The essence of clear writing flows from sound fundamentals. This includes the first step – getting ready to write by organizing your thinking, mentally warming up for the project. I consider it fundamental to clearly know what you’re going to write before you start.
There was an old mantra we used to repeat when I was in Toastmasters years ago: stand up, speak up, shut up. This was in fact our philosophy of speechmaking, short but effective. Repeating this mantra helped me to focus on my speech, to refine it, and make it as clear as possible. The same rationale applies to writing. In other words, use of a a mental pep talk is often helpful to get you started.
One approach I’ve followed can be stated as follows: Write well, write constructively, make it happen. It’s straightforward and concise. While not as targeted as the Toastmaster’s slogan, it should help to focus your thinking.
Getting ready to write involves two stages, preparing a preliminary plan and information gathering.
Preliminary plan preparation is the starting point for any writing project. More than anything else you should first decide how and what to write and who you’re writing for before words, sentences, or paragraphs, are even put down on paper. As part of this stage, decide exactly what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to do it. This is your game plan for attacking the project, the master approach. It should be developed before you write anything, much as a builder conceives a building project or a golfer envisions a shot.
Secondary to plan preparation is information gathering. Unless you already know the subject like the back of your hand, you will need to become as fully informed about it as possible. This in turn entails knowing what type of writing you are going to pursue, whether expository, educational, persuasive, descriptive, creative, research, report writing, or even preparing a grant application. Whatever form of writing you decide to pursue, make sure you have fully investigated the subject before you write anything. You cannot write clearly without having excellent content. You must become an expert on the subject.
Comprehensive note taking is vital to developing your plan. Notes will usually provide a viable starting point for any plan. As part of your mental preparation, write down thoughts as they come to mind. Your subconscious or “inner person” as it were, undoubtedly works best when you are relaxed. Put a sheet of paper and pen by your bedside when you go to sleep at night; take pen and paper with you while walking or jogging. Don’t lose any thoughts; they may never surface again.
Also, use your notes to avoid any writer’s block. Sometimes, it’s hard to get started on a writing project, which all writer’s experience at one point or another. Brainstorm by referring to your notes and just start writing at random. Once you begin writing, thoughts should come to mind as to both organization and content. They can then be collected and used as part of the process of preparing a comprehensive outline (to be covered in a separate blog), the final step before writing your first draft.
After you have developed your preliminary plan, next consider your reading audience and the subject of your writing, in that order. These subjects will also be covered in separate blogs.
Copyright 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.