I just received a great comment from a friend, Nick Humez, that I wanted to share with you. Nick is a multifaceted fellow: he’s an author, mythology expert, musician, and an artist. He’s also a gifted and generous teacher. In a recent post called Only Begin I offered some advice on how to jump start yourself when launching something new seems daunting. Nick took my ideas a step further.
Here’s Nick’s suggestion: “…begin even if it’s in the middle. You can always tie up the loose ends later; write the block of type that wants to leave your fingers rather than having writer’s block over the stuff that right now doesn’t. It all gets written in the end, and once there is a big hunk of it, I’ve found it’s relatively easy to glue other stuff onto the ends and fill in the cracks in the middle.”
Great advice! In fact, this is exactly what a seasoned editor told me when I was having a hard time getting a handle on a project. I’d written the first three chapters of a book, but they weren’t working. The editor wisely suggested setting all this aside and starting on Chapter 4 or 5. In a nutshell, here’s what she told me: Pick one of the chapters in the middle of the book that you’re most excited about and write it. Then keep going. When you get to the end, you’ll know what you need to say up front. It worked like a charm!
Ultimately, I ended up chucking the original first three chapters — about 90 pages in all. It was painful, but absolutely the right decision. Once I had the middle and the end nailed down, the beginning of the book shifted into focus.
All of which reminds me to remind you what we all know: when it comes to writing, there’s no one right way and no one approach that works all the time. Any which way you can — that’s the best strategy of all!