Visualizing how your words will present on the page as you write your book can make you aware of what you need to create the piece you’re envisioning and devise strategies to get there.
At the start of my first real job out of college — working as an assistant editor at a music magazine in California — my editor-in-chief told me something that has stuck with me throughout my career. When he interviewed artists for cover stories or researched trends and topics for coverage, from the very beginning of each process, he would constantly visualize how his final words would look, printed on the page, in finished article form.
I was skeptical. How could he know, only minutes into an interview or hours into information gathering, what words he would end up writing? How could he have any idea how the design and layout of the piece would manifest?
As time passed, I began to understand.
I became the go-to feature writer for the magazine, regularly boarding planes to conduct interview after interview. Without even realizing I was doing it, I found myself starting to picture the final article on the magazine page, just as my editor had said. And once I had several dozen interviews for the magazine written and edited, filed and printed, I started to see why visualizing the final, finished work can be such a valuable exercise.
Imagine the future, write in the present
Of course, a writer can’t predict exactly what a finished work will consist of at the very beginning of the creative process, or what a designer will ultimately choose for layout. But imagining and visualizing your own finished product as you go can help you see the beginning, middle, and end of the writing process — and not just a snapshot of what you’re experiencing at the moment. Many writers, me included, will argue that writing done right is a process of discovery. Visualizing your final printed or published page periodically as you go can provide a floodlight to help illuminate that search.
In those early editorial days, I began to internalize what sorts of quotes I would like to use in each section of my articles, what flavors of information would make compelling introductions and strong conclusions, what types of questions I would need to ask mid-interview in order to guide my interviewee in fruitful directions. All of this was in service of making the imagined finished pages, floating behind my eyes, become real.
In no way did I feel that I was writing by formula. Rather, visualizing as I went simply helped me become aware of what I needed to create the piece I wanted to write and devise strategies, as needed, to get me there.
Currently, I write for a diverse group of clients and publications. The better I know them and the longer we’ve worked together, the more I am able to visualize my final piece printed or published. When I’m researching an article on cutting-edge malaria detection techniques for SPAN Magazine in India, I see the sort of spread their designers favor and how the paragraphs flow from introduction to body to conclusion. When an assignment comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, I picture their inspiring website and magazine in layout and proceed accordingly.
This sort of visualization has helped me write countless articles. I recently discovered that the same principle can help with book writing as well.
Picture the book
Browsing at my favorite bookstore in New York City on a recent Sunday, I flipped through a few of the staff’s recommended titles and imagined what it would feel like to see a novel of my own on those shelves. The novel-in-progress I wrote about in “The Accidental Novelist — How Stolen Moments Can Make A Book” is now up to 63,000 words and I’m excited to be entering what I hope is the final stage of drafting — so such a dream feels closer to potential reality that it ever has before.
Skimming through the recommended novels, I thought about my own work-in-progress in different ways. Moments in my story came to light where I could tighten language or better lubricate major plot transitions. Staring at the text of these already-published works made me visualize my own words in a similar context and identify some key changes that would need to happen in order for me to maximize my chances of getting there.
As you write, I encourage you to regularly take time and picture what your final product could look like, how the words might meld with the page, even the font and texture and flow of layout. Doing so inspired me in unexpected ways and, as with my article writing, gave me a powerful floodlight with which to illuminate dark patches during my search. I hope it will do the same for you.
The Accidental Novelist – How Stolen Moments Can Make A Book
Find The Rhythm In Writing
Nine Manuscript Editing Software Programs You Should Consider
Structural Language Is The Foundation Of A Great Story
The Importance of Setting In Your Story