Writing a Chapter: Starting with What You Know

Part One on writing a nonfiction chapter:

In that terrifying moment when a blank page paralyzes your fingers and freezes your thoughts, the best way to engage your fingers and to thaw out your thoughts is to start with a story that you know. Recount your drive around town yesterday, your last holiday dinner with family, or your least favorite activity. Anything that primes the pump will work. Just start writing.

If you can make this exercise fit in with your chapter, then great.

After you’ve done a little bit of writing for 15-20 minutes, take some time to think about the chapter you’re working on. Are there stories you can tell, opinions you can share, or some other chunk of information you can write about? You’ll fill in the gaps, organize your thoughts, and add research later. For now you need to get your ideas out there on the page.

As you read over these drafts, continue to think of related stories and points that need to be made and write them out as well. Keep in mind that we’re still talking about a first draft here. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Believe me, you’ll have plenty of time to organize and edit later.

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