It’s an old Chinese proverb that says, the best way to begin a long journey is to take the first step. So it is with writing. If you want to improve your writing you have to take the first step. That step is planning and organization, or getting ready to write. It’s the all-important first step in any writing process. There are three stages involved: preparing a preliminary plan, information gathering, and preparing an outline. This may sound a little daunting, but it really isn’t. Once you develop the habit of doing it, planning and organization will become second nature to you. It’s the warm up, so to speak, before you actually begin to write. Without taking this step, your writing will likely be disorganized and you will flounder.
Preparing a preliminary plan is the starting point for any writing project. You shouldpreliminarily decide how and what to write and who you’re writing for even before words, sentences, or paragraphs are put down on paper.
First, decide exactly what you want to accomplish and how you are going to do it. This is your game plan for attacking the project, the master approach. It should be developed first, even before you write anything, much as a builder conceives a project or a golfer envisions a shot. Think of it as driving to an unfamiliar destination – if you haven’t been there before, you must figure out what route you’re going to take.
Well organized writing begins with well thought out preparation. Therefore, reaching your ultimate goal to write clearly begins with a thoroughly prepared preliminary plan followed by a detailed outline. This is the foundation for your writing. If this foundation is weak, your final document will suffer.
A good outline, the outgrowth of your preliminary plan, is akin to the blueprint of a building. No self respecting architect would build anything without a blueprint; likewise every successful sports coach prepares a game plan, every general a battle plan. So, preparation of a preliminary plan comes first.
The preliminary plan should be a concise summary of what you intend to write. This plan is essential to clear writing, which cannot be achieved unless you know what is in your own mind.
Begin by writing out the purpose of your document and its bottom line. This is for your use only in preparing the plan and does not necessarily belong in the final document. The plan should be done in detail, carefully and thoughtfully, to reflect the essence of your writing. It is your roadmap to a clear end product. Thorough preparation is the key.
Secondary to plan preparation is the task of information gathering. Unless you are writing about a subject that you know like the back of your hand, you will need to gather as many details about it as possible. This in turn entails knowing what type of writing you are going to pursue, whether expository, educational, persuasive, descriptive, narrative, creative, research, report writing, writing a grant application or even a simple letter. Whatever form of writing you decide to pursue, it is essential to have fully investigated the subject before writing anything. You cannot write clearly without having excellent content.
Comprehensive note taking to help develop your plan is vital. Notes 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 a 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.
Use your notes to avoid any writer’s block. When it’s hard to get started on a writing project, which all writers experience at one point or another, brainstorm by referring to your notes. Then, 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.
As you are proceeding, keep in mind the moral of the story of the tortoise and the hare from the old Aesop’s Fable – perseverance and determination win every time.
Copyright © 2012. Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.