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    « Do Books Still Matter in Genealogy? | Main | How Photos Help to Tell a Story »
    Monday
    Dec122011

    What Do a Book and a Pair of Shoes Have in Common?

    What do a book and a pair of shoes have in common? A slogan.

    Nike has made a fortune admonishing people to “Just do it!” A writer, hesitating at that blank first page, would be well served by the same advice.

    Starting a book can be the most difficult part of the writing process, particularly for inexperienced or first time writers. You want to produce a “perfect” manuscript, but are afraid you may not be up to the task. So you hesitate. Maybe a bit more research, or another glance at a how-to book, and you’ll be ready. And yet nothing gets written.

    Relax. First drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect, so start typing. You need to start getting your ideas down on paper. As I used to say in my days as a writing teacher, writing is a recursive process: a cycle of writing and revision. So you may take two steps forward, and one step back. So what? It's better than nothing. You can’t get to the revision phase of the process until you get a draft finished. Write quickly. Don’t worry too much about quality.

    Memoirist Patricia Hampful, author of creative nonfiction and memoir books including I Could Tell You Stories and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, advises, “A careful first draft is a failed first draft.”

    So get your draft done. Once it’s completed you can see where you need to add more detail, where you would improve your manuscript by cutting a section, where moving a passage to another point in the book would make it more effective. During the revision process you can sharpen your style and improve word choice. But, you cannot do any of that until you have something down on paper (or at least in your documents folder).

    So, if you’re struggling to get out of the starting gate, “Just do it!”

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