Cut Your Writing Time in Half
By Ashley Denuzzo
“Where do I even begin?”
It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point. Staring blankly at a computer screen, fingers grazing the keyboard, reflecting on an upcoming assignment that requires a written component.
Writing – ugh, writing! For many professionals, writing is a job requirement. Some do it with pleasure; others find it inconvenient – even downright loathsome. Reports can seem dull. Executive summaries can be tedious. Emails are often unclear.
In reality, many who claim to “hate writing” actually struggle with being unable to properly start their assignment.
The solution? It all comes down to planning.
Professional writers spend 40% of their time creating an outline. It’s an effective way to gather your concepts and map out how the messages will unfold. With effective planning, the document essentially writes itself.
You can start the writing process by incorporating the following three techniques into your routine:
- State your purpose (objective)
- Avoid perfection (brainstorm)
- Set the stage (organize)
State Your Purpose (Objective)
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the writing process is determining your goal. Once you’ve established the purpose of your piece, it will be easier to link concepts, show research and create amazing content.
Start by asking yourself some simple questions: Why are you writing? What outcome do you want to have with the reader? For example, are you sharing information? Are you explaining a process? Are you seeking approval for a project?
These questions help you determine the needs and concerns of your audience. Write down each goal on a piece of paper to get your brain moving and ideas flowing.
To really grab the reader’s interest, try to include a major benefit in the objective: Why should your reader care about your ideas? This benefit can become the final sentence in the introduction of your report – and perhaps the conclusion as well.
Avoid Perfection (Brainstorm)
Brainstorm your subject, looking at the whole. During this step, you’re encouraged to write down all your thoughts, plus notes and references – anything that’s relevant to the content.
We recommend you write fast, use a few words per idea and avoid second-guessing yourself. Wait until you’ve identified all your concepts to change or delete points.
Avoid sequence; that comes later. If you force order during a brainstorm session, it will impede your creativity. The purpose of this technique is to extract as much information as possible and stimulate new ideas.
Brainstorming helps alleviate writer’s block and inspires fresh thinking. By quickly jotting key points instead of writing full sentences, you keep pace with your fast-moving brain and may find new ways to state a notion. One idea may spark another, and soon you’ll start to see relationships between ideas.
Set the Stage (Organize)
Now that you’ve established your document’s purpose and brainstormed the main concepts, you can move forward and start organizing your content.
Headlines are an effective way to grab a reader’s attention. It also helps break your document into sections. We recommend following the Rule of Threes: pick three core headlines for your document.
Consider which ideas in your brainstorming session have a similar concept or theme. Throw those ideas under the same heading. Do these play into the greater goal of the document? If yes, highlight them!
Try to make headlines as engaging and relatable as possible. They should be short, focused and intriguing. No need to use puns, clichés or lengthy titles; a short sentence is evidence of clear thinking.
Headlines are the steppingstone to a more structured and organized written document. Once your concepts are set up in a logical order, you are ready to start drafting your document.
In short, start by writing the introduction using your identified objective. Elaborate on the concepts you identified during brainstorming. Finally, organize everything based on the headlines you’ve developed.
After that, the rest will flow.
Successful written communications means transferring what’s in your head into a format that is easily absorbed by others. After all, you’re an expert in your own area of content.
If you find it challenging to know where and how to begin expressing that knowledge, turn to a proven process to help you break through the barriers.
In Writing Dynamics™, you learn a writing process that offers detailed steps for planning, drafting and editing. This workshop will help you perfect your writing skills by providing a systematic approach to writing and giving you techniques that are refreshingly easy to apply.