Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Find The Right Puzzle Pieces

It's been years since I've put together a complicated board puzzle. As a teen, it was something we did on some rainy summer afternoons. The time disappeared as we twisted the different pieces and attempted to fit the right piece into the right place.

It's the same sort of process with our writing and communication. It is often a matter of putting together the right combination of pieces to form the completed picture. Are you looking for the right combination or stuck trying to put two pieces together which are not destined to fit?

For example, over the last few weeks, I've been pulling together another book project. For this particular book, I have a wealth of raw material yet I want to make sure I put it together in the "right" package. The big structure of the book needs to be in place as well as the details of the paragraphs and the chapter construction. In many regards, it is like a giant puzzle that I'm constructing. In some ways, I need to be careful and not mix in some pieces from a completely different puzzle so the overall picture is complete. I've enjoyed this fitting process yet one of the keys is to continually focus on the reader. Who is the target market and what does that reader need? How will the words on the page meet the needs of the reader? When it comes to nonfiction, it's the consistent focus on these questions which will keep the book on track.

When I write a nonfiction book, it starts with a solid outline for the book. If I'm writing a book proposal, then I need this outline for the proposal and the chapter by chapter summary section. If I'm writing the book, then this outline will still be critical to the creation process. The outline provides the map of where the book is headed. It keeps me focused on the overall target audience. Plus the outline helps determine the sequential flow of the contents. If I'm writing a shorter magazine article, I still need this outline to know the beginning and end of my article.

Your writing situation and life will be different from mine. I have a mixture of work in the print realm and in the Internet space. It's again like a giant puzzle where you have the big picture in mind (or the end result) and you need to constantly fit the various pieces together into the right mixture. What is the right mixture for your writing life? For some people, they will be strict children's writers or young adult writers while others will be able to write stirring copy for a brochure one hour and a chapter of their current book project the next hour.

My encouragement today is to keep looking for that perfect mixture for your writing life. And don't be surprised if it changes from year to year. It's part of our ever evolving world of publishing.

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2 Comment:

At 6:04 PM, Blogger LaurenYarger Left a note...

Thanks, Terry. This is very helpful. I have been trying to balance a number of projects that aren't related. This helps to give soome focus.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger Kristi Holl Left a note...

Your "fitting the puzzle pieces together" is such a great analogy! I've been doing that since Christmas with a project, and it wasn't until this week that I finally saw the problem with it. I had a renegade puzzle piece that I just loved--and was forcing into the proposal--but it just didn't fit. Turns out it didn't belong there. Perhaps it'll fit in another puzzle...


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