Why We Write Like Hamilton

Eric Koester
Feb 21, 2018 · 4 min read

Just write the moments that inspire you, and they’ll form the structure. Don’t start your book or your podcast or your product with an outline. Write an outline when you actually have something to use to structure.

“How do you get them to write a 125 page paper in 10 weeks? That’s ridiculous.”

I get that question a fair bit. 37 of 37 authors wrote 25,000+ word first draft manuscripts in my last cohort of the Creator Institute’s Create-as-an-Author experience (my learn-through-creating-a-book program). To put that in context, just 1 of the 37 had written more than a 15 page paper before I set out to help them create a publish a book.

It’s a little bonkers to think about how this is so successful… because now it seems so obvious and so simple.

We do exactly the opposite of what most people do.

We write like Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton: An American Musical.

I was admittedly a bit stressed. The first words my future authors had written were short and thin — not the way I was hoping to start. They were thin because they lacked depth of stories, details and descriptions. They were short because… well they were just short.

Shane Mac shot me a text: “I love Lin” with a link to a video of an interview Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Hamilton creator and star, had done at Montclair Academy in Chicago. It didn’t help me with my immediate problem so I sent a thumbs up back and forgot the video.

A few days later, with a couple extra minutes I started watching. It was fun and engaging, but then at minute 46 a eureka moment hit me.

“Start by musicalizing the moments you’re just the most passionate about,” he began, “and that’s going to form its own kind of spine.”

Bingo. That was it…

I raced to class the next week with an activity:

“Today I want you to look at everything you’ve done — all your interviews, all your research and even your own experiences — then I want you to just write the stories from these that are the most inspiring to you… the stories you’re the most passionate about.”

The authors looked at me like I was a bit crazy. A hand shot up.

“Should this fit into our outline? Do we need this to be from a chapter?”

“No, just write. Don’t worry about where it goes, just write what you’re excited about,” I replied.

That single moment changed the way I coach people today. We call our approach the Miranda Method — writing the stories and the narratives that inspire and excite you, without worrying about where it lives or how it fits. Writing from a place of interest and enthusiasm, without regard for structure.

As I’ve learned interviewing dozens of other established authors, podcast hosts and video producers, it’s how most successful creators do it.

Start by creating from passion. Figure out the structure of it all later.

So we’ve ditched the outline. Now my authors spend 4 weeks of just learning, consuming, researching and interviewing. Not a single word is written in those four weeks. We call that “Getting Smart.”

From there, I put them into the most uncomfortable period for them — write without structure. For six weeks, they write stories without regard to where they fit, why they matter or where they’ll live. It’s challenging for them to believe, but it’s magical to observe. Nearly all the authors end this phase with more than 20,000 words of stories that we keep in their story index.

Sample Story Index from Hannah Everett for her book on Tea.

And the results are magical. Every author in the recent cohort just wrote. They created stories that were independently interesting and came from a place of curiosity and purpose.

Then they fit them together — finding the ‘spine’ of their book, as Lin so aptly describes it. The stories weave the structure, rather than an outline you conceive for the book you *should* write…rather, you write the book the stories tell you to write.

And that’s how a group of 37 future authors can create manuscripts with depth, details and descriptions that need to be read. And we have Lin to thank.

Let the stories you want to tell organize the book for you — just like Hamilton has. It’s why Miranda’s work stands as a shining example of how a 200+ year old story can become the ‘freshest’ contribution of the 2010s.

Creator Institute

Creator Institute empowers individuals to discover…

Creator Institute

Creator Institute empowers individuals to discover, demonstrate and accelerate their own credibility and expertise through personalized learning experiences. We create Creators.

Eric Koester

Written by

Creating Creators. Founder of Creator Institute helping individuals discover, demonstrate and accelerate their own path to expertise & credibility.

Creator Institute

Creator Institute empowers individuals to discover, demonstrate and accelerate their own credibility and expertise through personalized learning experiences. We create Creators.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store