Writing Short While Going Long

Writing a book-length project takes a lot of planning, effort and time. Especially that time thing. But while you’re slaving away, how can you get your writing (and your name) out there? Here are some easy solutions.

Writing Tip for Today:  To maximize your writing’s exposure while you’re working on a book, I use the Russian Nesting Dolls Method. What is it, you ask?

Locate Your Core Idea

In nonfiction, your book should have a specific topic and angle. See if you can state this in one sentence. Good! You’ll actually need to do this anyway, as any good nonfiction book proposal contains a topic sentence or brief description that can be understood at a glance. If you’re having trouble coming up with this sentence, you might need to clarify your idea more. Is the topic too broad? Too specific? One idea is to have a trusted critique partner or writing friend ask, “So. What’s your book about?” Your answer will show whether or not you’ve thought out your book’s approach so that the topic/angle are easily identified. If not, keep working on it. And by the way, memoir is considered nonfiction. You’ll need to be as specific as possible: “My memoir is about how I escaped abusive parents who moved around a lot” (The Glass Castle) is better than “a story about my life.”

And for you fiction writers, you’ll need that sentence (log line) too. Let’s say your novel is about the orphan trains of the 1800s. Your one sentence approach can still 1) name the character and a couple of descriptive words 2) set the time and place and 3) give the gist of the central conflict and the character’s goal. Example: Nora Williams, a single, attractive widow who goes to work for the Children’s Aid Society in 1850 New York, must battle a vengeful mother in order to save the children the mother gave up for adoption.

Russian Nesting Dolls

Think of your book as the outside or largest of the nesting dolls. It’s the place where your ideas and opinions (or the character’s journey) receive the most attention and where you have room to expand your thoughts into a bunch of subcategories (called chapters). Each chapter, or single sub-category, fits inside the nesting dolls, in a briefer way. For instance, you might do a 1500-word article on the history of the orphan trains for a newspaper or magazine. You could then write a much shorter piece on the same subject, going from 1500, to 750-word (about a page in a periodical) essay, and even a brief sidebar or fun factoid for a homeschooling publication or some other periodical. Each smaller nesting doll is a more condensed version of one aspect of your book. And you reserve the smallest interior place for your core idea.

Submit! Submit!

While you’re writing that book, especially if you haven’t been published or if you’ve self-pubbed and just want bigger readership, you have this Russian Dolls opportunity to slice and dice your ideas to fit the needs of newspapers, magazines, e-zines or blog posts. Fiction writers and nonfiction writers alike can build name recognition and readership by getting your name out there in as many forms as you can. In our fast-paced world, the shorter the entry, the more likely it is that readers will stop and see your content. Also, by submitting to editors of periodicals, you get practice in submission etiquette (yes, it exists and yes you need to learn it!), you develop that thick skin we need for the inevitable rejections (cut down on these by researching different publications and their guidelines before you hit send) and if nothing else, you have a lot of short material you can use for your blog or other social media. Russian Nesting Dolls Method is a sound practice for fledgling and experienced writers alike. Now go figure out your core idea and start some nesting dolls of your own.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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