Step 2: Lede. Typically, I write this first (sometimes when it doesn’t work, I write it in the end). My favourite technique is to use a synecdoche. In a review, I’d use a scene to represent the entire film. But remarkable statistics, an antithetical assumption — anything works.

Step 3: Expanding the outline. I’ll write details about each point in my outline. At this point, I’m just writing everything I’m thinking, I don’t organise them.

Step 4: Rearrange for impact. Now, I have paragraphs with one central idea each. Most often, the expansion of the outline automatically falls in this way. At this stage, I move around the paragraphs back and forth to form the flow. I’ll also write the transition words / sentences at this stage.

Step 5: Review and edits. Here’s when I fix all Ranjani problems. You know those words I overuse, those transitions that could be simpler, the convoluted jokes only I understand etc.

Step 6: Read out loud. I don’t send anything without listening to it once. This is the best way to proof-read, it helps catch all mistakes I miss while reading.

Step 7: If the essay is too important or I’m unsure, I send it to my friend Anjana for feedback (if I have time) or validation. 🙂

The reason I’ve arrived at this process is because:

  • It’s faster because it’s iterative. If a para doesn’t work, I write down the idea and move to the next. I don’t get stuck in making it perfect.

  • It allows me to change my mind about a few things as I write — ideas evolve.

  • I know my pitfalls and have set aside time/energy to overcome them.

If you’re a professional writer, you’ll need to wake up 5 days a week and write on the clock. Having a process like this can be immensely helpful. What’s your process? Share with me?

Bonus: A delightful glimpse into the process of Oliver Sacks.