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Writing Your Odyssey

Writing Your Odyssey
Writing Your Odyssey

Here it is! The moment you've been waiting for—or dreading! The pencils are sharpened, the pens lined up in a row, the cover is off the typewriter, or the blank computer screen beckons—the writing medium is up to you. Where and how you write are your choice. Ernest Hemmingway famously stood up at his writing desk, every morning, writing by hand. Shakespeare didn't have a computer. Some writers love their typewriters, even if they "hunt and peck." Others prefer writing at a computer. An advantage to using a computer is that you can type in your outline and then fill in details later. You can also shift sentences, paragraphs, even pages, instantly, moving them from one place to another to see how they fit in the flow of your manuscript.

It is good to have a private, quiet space that is all yours to work in, where you can leave your work spread out between writing sessions, or, if you are the tidy type, clear off your desk at night so it is there, pristine and waiting for you the next day. Some people like to bring a pot of tea or a pitcher of water to their writing space. Others like fresh flowers on their desk or writing surface. Some like music as they work; others prefer silence. There's no right way or wrong way to set up your writing environment, there is only your way!

Schedules can be helpful. If you have a deadline, measure out how often you will write and what you need to do at each writing session in order to complete your manuscript on time, allowing for revisions and writing detours. Writing at the same time each day can be good discipline. You might give yourself a finite number of pages to complete each day. You may wish to keep a writing calendar; mark your planned completion date and benchmarks along the way. People who write for a living offer these suggestions, which you may find helpful:

  • Set aside a particular time each day for writing.
  • Write in a place that has few or no distractions.
  • Set a goal for yourself, such as a certain number of pages per day.
  • Have your reference materials and research notes close by while you write.
  • Check form, grammar, syntax, and spelling as you go along.
  • Review what you have already written before beginning a new writing session.
  • Pause periodically as you write, for refreshment and/or a stretch.
  • Start a new sentence or thought before you finish each writing session, so you have a place to begin the next time.
  • Affirm your progress as you go.
  • Every few days, put aside your writing for a while. Then, read everything you have written before resuming.
  • Attend to transitions, endings, and so on, so your Odyssey will be engaging and easy to follow.
  • Invite a friend to be your informal editor, reading your pages and commenting.
  • Plan on doing multiple drafts and rewriting as necessary.

If you are unsure how to organize your writing time, consider your own habits and sense of discipline. What scheduling will best help you complete your Odyssey writing project?

If you are using a theme or an organizing pattern for your Odyssey, have it well in mind. Decide how you will introduce it and summarize it as well as how you will weave it through what you write. Keep in mind an old speech-writing saw: "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, then tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em!"

Having an armature or outline prepared before you begin to write is really helpful, especially if you have not done much writing before. An outline or armature is a little like a trail in the wilderness: It helps you know where you have been and where you are going next in your writing, and can keep you from wandering from the story you intend to tell.

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