The First 750 Words

The First 750 Blog Carnival

How To Be A Writer Who Writes: Strategies and Tactics to Start and Finish Your Book or Script

How To Be A Writer Who Writes: Strategies and Tactics to Start and Finish Your Book or Script  by Greg Miller


Non-fiction – Reference – Writing

How To Be A Writer Who Writes is a practical guide to the creative process of writing any long-form project – with the emphasis on productivity. It offers hundreds of specific techniques road-tested over years in workshops and working with clients one-on-one – and offers solutions if you get stuck anywhere along the way.

Buy the book.


There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” —    Buddha

I’ll tell you right up front how this story ends: It ends with a finished draft of your project.

HTBAWWW_010913I know that ruins the suspense, but it’s easier to start, sustain and finish any writing project, especially a large-scale project like a book or script, if you have a clear destination in mind—even if that destination changes along the way. And it might.

Long-form writing is especially challenging because you have to conceive, plan and achieve it over a long time on multiple levels. You have to stay interested in the details and keep your eye on the big picture, balance the rest of your life and your writing. And different phases of the project require different kinds of writing. Knowing where you are in the process can boost your productivity and your morale. That’s why this book is designed as an atlas for the writing process, a creative GPS to help you navigate from the beginning to end of your project—whatever your project is. There are plenty of books, articles and online resources that address specific genres and forms of writing. This is a book about the writing process. These tactics, principals and techniques can be applied to projects in any format or genre by writers at any level of experience. I have included lots of different pieces of practical advice. Use everything that’s useful. Skip anything that seems irrelevant.

The only real hard rule I know for the creative process is this:

Every tactic doesn’t work every time for everyone

But I also know the corollary:

There’s always a work-around

* * * * * * * * *

6 Things You Need For a Large-Scale Writing Project

  1. Will
  2. Stamina
  3. Pens and / or Pencils
  4. Paper
  5. A Computer
  6. Help

I can’t give you a stronger will, more stamina, or a computer, but I can give you lots of strategies, tactics and techniques you can use throughout your writing process. Many of these methods were developed in my own writing, teaching and private coaching but I’ve also included advice from others. I’m pretty sure there’s something in this book that will help if your will or stamina flag, if you’re stuck, confused and / or lonely or you lose momentum.

* * * * * * * * *

The 5 Phases of Any Large-Scale Writing Project

I’ve been through the writing process on this book, plus many scripts, treatments and pitches, by myself and with a lot of different people, on a lot of different projects, in a lot of different formats, in a lot of different media, and here’s what I’ve found: Every individual writing project is unique, but the nature of the writing process, and your relationship to the process, are always the same. The underlying pattern of the creative cycle is the same on every project, so that’s how I’ve organized the book:

    1. Gathering
    2. Planning
    3. Rough Draft
    4. Revising
    5. Releasing

In practice, assuming you decide to release your project into the world (as opposed to burying it in a filing cabinet), your process will probably also include . . .

6.  Building a Team of Representatives and / or Partners

Potentially . . .

7.  Producing / Self-Publishing

And / or . . .

8.  Self-Distributing

And, no getting around it, one way or another, definitely a lot of . . .

9.  Marketing & Promotion

For now, let’s leave #6–9 for another book and focus on the creative cycle of your writing project itself. In practice there’s often no clear line between ‘phases’. They overlap or repeat, the same issue(s) recur in more than one ‘phase’, and the whole idea of dividing an organic, often mystical process into distinct sections is a ridiculously over-simplified construct. But I’ve found it to be a useful one, and I’m all about being useful.

Let’s get it written first, then we can debate semantics.

I hope the accumulated wisdom compiled here can provide a creative compass to improve and maybe even speed your journey from idea to a finished project—with the emphasis on finished. So, let’s get started.


In the Beginning

With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere.” — C.S. Lewis

 In the beginning, there usually isn’t a word. There’s usually a feeling. A flash of insight. A moment of clarity. A revelation.

You have a vision of the project you need to write. Unless this project is assigned or required, then forget revelation and just get to work.

If you aren’t sure what you’re writing, this phase may consist of more hunting than gathering. For now, let’s say you have your idea. There’s a project you need to write now.

Desired or required, in the beginning it’s blue skies and infinite possibility. Right now, anything is possible.

In Phase 1, you explore possibilities, find, generate and develop bits and pieces. You probably already have notes, files and / or piles of information you’ve accumulated. Now is the time to gather your ideas, notes, scribblings and / or supporting materials.

If you haven’t done it already, this is a great time to clip articles or pictures or compile a playlist of music that inspires you. Collect anything that ‘feels right’ for the project, reinforces and / or extends your vision.

Buy the book.


Greg Miller is a writer, teacher and writing coach who has helped NY Times bestselling authors, network TV writers, studio screenwriters and many absolute beginners. He’s pitched, sold, written and/or produced film and TV projects for Fox, HBO, MTV, Comedy Central, Oxygen and others. He has taught at UCLA Extension, Humber College, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, NY Institute of Technology, led private workshops and worked privately with hundreds of writers.

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