Greetings everyone from the other side of Thesis Land. I just finished up my final Master’s project and I have been oscillating between despair at what to do next and relishing in my new found freedom. For anyone who has ever completed a long writing project, fiction or otherwise, it can be an overwhelming task with many highs and many lows. Projects can feel so big sometimes that it can feel difficult to even know where to start. I wanted to share with you all, how I write, what works for me, how to avoid some pitfalls, and how to make sure you can survive until you reach the other side.
Today’s writing tip:
The funnel works for academic, nonfiction, and fiction writing alike. Funneling is also a tool that can stay with you throughout your entire writing process. So what is the funnel?
The above image is a simple image of a funnel. The notion of a funnel or funneling has been used in many aspects of life and business. Simply put, the funnel means to start big and then through a process of elimination, select aspects or topics you wish to focus more on.
How does this work in practice?
You want to write something… but what topic or direction should you go in?
Get an overview
Pick a few broad topics like masculinity, nature, relationships, etc. and start to read widely. This can be anything form fiction books to prose to more academic papers. Read widely and read a lot. If you are doing specific research, start with introduction-style and overview texts. An example might be things like An Introduction to Feminism, or borrowing all of your libraries books on romance or travel memoirs.
Take notes and start to funnel
As you read your overview texts, you’ll find yourself identifying and reacting to certain authors, concepts, and notions. Pick these out, make note of the author and their texts (check the reference section at the back of textbooks for this), highlight what you love, what doesn’t work for your project, and what you find problematic. It is important to note that just because an idea doesn’t work for your specific project, it doesn’t mean you cannot use this concept to support your arguments later.
Once you have listed the authors, themes, and ideas that appeal to you and your project. Cut the rest and start the funnel again. This means collect more books, papers, and information, but now you are specialising. You started off with a broad topic and a broad overview and now you get to stick your teeth into the theory, the characters, and the overarching story.
Repeat the funnel and note taking
Research is never easy and funneling, note taking, and deepening your knowledge is often a process that you will have to do more than once. Arguably you can be doing it throughout your whole project.
Know when to stop
Funneling is great, however, it has its own pitfall. Funneling can be used to avoid actually writing. It is easy to say: “I don’t know enough yet.” or “I’m not ready, just one more book and then I will know how to start.” Chances are if you have filled one or two notebooks with ideas, quotes, plot schemes and themes, chances are that you are also ready to write. So take the jump!
Writing does not have to start in order of how you imagine your finished product will look like. Writing can start anywhere. In fact, for academic writing and some nonfiction works, it is much better to leave the Introduction and Conclusion until the very end and start in the middle. I always do this. The reason: How do you know what your Introduction will be if you don’t know how your writing will turn out? Funneling even happens when we write. So when we think we are writing in one direction we can sometimes end up at a completely different point. Sometimes this is rambling and we might need to cut back and re-shape, but more often than not, the different point is actually where we wanted to end up all along. We just didn’t know it at the time.
So that’s it! Easy as! Have you used funneling for larger writing projects? What works for you? Remember to share the reading love.