March 7, 2006
Liz published this at 10:22 am
A quote I like a lot says
I hate writing. I love having written.
Make a Five-Minute Writing Plan
You can at least get to be friends with writing, if you start with a simple writing plan.
I’ve got a pile of ideas. Writing the article should a breeze. Right? Well maybe. But sometimes, it isn’t. Why is that? Usually it’s because I haven’t really decided what it is I want to say. This is how to avoid that problem by making a quick writing plan.
Decide What You Want to Say (1 minute)
- Choose the idea you’re most interested in.
- Write one sentence stating why readers need to know about it.
- Use that sentences a working title for now.
Plan How You’re Going to Say It (2-4 minutes)
- Sketch, visualize, or tell yourself what three main points of the article will be. “I’ll say this and this and this.” Most articles that aren’t how-to articles only need 1-3 points well-said.
- Add something from your personal experience–one bit– that will make a point more clearly or make the article more appealing.
- Let the research sit there, unless you need it to look something up. It’s served it’s purpose. (See DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Hunt IDEAS Be an Idea Magnet.)
Five are minutes up, time to start writing!
Starting, Going, Done in Minutes
When I write I think about my audience–one person that I might be talking to. That makes it easier to frame my message. I picture a prototypical reader–always someone who likes me. Why start out with someone who doesn’t? Then the writing would take on a defensive tone. I want my writing to be friendly so I choose a friendly audience. It’s as simple as that.
Middle, Beginning, Ending
Ever sit down to tell a story and not know how to start it. Inevitably a listener will say, “Start at the beginning.” But just where is the beginning? Sometimes the beginning is the hardest part to see. That’s why I start from the middle with the main points that I just sketched out.
By starting from the middle, no blank screen can intimidate me. I know exactly what I’m going to write and in what order. I get my ideas on paper and flowing. I begin to see the article take form and imagine my readers reading it. I also get a feeling for what exactly it is that’s working.
Write Until You Need to Walk
While I write I add flourishes–metaphors and explanations. Occasionally my mind gets stuck on a word or an idea. It’s that feeling where I know what I want to say, but just can’t seem to find the words or the image to express it. That’s when I move around. Movement helps let the ideas gel. I walk around the apartment, looking at the floor and thinking–this is a no talking, no listening time–it’s sort of like putting my brain on a swing set. The sentence I am trying to write plays in my head–over and over in new versions. When I get back and sit down, I’m ready to write again. In fact, that’s how I got from the words Sometimes I walk in this paragraph to here just now.
When I get the Middle set, I stop to read it and set the subhead. Then it’s time to tackle the Ending and Beginning, which are usually about the same thing–why the heck should people read this and why the heck should they be glad they did?
As the old presentation adage goes:
- Beginning: Tell them what you’re going to tell them (and why they want to hear it.)
- Middle: Tell them what you said you’d tell them.
- Ending: Tell them what you just told them (and why they should be glad they heard it.)
So that’s exactly what I do to call the writing done.
What I Just Told You
Starting with a simple plan–a sketch what you want to tell your readers–and starting in the middle are two ways that you can get yourself into the writing with less pain and more productivity.
Only two things here are critical: know what you want to say and a change of venue when you feel stuck. Don’t feel a need to follow my process. A writer’s process is fluid and personal. Find the gems in what I do that work for you and toss the rest aside.
As always, I’m here if you want to talk about this. Writer’s have so many cool techniques and strategies. I’m really interested in what works for you.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Introducing Power Writing for Everyone
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Hunt IDEAS Be an Idea Magnet
Why Dave Barry and Liz DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Get WriterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Block
Editing for Quality and a Content Editor’s Checklist