Writing With Legos

Scared of writing? Don’t know how to start? Or don’t know where to go after you do start? Try this little trick: pretend you’re building with Legos, those irresistible, interlocking, brightly colored, toy building bricks.

Whether you want to build a skyscraper or a fighter jet or a fancy weapon, you have to start out with a good base. Bigger pieces belong at the bottom of the structure—unless you want your creation to crumple quickly.

Writing must be built with the same eye toward stability. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 20-page research paper or a two-paragraph advertisement, you have to start with a good base. What is THE most important point that you want to convey? Don’t start writing until you can answer that question.

When you have a good grasp on what you want to say, consider this next question. Who do you expect to read what you are writing? Is your reader a teacher with a grading pen? A potential customer? Someone who shares your enthusiasm for a particular topic? An audience with no prior knowledge about your subject?

When you can answer those questions, you can begin writing. Your basic message is the foundation for what you will be building—the strong base needed to support the words you will be stacking upon it like interlocking bricks.

Knowing who you are writing for will help you know whether you should be planning an elaborate, complicated piece with tiny pieces that only experts will be able to appreciate or a simpler, sturdier creation that even a toddler can handle.

Look at each paragraph as a new level of Legos. Each must connect with the level below in order to support new structures. Don’t introduce a new idea or piece of evidence without connecting it to what you have already written. If you try to switch directions too suddenly when building with Legos, the whole structure will collapse. The same applies to writing.

As you are writing, deliberately build a trail from one sentence and/or paragraph to the next. This may involve using words like “therefore,” “and so,” “however,” “similarly,” or “in contrast to.” Using such words and phrases allows you to easily connect ideas from one sentence or paragraph or topic so that you can gradually build your ideas into one unit. Starting a new idea or thought without linking it to your previous writing is like trying to push your Lego creation into a new direction without connecting it to the base.

Skilled Lego engineers can create patterns of colors and shapes as they build. And you can do the same as a writer by repeating key words or creatively producing metaphors or similes as you move from paragraph to paragraph. Just remember to always supply the necessary connectors so that the pattern is obvious and easy for readers to detect.

If you consider your words as building blocks, before long you will be confidently placing one paragraph on top of another until you have created a fully functional marketing brochure or a delicate Eiffel Tower of evidence sure to wow your teacher or colleague with your arguments—and with your grace and skill.

May 7, 2011

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I had a book manuscript that had a thorough edit by a copy editor, but there were many changes made and I wanted another set of eyes to look at  it carefully. So I hired Tammy Ditmore to do a “fina… Read more
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