Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tips for writing features #5: Stick in the middle

Despite my best intentions, I did nothing useful today. I made a few phone calls, collated a few notes, sent a few emails. Anything but face the article that needed writing. It sat there, looming large, dark, silent, brooding.

It wasn't the Muse I was waiting on. It wasn't a format, or a fact, or a quote. It was a beginning.

Find the beginning for a story and you'll find the story. I've written before about armpits and angles. About navigating your rowboat in a straight line through a sea of ideas. All of which is just fabulous in theory. But sometimes it just doesn't happen.

So what's a girl to do?

You start with what you know. What I know, for this particular story, is the middle. I have already decided that it will be an intro/q&a/ending format. I don't know the intro. I don't know the ending. But the middle - well, that's a matter of wrangling my questions and quotes into submission.

This I can do.

Hopefully, once it's done, an intro and an ending will have suggested itself. Simple, really.

Now all I have to do is to do it.

{image: via WeHeartIt}


  1. You have no idea how I needed to read that. I too shall start in the middle. Have spent way too long on the beginning. Love your work!

  2. I'm wrestling with some thing similar. Actually a few of them. I need to just start don't I? Actually, can you do it for me?

  3. Very timely article! I have procrastinated for the last week and a half. I am meant to have started collating two surveys for a local radio station as part of their application for renewal of their license. I have shopped, blogged, made phone calls and eaten far too try and avoid the moment I have to start! I know I'll feel better the moment I actually pull it out and start working.

  4. This is sound advice. It also applies to housework. Once you get your beginning, you build up momentum.
    However, it is all in the doing.

  5. Is this something that happens a little bit or just every now and again? I having been lying in bed, counting up the bills I haven't paid (purely because I am procrastinating), the bookkeeping job I keep putting off, the info I need to find for my ex-sister in law and email over to her, the floors I need to vacuum and mop and the blog posts I need to to. Oh and then get out of bed and actually get us all to school and work.

    And sometimes, it just totally overwhelms me. Can't someone just swoop in and do leaving me with a clean start?

    Fecking around typing this is not helping but in an odd way it is. Thanks A

    Bern x

  6. I've just written an A4 size comment on your armpits post so I will try and be quick.

    Excellent advice. Now that I am sitting around with a broken foot I have absolutely no excuse to not get writing. Thanks for the push.


  7. Great post - I'm starting to learn that staring at the computer screen and wishing words would magically appear doesn't work. Who knew? So I agree - just writing something always gets the words starting to flow and the rest usually sorts itself out.

  8. I can't write unless I have a head. I've tried to put in a 'holding headline' and it doesn't work - my words are all stilted without the flow. Going for a walk often helps, so much so that I walk home repeating the headline over and over again so I don't forget it! Good luck!

  9. I have been stuck on this too. I need to close everything down, get a pen and paper. Then it seems more do-able. Luddite, me?

  10. So true! My must-I-do-it thing is getting ready for tax time. I'm not one much for filing and thinking of having to sort through the paperwork gives me a massive headache - though once I start I find it's only a minor headache.

  11. "Now all I have to do is to do it."

    Ain't that the truth! Wanna swap articles??

  12. Hi, I saw your Tweets yesterday about writing and blogs, just wanted to say how interesting it is to read your various posts on writing features... I'm sure all readers enjoy some stuff on writing because everyone has a story to tell and an inclination to tell it. So a few ideas and a bit of inspiration always welcome.

  13. I remember in my final year of secondary school writing my thousand word essay for Engish Composition . I just started to write somewhere in the middle , ended using it as an introduction ,finished with memorable flourish ...then quickly went to the blank page I had left at the beginning and wrote up the required plan which I was supposed to use to create this essay .

    I think you are totally right on starting in the middle ... the plan will reveal itself .

    Oh by the way ...that essay brought me to win the award for writing that year ...that was never my plan .


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