“Small Steps, Sparks.”


If you’ve seen the movie Contact, perhaps you recognize the quote in the post title.  It’s what Ellie’s dad used to say to her to slow her down when she got excited about something, and  an alien sentient memorably said it to her talking as her dad.  I always thought that alien race was especially perceptive to choose a person that Ellie would respond to without hesitation and with deep emotion.  They wanted her to feel safe.  But I digress…..

This morning, excitement took hold of me much as it had Ellie, and I had to remind myself to slow down.  But it was all happening like Gene Perret described in his article, “Write your book in bite-sized chunks,”in the October 2012 issue of The Writer!  I’d known, of course, that to tackle big projects, no matter what they were, it’s easier to not get overwhelmed by breaking each one into smaller projects.  Perret takes that idea and gives specific examples and recommendations for how to do it.

So, I was in the shower after a lazy, sleepy morning, thinking about what I’d planned for the day, among other things, when my mind swerved around to the essay series project.  As I showered, my mind started to build a table of contents using ideas that I’d been mulling over, organizing those ideas in a logical way.  This is Perret’s “Build content one idea at a time” plus a little of “Review and organize the pieces.”  Each idea for a chapter led to the next idea and the next and the next.  My excitement grew.  Suddenly, I had a book!

As I dried off and dressed, I continued to develop the table of contents in my mind.  Over lunch, I got out the legal pad I’m using to record ideas for this project, and I began to write down the table of contents.  As I wrote (and ate), more ideas came to me.  I now could see that the chapters needed to be organized in sections.  I’d been thinking that for this book, I’d need short chapters of sections with subheads.  I want it to serve as a valuable easy-to-read reference for people as well as a memoir of my mistakes and successes with the medical world.  Suddenly, I could see the structure of each chapter — begin with a personal incident, proceed to the informational sections, and end with what I learned from the personal incident.  Then I began to wonder if by focusing only on my own experience the book would make me look totally stuck on myself.  Geez.  The excitement began to wane.

Here are the subheads from Perret’s article:

  • Build content one idea at a time
  • Review and organize the pieces
  • A base for starting and marketing — this section was particularly exciting!
  • A way to focus your attention
  • Make a schedule

His system for cutting a large project into smaller projects works for both fiction and nonfiction writing projects.  Mine just happens to be nonfiction.

My table of contents?  I have all the sections now and about three-quarters of the chapters.  After some more thinking (maybe in the shower!), I’ll begin writing short descriptions of each chapter.  If this produces more ideas, that’ll be just fine with me!

Once again The Writer has given me ideas and inspiration for how to be a better writer.  Perret’s article alone would be worth the price to buy the magazine, I think, but there’s even more for a writer’s inspiration….

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2 responses to ““Small Steps, Sparks.”

  1. I felt excitement this morning, too. It’s always exciting to learn that someone not only read an article you wrote, but found it helpful. I’m pleased that this piece in “The Writer” was worthwhile for this reader. Writing is a great pleasure, but knowing that there are people out there who read what we write is even a bigger thrill. Thanks for your post.

    Gene Perret

    • Thanks for visiting my blog, Gene, and taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from you! The Writer is my go-to magazine for comfort, inspiration, and learning. I’m glad you wrote your article.

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