Writing. Where do you start?

I was asked a really obvious question recently. “Where do you start?”

It’s not a question I think about any more. I jump in and write.

There are a gazillion ways to start writing. But, that’s not a helpful answer.

First of all, be organized. Think through your story, create your characters and your scenes. Essentially, every story from a blog post to “War and Peace” involves a dilemma that needs to be resolved. There needs to be a reason for the story to be written.

I start by asking myself what the vast majority of readers need to know. And, then I answer the question.

Second of all, ignore the organization efforts and let the story roll. That’s what makes the story interesting.

Listen to a good storyteller. They make the words in between the question and the answer intriguing.

The simplest form of storytelling is song. We sing stories all the time. Almost every culture does.

Songs have a method. They go full circle. They repeat sections. They create experience.

And, art is math. There is an entire society devoted to the subject, the American Mathematical Society. Math is about balance. So is writing.

Get to know resources. Delve into the archives of Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle at Cultural Equity.

Listen to stories, set to music. Then imagine them without the music. Now imagine them growing longer and with more detail.

Surely you have listened to the Prairie Home Companion. You get the idea.


There are wonderful old stories like “Train Hundred And Eleven.” You don’t need a handbill to follow the characters in the story. Whoever wrote that tune makes you jump right in. “July 17, 1910…” Suddenly, you are in the train yard.


A few years ago, I came across Joel Mabus’ The Banjo Monologues. I can’t forget his story of “Cindy, Gerald and Jerald Lee.” Like the consummate storyteller, Mabus can’t resist telling a story about his story.


Find your stories. Find the balance. And, yes, jump in.


Sharing Your Words with Easy Digital Downloads

If you are reading this, then Think::Fast::Write::Fast blog has successfully moved and brought you with us!

I do have something novel to share with you today. If you want to sell your words directly to blog readers, without anything very sophisticated, try Easy Digital Downloads. That’s actually the title of this WordPress plugin.

It is so amazingly easy to install. That’s not hype. Everyone says that. It really was stunningly simple.

Here is what it does. It sets up a system within your WordPress account that makes it possible to sell media directly to your readers. I have been building a database of information about people buried in Springdale Cemetery, in Peoria, IL, and have published two books about the cemetery. A third is being fact-checked.

I create PDF versions of files, upload them to my WordPress account, and set a price. I write a description. I’m done.

You set up your account information to accept PayPal or Amazon Payments, or both. The plugin downloads the file they paid for. They open it with any PDF reader. No fuss, no muss.

You knew you were waiting to hear me say it. Let’s take a fieldtrip!

hack  I have added a menu option “Downloadable Genealogy Reports” to my blog. That takes you to a list of what you can download. It’s just a WordPress page. I created a separate page for each item. Then I created a link from the Downloadable List to those pages.

You also have a Free option, if you just want to offer a download. Want to try it? I created a free downloadable report at so you can see what I’m talking about.

My idea is to perhaps collect short downloads to create a book which I would publish through Lulu. I have done that before, without charging for the individual entries.


Know your tools

Clients hire me to “edit a book and get it online.” Expectations are everything.

When someone hires me, I expect that they have done the digital corrections already. Correcting spelling errors is hardly even editing, since the computer does that for you. You can train your computer to override certain unusual spellings. You can create custom spelling dictionaries for unusual spellings that you only use in a particular document.

A savvy writer understands their tools and hones them to work in a way that improves writing. You can train your computer to help you edit as you write. Teach your word processor how to punctuate.

hack     #fieldtrip Let’s take a quick peek at the Grammar Settings in Microsoft Word. If you have not customized the settings, please do yourself a favor and at least look at the options. You will find settings that control when your word processor should indicate that there may be a better way of writing your words.

I will be offering a course on how to Write Like A Writer soon. But, in the meantime, open your Word Options and take a look at what your word processor has been asked to do for you. I do not have “Use of first person” activated because I often do write in first person. I don’t want Word to flag first person content as something I should revise.


Please note, that there is an option for “Spaces required between sentences.” The correct number is “1.” The current style dictates that there should never be two spaces used. Ever. For any reason.

Even Word doesn’t call these options editing. They are called spelling and grammar. You hire an editor.

But, first, do your due diligence and present a clean copy. They are your words. Make them shine.

#spelling  #grammar  #fieldtrip  #writelikeawriter  #thinkfastwritefast