This morning I gave a 10-minute talk at the Samford Chamber of Commerce. So you don’t feel left out, this is what I wrote as I prepared – I think I managed to remember most of it, and only ad libbed a little (not too many of them were ums).
Writing is a reality of business life. Many of us think of it as a chore, which we then put off till the last moment, are unhappy with the result, so we dislike writing even more… and so continues that spiral of negativity.
What we need is a strategy – a system that breaks the chore down into manageable chunks.
So the strategy I use has three parts: plan, write and review. I read recently that professional non-fiction writers spend 50% of their time planning, 20% writing and 30% reviewing.
Today we look at planning.
- Plan your time. Allow time to plan, write, review, and prepare for publication. Starting on the planning as early as possible is valuable because your brain will continue to mull it over while you’re doing other things. Just remember to catch those thoughts and write them down.
- What is your message? What, exactly, do you want your readers to think, know, do? Write down that concise statement – that’s your focus, your destination. Everything you write must lead your readers to your message. Craft your message in terms like: contact me; I recommend this solution; book your tickets now.
- Who will read this document? Be specific. That’s easy if you’re writing a letter to a client, supplier, contractor. But when you’re writing marketing collateral, articles and such, you need to picture your ideal client – you know the drill on that one. Perhaps cut out a picture and paste it in your office to keep you focused. When I write blogs and articles, I picture one of my loyal followers. Why focus on your reader? It will help you decide how chatty or formal you need to be; how many technical terms and industry-specific words to use; how to explain terms if you must use them; if and how you can use illustrations, tables, graphs, etc.
- Record these decisions – your time plan, message, and reader – and the spelling of any tricky words or ones you know you have difficulty with, the spelling of names, any abbreviations you plan to use. This is your style sheet that you can add to as you write.
- Now for your content. This is a solo brainstorming or mind-mapping session. Write down key words and things you know you want to say; just words and phrases. Group related ideas, and give each group a name. Sort those groups into a logical order. Unless you’re a genius, we all need pen and paper as the intermediary between the idea, creative side of our brain and the logical, organising side.
- Set up your document. Turn those organised, named groups into headings. Add any sub-headings. You now have your document in outline form. If you don’t want the headings in the final document, just remove them during the reviewing stage.
So there we are:
plan your time clarify your message picture your reader
establish your style sheet group and organise your content set up your document.
Now you’re ready to write.
During the brief question time, I was asked if I follow my strategy. I replied that the longer the writing project, the more particular I am. But I use a more relaxed approach for shorter or familiar projects.
Later my graphic friend Brad commented that he hadn’t realised how much planning needed to go into writing.
And my marketing friend Tony stated that what he took away from it was
Engage your brain before you pick up your pen.
Do you use a writing strategy? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.