Getting Started: From Outlining to Doing
Alright, enough preamble. You’ve researched the topic, put in the prep work and have a semi-functioning outline. The road map is created and you’re ready(ish) to get started. This is the hardest part, but also one of the most exciting parts of the process. This is where you get to start working in earnest on that shiny idea you’ve had. It’s getting real now. This isn’t just an idea floating around in your mind.
Getting started means writing the first word, followed by a string of other words, adding up to a sentence. I’m not talking about the acknowledgements page or the table of contents (more on those in another post) – I’m talking about the start of your first chapter, page, or section. More likely than not, you will start with an Introduction. That introduction needs a strong introduction. Your readers (or potential readers, if they aren’t already hooked) want to know what they’re getting into. Which is fair. This is an investment, both in time and in money. We’re also social beings, so we want to know who the heck you are who will be leading us for the next few hours-worth of reading. So, where to start? Do you start with a powerhouse of a statement, a joke, or something to set the scene? There isn’t a hard and fast rule for your first sentence, but in general, you want to start off with something that will grip your reader. This is mostly common sense, but it’s worth repeating. Humans have small attention spans and these days there is so much content available that will be competing for your readers’ interest. So, make it count!
To give an example, this is what I’m considering for Ugly Creativity’s introduction:
“Hi there! If you’re here expecting an easy read, some coddling, and some self-absorbed humor, you’re in the wrong place. Go read my other book, Lazy Creativity where I’m a big softie. I’m a hardass in this book. Fair warning.”
It’s possible I’ll make some edits to that (the editing blog post is in the pipeline), but you can at least get the gist for what I’m using. It sets the tone. In that one short paragraph, I give the read a small sense of my style, humor, and what they can expect from me as the author and guide. You will need to do something similar to let your readers know who you are. This applies to all genres but will vary a little depending on what you’re writing about. Lean into authenticity and be true to who you are as an author. I use humor because that’s who I am. If humor isn’t your thing, don’t feel like you have to force it. Be true to who you are and what your writing is about. To get inspired, open up a few books and read the first few sentences. How do you feel after reading them? Motivated to continue? Bored already? Completely uninterested? It’s important to think about what takeaway you want to leave your own readers.
Getting started feels good. There’s a sense of accomplishment with putting down those first few words knowing that you’re not just a good planner/outliner/thinker, but you’re now a do-er. With every paragraph you write you create momentum for yourself and your writing. You’ve built a good foundation for yourself but just know you can always go back in and edit your introduction. Some authors save their introduction until the end once they’ve gotten a clearer idea of what their work is really about. That’s okay too. However you get started, just get started.
Up Next: The Next Step