Thursday, September 28, 2006

Writing Backwards

By Nichole Giles

Last week when I was uninspired I picked a word. I used that word to create more and more words until I had a page. This proved to be a great exercise for me. (And my brain needs all the exercise it can get!)

This week, I’m working on the same concept with picking a title. I know it sounds backwards to pick a title first, but I’ve discovered this is a great way to make your brain start working.

First, pick a title out of thin air. One that sounds outrageous, or funny, or crazy, or has absolutely nothing to do with your subject of focus. Pick a title that would spark your interest if you were the reader. If you were skimming through a magazine, or an anthology, or a newspaper, would that title catch your eye?

Next, begin writing. Take whatever subject you’re supposed to be writing about, and start going. Whether you’re telling a story, or stating facts, go through the process of writing.

Then, look at your content and find a way to make the title fit the manuscript. This can be tricky if your title has nothing whatsoever to do with what you are writing about, and to be completely honest it doesn’t always work. But it does get your brain moving, and shaking, and trying to work it through. And while your brain is working out, your writing is going to have a variation of results.

You could change your mind about the content of your article or story. Or you could find a title that is better than the one you started out with. You might come up with a completely different beginning, or end, or middle. Maybe you’ll decide you need to add another character, or interesting fact. Good things happen when your body exercises, and the same goes with your brain.

The next time you need to write, but don’t know how to get started, move backward. Pick the title first. Who knows what you’ll end up beginning with.


John Ferguson said...

I heard a story by Tracy Hickman. He and his wife were travelling and got into a conversation about the Oprah Book Club. They decided to come up with titles that sounded like Oprah books. During their brainstorming they came up with "In the Shade of the Joshua Tree". At first they laughed, then they realized it was a cool title. After several more minutes they had a setting and basic plot. They are writing the book now.

Nichole Giles said...

What a great title! I'm sure the book will be awesome too. See what happens whey you pick the title first?

Thanks for that insight, John.