Writing Tip: Ideas are just the starting point

Mar 11, 2013 | Better Writing

“I’ve got a great idea for a book. I just need someone to write it.”

When someone says that to me, I scan the room quickly to find the exit. The word “just” is the key to my reaction.

Great books may start with great ideas, but ideas are just the starting point. If you want to produce a great book or blog post, here’s what you have to do.

Capture your ideas. Everybody gets good ideas, but they lose them because ideas fly away as fast as you get them.

Develop a way to capture ideas habitually. One of my clients uses a journal that she carries with her. Another swears by the index cards that he always has in his pocket. One of my mentors used scraps of paper. A friend uses his smartphone. I use a small digital voice recorder.

Review your ideas. Most of your ideas won’t be worth much by themselves. But when you review the ideas you’ve had, you will usually spot connections that make your ideas better.  Your review will also spark new ideas.

Get the ideas out and turn them into a draft of your book or post. Ideas are ethereal. Writing is real. You can’t create a great book or blog post from ideas alone, but you can create them from the writing your ideas inspire.

Don’t wait for or work for perfection at this stage. Get your ideas into the word processor. You can refine them later.

Revise them. Now it’s time for the real work of writing. Repeat as needed.

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