The task of a writer is invariably the following: To reach up to heaven with one hand, and to reach down to hell with the other. When the currents have flown through - let something beautiful emerge!
I call the way I write the top-down approach, which means I make a mental structure first, and then I translate it into writing. The other way is the sequential approach, where you make decisions on the fly and write as it comes to you.
The top-down approach of writing has three major phases:
If the attitude you take is not proper, your writing becomes gimped. If your attitude is one of balanced openness, everything flows with ease. So, do your thing! Draw upon your life experiences and your own place in the universe to make you feel at home and centered. Use whatever works for you to achieve the attitude of openness!
The research phase is where you form the mental structure of your writing. The research phase can be broken down into these steps:
In the second step you choose your subject. The subject forms the center of your writing. If you are writing non-fiction, let the title state the subject. These few words maintain the balance of the whole work. Everything goes in here and out of here in concentric circles. The center, upon which you can build. Your subject may come naturally after formulating your goal. If it doesn't, have a mini-brainstorm session until it does. The time you spend on finding the most clearly defined subject is well worth it, because it will be the object of much reflection later.
In the third step you brainstorm. This step is where your skill in assuming the attitude of openness comes most useful. You have your goal, you have your subject - let the exploration begin! Let your mind fly! Thinking is optional. Explore everything!
If your goal and your subject are most clearly defined, your mind is most likely choke-full of ideas! You probably can't even actively 'think' of every idea because they come so fast. It doesn't matter. Let them through you and become a piece of you. When the waves have settled, you feel like you know and can everything. If the ideas are not washing over you, return to the first phase and work on your attitude of openness. The ideas are there, you just have to open yourself up to them.
In the fourth step you choose the key ideas. From the ocean of possibilities these ideas presented you, you have to decide on the key ideas. These ideas form the beginnings of a metaphysical structure - the outline of your writing, if so you wish. Again, it's good to formulate these ideas simply and clearly.
In the fifth step you observe relations. The ideas you chose inter-relate somehow. Your task is to observe those relations. Do they fit? How do they feel? Where do they lead you? Play with the ideas! Let play and observation reveal the basic structure (the skeleton) of your work. Add, delete, smash, create, cut, enable, change. What are the colors? Is the flow to your liking? Is the structure sturdy enough for further development? When you are satisfied, move on.
In the sixth step you establish the structure. You chose the key ideas and explored where they lead you. It's time to solidify, to decide on structure. Don't cast in stone, but do make an informed decision about the contents and the interrelation of your writing. Solid. Firm. Durable. A 'hard' thought, a materia among the spiritual. This is the form, the structure of the writing to be.
In the seventh step you create a dynamic. You have completed the steps so far and created a metaphysical image of your work. It's nice, isn't it? If 'nice' is enough, skip this step. If 'beautiful' is what you're after, continue.
A dynamic is force, energy, motion - strength. By applying the phrase "that which kills you makes you stronger" to the structure you created, it can become dynamic.
Unleash hell upon the structure of ideas you have worked so carefully on. Let everything 'bad' you can imagine; the antithesis of your ideas wash over your work. Let it absorb your work into nothingness... Then - observe your work rise like a phoenix.
In the eight step you let go into the ocean of context. You visited heaven in the 'brainstorm' step and trod down to hell in the 'dynamic' step. The image of your work is now complete. It is a carefully constructed whole which can stand alone and has the ability to interact. Let it go.
Congratulations, you have completed the research phase! Half the work is done and weren't even required to write down a single word. The essence and the unfolded essence of the writing has been created.
If you have done these steps correctly (and you are the judge of that), everything you write down regarding your chosen subject will be accurate. That's when the sequential approach works - when you're already done.
If ours were a telepathic society, you could just take this grand concept you developed, and pluck it into another's mind. Since we still need 'harder' material for communication, projections are necessary. The projection phase is where you choose the specific implementation of your work. It consists of these aspects:
From here on, beauty is not only a stand-alone attribute, but also a function of communicating that beauty to your audience. You have to know your target audience. Which group of people are you communicating to? What do they have in common? How great are the differences relevant to your work? Who are they in relation to you and who are they in relation to your writing? Consider your audience individually and as a group as well.
Your writing has to be coherent. Your subject makes sense to you as a coherent whole; you have to maintain that coherency within the projection as well - the reader has to be able make sense out of your writing as a coherent whole.
You employ many perspectives. There are many 'places' to view your subject from. Depending on your goal, you may focus on some and disregard others. Some views fit nicely, other seems contradictive. If you are aware of the multitude and are respectful, they contribute to the whole of your writing.
An angle is a consistent perspective throughout the work. Use it if you wish to lead the reader in a specific way. (Think of a prism which unravels white light into color rays of different angles.)
Context is the environment in which the projection of your work floats on. Words, thoughts, lifestyles - there are many levels of context. Your writing has to embrace the greatest levels of clarity to survive the deepest levels of context.
Research deep into context enables you to balance successfully. Balance is not a passive ability - it's an active process; a flux. The essence of the work behind the written word interacts with the reader as the pieces click together. A clear, coherent balance of words helps and enhances reader comprehension.
Your audience consist of different people. Each of those people has various levels of consciousness. The metaphysical image of your work also has multiple levels. Talking to all those different consciousnesses requires careful balance, coherence, and multi-layered writing. The structure of metaphysical image should be projected clearly into the multi-layered meanings of the written words.
Let your reader interact with the writing! Give something to the conscious, the Subconscious, and the Superconscious of each reader; let the outflux depend on the influx. It may help to think of your writing as a transformer or an amplifier. A good writing takes as well as gives.
When ideas become words of language, loss of information occurs. As developed a language may be, it cannot hold all. Some ideas and perspectives are left out. Be aware of it. You cannot circumvent this problem within the boundaries of written word, but you can minimize the damage. Furthermore, you can do your best to take this factor into account while writing and use it to your advantage!
The thought-processes of people flow as they do. Pay attention to the jumps of thought within your work. If you jump around too much or take leaps too wide, your writing becomes incomprehensible. If you stand too much in one place or your leaps are too small, your writing becomes boring. Do your best to find balance, because the first one is a waste of time and the second is a sin! Let your work maintain it's flow.
If in your writing you employ a time structure (like when you tell a story which has a beginning in time and an end in time), be aware of a special type of flow called the pace. Stretch it or squeeze it, but let it be a coherent aspect of your work. It is a tool to be used to enhance communication between you and the reader.
Your work should be as compact as possible. This works hand-in-hand with multi-layers, balance, and clarity. Don't just blabber on and on! The reader's time is precious. Show your respect to the reader by respecting his/her time. Honesty and candor.
The unconscious, rejected, fearful part of the human mind is that person's dark side. If you fully reveal your reader's dark side to him/herself, you will be hated as much as that dark side is hated. If you completely ignore the dark side, your writing will be no more than sugar-coating; no meaningful substance. Tread carefully, and accept responsibility towards yourself for the actions you take through your writing.