A while back, I emailed a book idea to one of my favorite authors--I’m talking if-I-were-on-a-desert-island-with-only-five-books favorite--Erik Larson, and asked him for his top writing tip.
Less than ten minutes later, his reply hit my in box.
I have rarely been happier.
Larson writes wildly popular narrative nonfiction, including Isaac’s Storm (about the 1900 Galveston hurricane that until last week was the worst in U.S. history) and The Devil in the White City (parallel stories of two charming and brilliant men working in Chicago in the early 1890s: the mastermind behind the 1893 World’s Fair, and one of the nation’s first and most horrifying serial killers).
He said he had already picked his next project, but that my pitch was the best he had ever received.
Nice of him to say, whether true or not.
And his writing advice was this:
Before you stop writing for the day, always know exactly what you’re going to write when you sit down the next day.
Simple, yet powerful.
We get stuck because we don’t know what to do next. We need to take a step, but in which direction? If we don’t know the answer, then vacuuming the living room or trimming the cat’s nails suddenly becomes enormously tempting.
Knowing what to do next keeps our work flowing. It makes the process seamless. And so far, it has kept me from getting stuck.
—Ann Kellett, Ph.D.
Ann Kellett Editing