If you are a writer, whatever the project, you will often have a notebook filled with scrawl you haven’t looked at for a while. You may have things jotted down when ideas have popped randomly into your head, while travelling or after waking in the middle of the night, or you may have just overheard the most wonderful snatch of dialogue in a café or on the bus.
Without notebooks, it would be impossible to have the important discipline any writer needs to write every day. They can be used for character sketches, ideas for entering competitions and plot outlines.
And, of course, in many ways that’s the ideal way to write, as quickly as possible while ideas are still fresh. Equally, you may wish to peck away at a keyboard for a while without referring to your notes. There are other writers, though, who like to write by hand initially before transferring to an electronic version.
But there will come a time when you have to sift through your words, panning your notebooks for the nuggets of gold that will create your work. It may sound obvious, but never throw out any notebook until you have done this.
Go through and put three stars by the material you like best, and a line through the rest, being as brutal as you can, even if you seem to like everything you have put down in your notebook.
You can also try dividing your best stuff into three computer files or boxes – material you’ll definitely use, stuff you probably won’t, and the work you are still unsure about.
Next you can brainstorm a separate list of the key elements your piece will contain, and then look for some sort of order to it. Just list these elements as they occur to you, not in any particular order. Once you have the list, you can move things around until you have the structure of your story as you want it.
Be even more brutal in the next step and cut that list down to five things before you start writing.
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