Doing the Maths Helps Clear the Block

So there I was, stuck on chapter 8 of a textbook I’m writing with a colleague in the US. He’d written part of this chapter and I needed to finish it. I had no idea what I was going to write or where the words would come from. It seemed a huge task and I felt myself starting to panic.

Then I attended an Arvon Foundation course where one of the tutors was author Richard Beard ( He talked to us about structure and the way maths comes into the planning of his books.

Back home, I looked at the number of words I already had and the number I needed to complete the chapter. Then I did some research, reminding myself of all the things I’d forgotten I knew about the subject. I listed the points I could make and calculated the number of words I needed to write about each point. It was surprisingly few.

Four hours later the chapter was finished, edited and winging its way across the Atlantic for my colleague to review. Bringing a bit of left-brain thinking to a right-brain activity seems to have worked. Now to tackle the other chapters I’ve been trying to ignore!

What about you? What devices or structures do you use to help you plan your writing?
By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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