Battling the most common writing challenges

November 3, 2011

For most of us (yes, even professionals), the biggest challenges when it comes to writing are the same: how to get started, how to cut the ‘fluff’ and then how to finish. But really, if you think about it closely, these three issues are just symptoms of the same problem – which is not clearly understanding what you are trying to accomplish with your writing.

The below process will help you achieve greater clarity in your writing and, hopefully, enjoy the process more…

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Most importantly, you must understand your objective for the content. An idea is great, but without a goal, sitting down to write will result in a half-written train wreck. So consider, what you are trying to achieve with it. It may be to educate or to persuade… either way, nail this down first.
  2. Identify the questions or objections. Your goal is your mission, but now you need to think about the things standing in the way of you achieving that. This is likely to entail some things that the readers don’t yet understand but must accept by the end of the piece, in other words – questions you must answer to achieve your goal.
  3. Write the headline and section headings. With your goal and the questions you must answer identified, you start your outline. Your headline will be the promise that you are making to your audience, the stuff you will teach or convince them of, and why they should care. Then each of the major questions you must answer to achieve your mission become the subheadings.
  4. Fill in the blanks. Write the rest of the copy, answering only the question designated by each subheading, and only that one, without any tangents. Keep it lean by doing this as simply and clearly as you can.
  5. Edit. With these steps, you likely don’t have too much ‘fluff’, but you may want to add additional information, or rephrase some parts for clarity. Check your word choices and review how the finished piece has turned out… Does the headline still reflect the fulfilled promise? Does the opening keep the momentum going? If not, see if you can state things differently to be more compelling.

Process borrowed from Copyblogger.