I have such a hard time starting new papers. At this stage in my career, I have published several papers, but not so many that the first pages just roll off of my fingers into the keyboard. I really enjoyed reading about Chaser's process and hope to use some of her techniques in my own writing.
One thing I have always done is start with an outline. For me this is usually quite straightforward: Intro, Background, Study Area & Methods, Results & Discussion, Conclusions. There are often minor variations, but this is the general structure. Once I have that skeleton, I start filling in the sections, which later can be adjusted and modified. It's always nice if I have a proposal that I wrote before doing the work (to "borrow" from), but given my luck with external funding, I don't always have that. For my current paper, I am writing up the second part of some research that I've already had published (the first part of the work has been published). I had a proposal to help start writing the first paper, but I can't go back and "double dip" from that one.
So yesterday I started with the very general skeleton and started writing sections and outlining further details within others. During this process I remembered how I have such a hard time writing the introduction. A lot of my work is in the same specific topical area and I struggle with writing different introductions to the topic. I find that the methods are easiest- it's just recounting what I've done (which I always record in a notebook or journal) and explaining why I used a particular methodology. I also struggle with the background- am I including enough references to previous work? Maybe I'm missing an important paper? How long should this section be? I refer to the target journal for guidance, but never feel I have a good sense on my own.
Maybe these struggles are typical, but I find thinking about them and writing about it helps me understand where I get hung up. I see many people tracking word counts on their blogs and like that as a way to monitor progress (at least by counting words). I wrote about 600 words yesterday and I'd like to write at least that much today. Another problem I have with writing is that I tend to do research in "spurts" because my time is so occupied by teaching during the semester. Now that it's summer, I am trying to be consistent and write at least something every day. Wish me luck...