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A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing

Although writing, a creative act, is an art, the many steps it is a part of transforms it into a process, and capturing words on paper is only one of them. Compare it, for a moment, to cooking a mid-summer dinner for ten people you invite to your home.

Basting the roast may initially seem the most important part of the event, but the dinner party can be considered a process consisting of several steps, including arriving at the original idea to hold it, the selection of its date and time, the grocery-listing of the items to be purchased in the supermarket, the cleaning of the house, the polishing of the silver, the requesting that the gardener cut the lawn that every morning, and the arrival of the first guests, all of which occur before the cooking itself even begins, the main and most important aspect. After they leave, the dishes, of course, will have to be washed, the leftovers must be stored in the refrigerator, and the dining room may have to be tidied up.

Writing, similarly, is an integral part of a larger process, especially if you intend to produce a longer piece, such as a novella or a how-to book. In fact, it can be considered a seven-part process, entailing the following steps:

1. Inspiration, Idea, and Need
2. Genre and Purpose
3. Research and Facts
4. Organization, Preparation, and Outline
5. Writing the First Draft
6. Revision and Subsequent Drafts
7. Editing

These, not surprisingly, provide the subdivisions of this article and all of its steps were employed in writing it.

Inspiration, Idea, and Need

As "creator," the spark for any literary endeavor, whether it be a four-line poem or a significant volume concerning World War II, must come from the writer. But exactly what causes it may be as indeterminable as the meaning of life.

Ideas can, nevertheless, originate from two realms-the external one and the internal one.

In the former case, there is no end to the stimuli that generate them, including, but hardly restricted to, other written stories, articles, or poems, television shows, conversations, paintings, music, people, a park scene, the sight of your dog, the sky, the clouds, a color, a scent, or a sunset. In many cases, they may begin as fragments, leading to thoughts, memories, or feelings the mind pieces together and the person, for reasons not always within his conscious awareness, must capture, process, express, or complete.

This, to a degree, becomes the second realm of ideas-the internal one. A thought, feeling, sensation, or recollection may become inadvertently jarred and ignite the spark, which, connecting with others, takes mental form as an idea for a piece of writing. The late Dr. Wayne Dyer, a noted psychologist, called this "inspiration," which he divided into the two words of "in spirit." Something touches a person's soul and gives rise to the need to explore, express, and complete it in artistic form-in this case, of course, the literary one.

Finally, idea origins, particularly for nonfiction works, can emanate from need. If the author himself has failed to locate suitable material about a particular subject for his own research, this lack may alert him to the glaring gap in the supply and prompt his own decision to undertake the project to fill it.

Need, however, not only originates from searching, but, even in the case where there are a respectable number of works in the field, new information or a fresh approach to the subject can be applied.

What is most important for nonfiction authors, however, is that they have the credentials to be considered credible sources on the subject. In the cast of World War II, they may need to have a university degree in history, be historians themselves, be history professors, and/or have had involvement in the war.

There is one almost-guaranteed method of turning ideas and inspiration for writing off-namely, either forcing them to materialize or deliberately seeking them. Since creativity requires a state of being, these methods only oppose it.

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