Before he died John McPhee’s seminar at Princeton was the most demanded class in America. This is me using his method:
The McPhee Method
First answer these questions:
- How many big ideas do you have?
- How many chapters fall into each idea?
- What ideas fall into each chapter?
- Make a notecard for each idea
- Put them in order
- Rearrange, rearrange, rearrange
We all know what it is like to have things flying around in cyberspace . Between messages, work, and everyday life our brains can get cluttered. The computer may store it all, but it does a poor job of “presenting it.”
Humans think in 3D, don’t we? So, we should represent our ideas in reality…
Editing update: I’m slow
The last few weeks have been heavy on editing. We are making changes, but I am doing less with my pen than my keyboard. What I’ve realized is that I am a slow reader and an even slower editor. That’s why I prefer writing to editing.
It’s like flipping houses. Are you the kind of person who would rather buy a shabby house and fix it up? Or would you rather knock it down and start from scratch?
Taking our time is often helpful, but when up against a deadline it can be a tooth-grinder.
Tools like the McPhee method have a huge impact compared to how little effort they require. It can be applied outside of writing, and I would recommend it to anyone.
At the end of the day, slowing down and internalizing the bigger picture is key. I’d rather be a turtle with a tree than a hare that gets the pear.
If anyone has a kid or a sibling that might be interested in reading my book, we’re finding feedback from Young Adults extremely valuable. Everyone’s feedback is incredible, but kids are just so spongey with story.
Happy to put the kiddo in the acknowledgments and sign a copy for them :]
you can respond to this email if curious!
Next week I’ll talk about trying too hard to have “style.”