Northern Colorado author Deborah Hardy enjoyed many happy years of marriage with her husband Bryan before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. During Bryan’s illness, Debbie kept friends and family up-to-date by e-mail, ending each note with a word of hope or encouragement, even in the darkest hours.
Many reported that those words caused them to make positive changes in their lives, repair relationships, accomplish goals, and improve their attitudes. She continues to offer hope and encouragement through speaking and her blogs, Stepping Through Cancer and Stepping Through Life. Debbie’s first book, Stepping Through Cancer: A Guide for the Journey, a manual for cancer caregivers, is scheduled for release soon from Higher Life Publishing. It is listed as available for pre-order at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
Today, Debbie talks about the process of researching and writing.
One Step at a Time by Debbie Hardy, Guest Blogger
Anything that seems daunting can be cut down into bite-size pieces and dealt with one mouthful at a time. Remember how your high school English teacher told you to write your papers?
• Find a topic
• Research it
• Prepare index cards
• Organize them
• Create an outline
• Write the paper
That’s all there is to it, right? But how many of us actually followed those instructions? Many times I had either too little or too much information on those cards. Some of my friends refused to create an outline, preferring a free-form style of writing that bordered on bunny trails.
FIND A TOPIC
Sometimes this is predetermined, like when you find a contest to enter or an editor producing a compilation. These will have definite guidelines to follow. Unlike high school, if you deviate from guidelines, you won’t end up with just bunny trails or a low grade. You’ll get disqualified or rejected. Most writers have to get used to rejection, but do everything in your power to keep it from happening.
Narrow your topic to something manageable. You can’t write the entire history of the world and expect it to fit into a 400-page book. Not gonna happen! But if you select one time in history, one location on the map, and maybe one person at the time, you’ve got a topic. Same for romance or anything else you write. Zoom in on one thing and make it come alive for your reader.
You may be able to journal thoughts and emotions without research, but just about everything else will need some background work. No matter how educated or experienced you are, you can always learn more. Adding expert quotes, facts, and figures will give credence to your writing. This is true even of fiction. You might create a mythical land where you get to name your cities and streets, but you’ll need a map so you can guide your readers.
PREPARE INDEX CARDS
Keep track of all the information you gather on paper or electronically. Don’t rely on your brain. I heard once that our brains are like computers—lots of available RAM when we’re born. As we grow, learn, and experience life, the memory starts to fill up. By middle age, our brains slow down just like a well-used computer. We have so much memory that it takes longer for our circuits to retrieve information. Unfortunately, we can’t buy a new mental memory card!
This helps in every area of life, not just writing. Why waste time looking for something when you can just put your hand on it without thinking? Putting your data into categories will help you literally gather your thoughts. Maybe all you’ll need to do is add a word here and there to string them together, forming paragraphs and chapters.
CREATE AN OUTLINE
If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? An outline is a roadmap, showing you where you are, where you’ll end up, and how to get there. Believe it or not, this makes writing much easier. If you write fiction, this may be hard to do if you let your characters develop your story. But at least you’ll have an idea how you’d like them to behave. Like a road trip, you might have a map but an intentional detour can be exciting.
WRITE THE PAPER
This is the fun part! Let your fingers go. One workshop leader said to “puke it out.” Too many writers stop to edit Chapter One and never get to Chapter Two. Once you’re done writing, you can go back and edit, but don’t waste time now. Keep your ideas flowing and you’ll finish, which is more than most writers do!
Why do we write? Because we feel we have something to say. And if we tell stories that people want to read, we can become what every writer wants to be: PUBLISHED!
Debbie, thanks so much for being here today. You’re an inspiration, and your caregiver manual will be a welcome resource for a lot of folks.
Please note that Debbie is available for speaking engagements. You may contact her through her blog. Her e-mail address is on her profile if you click the “View My Complete Profile” link.