When I write, I start with a framework. A skeleton of what I’m doing, to establish the rough shape, size, and purpose of what I’ll eventually end up with.
With a blog post, that means I figure out what point I want to make, and establish how best to express it. With a book, I determine who the characters are, what kind of world they live in, and what important things happen in each chapter.
In between these milestones, these pre-determined landmarks in my work, anything could happen. The story I’m telling might take a sharp right turn, and I may end up explaining a critical point in a different way than I originally intended. Maybe a character surprises me with how they respond to a difficult situation, or perhaps the situation isn’t what I thought it would be, either.
Setting these goals ahead of time, these entrances and exits to a written project, I’m better able to enjoy the space between. I know where I am, and I know where I’m going, and with that knowledge at hand, I can settle in and enjoy the process; sink my teeth into characterization, prose, and style.
Like with travel, determining a beginning and end point allows you to focus on the middle. That framework is best left malleable, of course, because who knows what you’ll discover in the interim? But having it built, having something concrete from which to jump, allows you to focus on the meat of your work and less on the bones.
Update: April 14, 2017
This is still how I set up my writing projects, and my life.
I’ve definitely experimented with a lot of variations on this, with more prep sometimes, and less others, but the basic outline, and the use of milestones and deadlines, works splendidly for my purposes.