Monday 30 September 2019

My personal strategies for writing, part one: Non Fiction

Ok. Brass Tact's time people. It gets asked of most writers, what their process is, and here's mine.

The only reason I ever put fingers to keyboard in the non-fiction realm is to flesh out an idea in my head that needs a bit more clarity. This is done by gathering research and quotes to support or challenge my thoughts on the subject. These bits of info land in two places, either in a Trello board or in a collection of 4x6 notecards. semi-regularly I take what's in the Trello Board and transfer it to notecards so the rough notes are kind of in two places but not fully in one at any one time.

This is similar to the notecard system that Ryan holiday and Robert Greene use. You know how to google so no link for you.

An idea becomes a book project in my mind when it fills it's own notecard storage box with note cards, or a catchy title shows up. This has led me to have approximately 10-30 books on the go at any given time depending on what I'm reading and how catchy the title is when it pops into my head. 

I read somewhat widely but not exhaustively and try to get a book a week done, so the cards show up quickly if I stick to this schedule.

These get turned into an outline in time and then a rough draft, all while research and insight are gathered on a myriad of topics continuously.

The topics du jour are

Theology General, 
Drugs and Alcohol, 
Men/ Husbands and Fathers, 
Politics/ Libertarianism 

Those are the main ones, there are a few more but not worth noting, including a miscellaneous section and a random ideas one. 

This process of finding info and cataloging it into these categories does not stop. Sometimes I wish it would because as Tumblr aptly put it one day. "Being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life." This sentiment is so true it might have hurt my soul a bit, but I love it. 

The 9 topics above are my domain and the topics I try to read of and be well read on. Whatever non-fiction books I author will be part of one of these categories. I don't write books on preaching or sports or motherhood for these reasons. Some books of mine are stretches in this regard. Work Bike is a strategy book but is mainly a self-indulgence on what the world would look like without cars. But Online as it is in Heaven, is a direct attempt to write a Theological book about Technolgy

Writing is the best way to be exact in your speech because once you have written something down it moves from the nebulous idea part of your brain to the more concrete thought side. So as much work as it is I try not to stop, this makes for a lot of busy work at times but as David Allen says "Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them."

As a final note, this process is the gist of writing non-fiction. When you read a book about any topic the author has most likely collected stories and anecdotes about the topic, organized them into themes and cranked out a draft. But the best writers have nailed down their writing interests so well and have tirelessly read and learned and lived in those interests to the point where they are experts in these fields if not the best read amateurs available on short notice.

This is why you have to have a system because while the Muse strikes at random, her ammo is always found in the pile of books you've read and the notes you've kept.

Stay tuned for the fiction process later.