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5 Steps to help begin the writing process: Part 1

As I’ve continued working as a ghost writer over the last several months, one question is consistently voiced:

Where do I start?

Before I answer that question, I want to be sure that you understand this:

Perfection is unrealistic.

Did you read that?  Did you absorb it?  This is a process.  I look back on pieces that I consider well-written and still find ways to improve.

The writing process is one of brainstorming, outlining, and at least a few rounds of revisions and rewrites.  The process I’m about to walk you through is one that I’ve used for years.  Sometimes the process is easier than others, depending on the topic.

Ultimately, you need to START.  Don’t worry about spelling errors, missing words, double words, etc.  We will address that in a later post.

  1. How do I select a topic?  When you feel the nudge by the Holy Spirit to write your eBook, blog post, etc, it can be an exhilarating experience.  Then you get hyper focused on writing and all sorts of anxiety surfaces.

    If you are a pen and paper person, get those things.  If you prefer to tap out your thoughts on a keyboard, set up your computer.  

    Set a timer for 15 minutes.  You can use your watch or your phone.  Or the timer on the stove.

    Turn off your notifications from social, email, etc.  Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb”.

    Eliminate distractions as best you can.  I often work with earbuds in without anything playing.  It drowns out the background noise at my house, but I can still hear if there’s something big happening.  (I have a child with complex health issues, so I have ears and eyes on her at all times.  I also have select numbers set as my VIPs in my phone so, regardless of the “Do Not Disturb Status”, those VIP calls/texts come through audibly.)

    Now…hit start on that timer.

    You need to start writing down ideas for your eBook or blog (or whatever it is that you are writing.  It could even be the script for a video or a course you have in mind).

    **These do not have to be related to a business you own, a job you hold, etc.  These topics could simply be things you enjoy.  Or something you have experience in (for me, I have years of experience working with insurance to get things covered and appealing initial decisions on either a claim or a prior authorization).

    Do not stop until the timer alarms.  If you still have ideas pouring out, keep going until you’ve exhausted your brain.

  2. Review this list.  As you browse this, put a star next to or highlight anything that you could talk about for 30 minutes or more, that you are passionate about, and/or have a solid knowledge base.  Also place a star beside a topic that maybe you are passionate about, but might need to research a bit more to really create an excellent product.
  3. Copy the items you’ve starred or highlighted onto a new page.  Allow room to write under each one.  Set another timer for 5-10 minutes per topic and record things you know, want to teach, want to share, about each topic. 

    For instance, I mentioned my experience in negotiating with the insurance companies over either denied claims or denied prior authorizations.  Let’s consider denied prior authorizations.  I might write the following:

    • Get documentation about the “why” of the denial: not medically necessary? Investigational treatment? Not a covered benefit per medical policy? Needs more clinical documentation before rendering a final decision?  
    • For not medically necessary, determine why the insurer says it’s not medically necessary (maybe they want proof that you completed PT prior to authorizing surgery).
    • For investigational treatment, determine why they have labeled it as such.  Do some research and start compiling a list of clinical references to this treatment and how often it’s been performed, outcomes, etc.  Also determine if it is accepted as a “gold standard” of treatment or if it is approved or accepted by a governing body (FDA, medical group, etc.).
    • For non-covered benefits, determine why it’s not covered (for instance, many plans don’t cover orthotics for non-diabetic patients.  I don’t know why, it just is).  Later on, you may need to research reasons why this treatment should be covered.  You’ll then need to research other carriers to see if they cover it, why this treatment should be covered.  Cite clinical medical journals and any studies that show this treatment is beneficial and/or superior to other treatments available.
    • If it needs more clinical documentation, ask them to provide a list of what they’ve received and what they need to make a final decision.

4. Once you’ve completed this brainstorming phase, review your top 4 subjects.  Were you able to write more about one than the others?  Does one ignite a fire under and within you that the others don’t?  Are you simply more passionate about 1 of these topics?  That doesn’t mean the others aren’t good topics, they just might not be the topic you write about right now.

Highlight or star the topic you’d like to write about and transfer this topic and what you’ve written thus far to a new page.

5. Start with your bullet points from point 4 and start to create an outline for the project.

When we refer back to the insurance situation, it might look something like this:

Pre-Writing Outline

You are DONE with the pre-writing work for now.  Since creating the subpoints may require some research and additional brainstorming, I wanted to stop here.  If you simply can’t wait for next week’s post, start researching and brainstorming your subpoints for each capital letter.  Again, these don’t need to be perfect.  Some points may not have subpoints and that’s fine.  

If you’ve read through all this and feel overwhelmed by writing this down, go here and here for a video on how to use Otter.ai (or another transcription platform).  If you are using talk-to-text and use Otter, I highly recommend that you record within Otter as you can only import a handful of files per month.

Go here for some documents that you can print to use in your process if you are a paper and pen person.


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