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Using Natural Planning to Write

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  • Using Natural Planning to Write

    New to the forum; sorry if this is old ground...

    I read David's chapter on Natural Planning and found that a writing project I had been struggling over suddenly took a giant step forward. I'm trying to replicate that experience. Any articles or advice about how to incorporate natural planning or next action thinking specifically into creative projects like writing?

    Thanks for the wonderful articles and posts on this forum.


  • #2
    Cleaning up to "get to" the creative stuff...


    Just an observation: When people clean up by deciding next actions on everything in their in-baskets, everything on their mind, a creative outlet just "shows up.";article=26

    In fact, I have experienced an incredible fountain, breaking through writer's block, just by processing my desk! It seems that as a creative guy myself, the stacks of unprocessed stuff can mount, I work to get through what needs to be decided on, look at an empty in basket and clear desk, then I take out my writing tools and get to work.

    That's something that has served me for many years now...


    • #3
      next action steps with writing?


      I agree about the creative potential of clear mind, and thanks for the link to the article, which was inspiring. I'm still kind of stuck on this question, though, how to break creative writing tasks into next actions? Maybe I'm seeking the holy grail, and I ought to just buckle down and write. My wife tells me I'm a perfectionist. She might be right.

      So while I swear by my next action lists and index card GTD system, still it seems like all the next action lists in the world aren't actually helping me write any faster - or predict how long the writing will take. And that, my friends, is the core of my productivity problem.

      all the best,


      • #4
        but I'll sally forth nonetheless

        I just want to add that I do understand your advice, process all and then tackle, and I'll certainly try that.



        • #5

          In my spare time, I am a struggling, intermittent writer. It wasn’t too bad when I wrote short stories and poems: I could retain the flavour of the piece over two or three sittings and have a really good draft ready in a week.

          Then I decided to write a novel.

          Many years ago.

          Over those years we have had a son, and I have been promoted to management level.

          Now I dream of those weekends when I could get two extensive writing sessions done on Saturday and Sunday, and have a good draft ready for writing group on Monday.

          I now have maybe thirty minutes in the mornings, maybe the same at lunch, and whatever I can salvage by getting up REALLY early on Saturday or Sunday.

          So, how do you get a 70,000 word novel written over these scraps of time?

          The breakthrough.

          I read recently that Henry James would always write a summary of his novels first. The summary could be as long as 20,000 words. When I read this I knew I was on to something – the summary would in effect be a project outline.

          I took this further. I decided the novel would have twenty-five chapters. I wrote down a single line description of the main movement that would occur in each chapter.

          Then, taking each chapter in turn, I wrote down ten to fifteen mini-movements in bullet point format of how the narrative in that chapter would unfold.

          The result was around three hundred action-steps. “Doing some work on the novel” used to be the worst kind of “blob” for me. Now that I knew what I was going to do i.e. write about the bullet points, the whole thing became easily accessible any time I had a spare half-hour to work on it.

          The bullet points were the “next actions”.

          It may sound like you are writing the novel twice, but when you think of it, inspiration, story-lines etc. don’t come to you in nicely written paragraphs – they come in snippets of ideas. As David Allen would say, do the thinking up front: work though your story line and jot down the main stages. Then, organise it into the chapter and bullet point layout.

          I got a lot of benefit from this in that I could see the overall novel at a glance. I was able to move key action moments closer together to get a more intensive climactic effect: also, I was able to re-sequence some events to enhance a sense of mystery.

          Don’t worry, this method is not formulaic and does not stifle the creative juices. For one thing, a story depends much more on the sequence of events rather than individual sentences for its overall effect. For another, disorganised creativity got me absolutely nowhere – just a large bundle of restarts. In fact, this method positions a whole feast of creativity up front without any of the drudgery of making up new sentence after new sentence when you write out whole new paragraphs straight from your head.

          Hope this helps.



          • #6
            Natural Planning & Writing


            Another aspect of natural project planning that can be applied to writing is mind mapping. A looser version of this called "clustering" forms the basis of a writing method which is described in the book "Writing the Natural Way" by Gabriele Rico.

            Just like a mind map can be used to "dump" what you need to do on a project to paper without getting bogged down in the niceties of form and sequence, you can use a cluster to "dump" what you want to say on to paper without worrying about grammar, syntax, and sequence.

            I read the first edition of the book many years ago, and have been using the method to write (and plan) ever since. The second edition is now in print.


            • #7
              novel notes

              Sounds like your organization is what many people would call a "first draft."

              I've bought not one but two "how to write a novel in 30 days" type guides. You CAN write that quickly, but not if you're pausing to ask "what happens next" at the end of every scene.

              They count 30 days from AFTER you've plotted and outlined.

              Personally, I can't outline too far in advance without some "creative writing" to keep it interesting. I find that I can scratch out a very vague outline, which serves to get the first few chapters written, which in turn provide the inspiration and deeper knowledge for a more detailed outline.

              It's a bit of back and forth, but it works for me!



              • #8
                Re: Natural Planning & Writing

                Originally posted by Scott_L_Lewis
                Another aspect of natural project planning that can be applied to writing is mind mapping. A looser version of this called "clustering" forms the basis of a writing method which is described in the book "Writing the Natural Way" by Gabriele Rico.


                You're spot on here. I do a lot of business writing and developing two nonfiction book proposals right now. I use a mind map for every project to do just what you describe - capture as many ideas as I can generate, cluster them, and then develop an organizational strategy.

                It's a powerful technique and often overcomes the inertia created by looking at a blank page.

                Thanks for the tip on the book... I'll look into it.


                • #9
                  Glazer & the Buccaneers

                  Saw that this morning. I've said it before....for all you want to talk about United and their international profile, they really seem to do business the right way. I'm interested to see just how much Kenyon had to do with these results, so next year will be interesting.


                  • #10
                    I got a virus warning when I went to this url ....



                    • #11
                      Danger, Will Robinson!

                      Hmmm. I didn't try this URL, Dave, nor did I try the two URLs in the "Note Taking Formats" thread. Three different posts, three different user-names, three different URLs, but other than the URLs, exactly the same message.

                      Thanks for the virus alert!



                      • #12
                        Richest Franchise in Sport

                        Topics containing links to people's sites are unneeded and contribute nothing as a whole, much like topics containing content like this one. You could have PMed a moderator and asked this same question and received the same Major Medical Insurance response. Please do so in the future.


                        • #13
                          Re: Richest Franchise in Sport

                          Originally posted by wlu_lax6
                          Topics containing links to people's sites are unneeded and contribute nothing as a whole, much like topics containing content like this one. You could have PMed a moderator and asked this same question and received the same [advertising link deleted by Carolyn] response. Please do so in the future.
                          LOL! Another spammer. Didn't even follow the link. Aren't they smart enough to realize that:

                          1) They need to change the subject line for Pete's sake,
                          2) We can see the URL for the link, and we don't plan to go there.



                          • #14
                            Maybe spammers are not smart enough but I think many accidental readers of the spam are not smart enough not to click the link. So this approach may work.


                            • #15

                              It doesn't matter too much to the spammers if you click or not - they've got what they wanted. There is now a link to their site from a highly respected site. Next time Googlebot visits, it finds the link to their site, and considers it a 'vote' from for their site, and increases their PageRank.

                              It's not us they're spamming, really, we're just innocent bystanders - it's Google they're aiming for, and as long as their posts are allowed to stay unmoderated, they get what they want, and they'll keep coming back.