I wrote 3 books in 5 years. And they all started as TURDs

Dr. Jason Fung
3 min readMay 29

In high school, English was my worst subject. By far. So what’s the secret to writing? It’s a process and here’s mine. It’s tedious, it’s a lot of hard work, but it worked for me.

  1. Write something — anything. Don’t worry that it sucks. When you are trying to create something, don’t limit the process. Some people are so afraid to put out silly ideas that they’d rather not put anything out. That’s constipated thinking. Eventually, all you get is hard lumps of stinky ideas. No — you want verbal diarrhea at this point. Everything you think about goes onto paper. Much of it will suck, and you will flush it down the toilet. But what remains gives you something to work with.
  2. Make them blog posts. The discipline of putting out a blog post every week gives you the raw material with which you can create something. You’ll also build up your audience and get feedback on what works and doesn’t work.
  3. Place in some kind of rough order. Organize the material into coherent chapters.
  4. Edit. Find Supporting evidence. Find opposing evidence. Fill in the parts that need work.
  5. Edit again. Read more about your subject. Think again about how to improve the subject. Good work! Now you have your TURD — The Ugly Rough Draft. At this point you will think to yourself “Hey, this isn’t half bad.” You’ll be wrong. It is bad, you just don’t know it yet. You’ll also think to yourself “Hey, I’m almost done” You’ll also be completely wrong.
  6. Now the hard part. like cutting your own fingers off. Cut, cut, cut. Anything that doesn’t add value must be cut. Those words feel like a part of you and the thought of leaving it on the cutting room floor will be super painful. It must be done.
  7. Edit it again. This time, look for flow and cohesion. Do the topics naturally lead themselves to each other?
  8. Make it simple. Get rid of all the jargon and words that you think make you look smart. They don’t. If you can think of a simpler word, use it. Don’t utilize it. Using big words doesn’t ameliorate the text. Getting rid of those big words makes it better. Are you writing for clarity, or just writing to prove how smart you are? You’ll be surprised how many people do the latter.
  9. Refine with imagery and analogies. Don’t use any metaphor or analogy you’ve heard before. They’re as tired as a medical student on a neurosurgery rotation. Brings fresh images to the pot to marinate with your new ideas. Creativity is born from the unexpected. New metaphors are as beautiful as a giant squid to a sperm whale. Be specific.
  10. Now reverse your point of view — why does the reader care about what you’ve written? Make it relevant to the reader. Are you trying to entertain? Educate? Expose?
  11. Make it a story. It doesn’t matter what your topic is. It needs to be written as a story, which means there must be characters, a plot, redemption etc. Your topic could be penguins or the artificial intelligence. It’s a story.
Dr. Jason Fung

Nephrologist. New York Times best selling author. Interest in type 2 diabetes reversal and intermittent fasting. Founder www.TheFastingMethod.com.