You’ve been told to create outlines before you get started writing. You’ve been told that this takes away writer’s block and gives you a smooth path as you write. All of that is true...there’s just one problem. Your writer’s block and uncertainty can be so severe that you can’t even get that far. What do you do then? If you’re like most writers, you sit around feeling anxious with your fingers motionlessly poised over the keyboard. You waste minutes, if not hours, with this uncertainty. It zaps your creativity and your best ideas.
This problem (I think we all go through it) got me thinking about what I know about success. Masters of productivity and goal setting tell us to create vision boards, mind movies, and things like that to become more successful. We’re supposed to use these visuals to motivate ourselves to drop the weight, boost our incomes, or whatever will lead us to our goal.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized the same thing can apply to writing a book. We
can think about the smaller pieces (the outline) all we want. But it doesn’t mean anything unless we know what the result will be. Where is the story going? What is the point?
We know that we can be more successful if we have a vision in mind of what success looks like. By the same token, we can be more successful if we have a vision of what our book looks like. What’s the ending? What’s the purpose?
I’ve written about this quite a bit recently, and I call it “visualizing Point B”. In other words, if you have a destination in mind, whether a trip, a goal, or in this case a completed book, before you start on your journey, you need to know where you’re going… getting from Point A (where you are now) to Point B (where you want to end up).
Now, I want you to think about the book you need to write.
If fiction: Set a timer for 10 minutes and brainstorm your ending. Where will your characters be by the end? You may know how the book will start or who will be in it, but how will it end? Have fun as you brainstorm. No idea is too crazy.
Then, go through and choose the ideal ending from what you’ve brainstormed-- choose the one that stands out to you the most.
The pieces of your outline should now fall into place when you go to create the rest of the outline and start to write. You know where you’re going, so it’s much easier to map your course for getting there.
If nonfiction: The process is a bit different with non-fiction, of course, because you’re not really coming up with an ending. In a non-fiction book, the ending generally summarizes everything the book contained. You try to inspire people and get them thinking, caught up in what they’ve just learned or felt.
Go ahead and write that ending section now (it only has to be a few paragraphs for this exercise) You have your ending, so now you can easily work toward it-- it’s a more freeing way of outlining. Sure, you may not know everything that will go into your book yet and you may never actually use this “ending.” But, it will relieve your mind of the duty of thinking as you write, leaving room for creativity and solid writing.
This is a mind trick as much as an organizational trick. We all want to get to the end, right? Writers don’t like to write; they like to have written (a spin-off of Michael Kanin’s, “I don’t like to write, but I love to have written”). Well, you’re at the end already. Your mind is at ease and you’re ready to put the rest of the pieces in place.
This isn’t to say that you can never change your ending. Your story will tell you where to go. The point is that you now have direction and you don’t have to think about it. You can be as creative and free because the pressure of “the perfect ending” is gone.