Truthfully, I don’t really have a formula. Nor any best-sellers (yet?).
But I have noticed, when I hit all these points, I write my best stuff.
So maybe it will work for you too.
A) I’ve just read and/or watched something incredible.
I’m still not sure if anyone else experiences this but, you know when you watch a movie that touches you? The touch can be made of anything from nostalgia to sensuality. Regardless, it’s felt from your heart to your mind. It’s the lingering touch that then sends you into a fury of getting your life back together, reaching out to an old friend, or spending a whole night lost in thought. Hopefully, you’re still with me here. I don’t have time to watch a movie every day, but I do have ten minutes to seek out some meaningful content. That content can take the form of a story, conversation, or video. I then take that energy that’s still lingering on my skin and transfer it to paper (or my Word Doc). *A song that currently does this for me.
B) My first sentence kills.
I take the approach of being outrageous, bizarre, or “click-baity”. You don’t have to be like me. You probably have more class. But I find my most popular pieces are the ones with first lines that can sell all on their own. Look at the news. Headlines read things like, “FLORIDA MAN ALLEGEDLY MURDERS HIS WIFE AND LEAVES HER BODY FOR THE CHILDREN TO FIND”. Yikes. But you’re going to read it. The first line of the article is similar. “A Florida man is accused of killing his wife and then leaving her body for her four children to discover when they woke up in the morning, authorities said.” The best things I write get straight to the point. Where’s the meat (or tofu) of the story?
C) It’s not the afternoon.
Twenty days into writing daily, and I’m just now learning this. My peak times for inspiration and writing things I can’t tear my eyes away from are in the early morning or late at night. As you read this, I’m writing in the afternoon. Which means this will probably be just an average post for me. But to counteract that I’m also activating point F by being so transparent. You lose, you win some?
D) My hook connects perfectly with my last line.
If the first line kills, then the last line should bury you. I still haven’t mastered this. Outlining helps, but some other form of magic (practice + critique) need to carry you the rest of the way there. All I know is that when I read a piece that captures me in the first line and can bring it full circle in the last line, I can’t stop thinking about that story all day.
E) I’m not hungry.
Hunger and distractions in general. They kill me. The ideal writing environment is me alone, at a desk, the sun just rising or setting, a notepad and pen next to me to scratch ideas on, a little bit of soft music, and a glass of water. In an ideal world, I won’t be hungry, rushing, have a full bladder, or in pain.
F) I bleed a little.
I can’t remember who said this, but it has stuck with me since. This is the most powerful point on this list. If I haven’t bled on my story a little, I can’t call it mine. Bleeding means being honest, transparent, and unafraid. Notice I didn’t say brave? 8 times out of 10 I am terrified to put something out into the internet forever. But I simply don’t let the fear get to me and hit post anyway. Bleeding means putting the human back into the paper. I write willingly about the times I’ve gotten my heart broken, cried myself to sleep, or fucked up. Then I bring it back around full circle to whatever topic I’m writing about that day. This is the key to connecting with people. I’m a woman, but I love reading stories where men reminisce the times’ girls rejected their acne-ridden face with braces. It’s just real. Bleed because it’s real and you should never try to write yourself into something you are not.