I make my living as a marketing writer so I like writing. But that doesn’t mean that it comes easily. It’s work. Here are my suggestions for how to approach a writing project:
1. Have a clear message and objective in mind.
Why are you writing? What points do you want to get across? Are you out to persuade, inform, educate or something else? The work of writing will be easier if you have your goal and key messages in mind.
2. Know your audience.
Take time to think about who your readers or listeners are. Are they C-suite executives, middle-managers, sales people, engineers? What do they know? What do they believe about your topic? Is there a tone or style that will do a better job of getting your point across?
3. Gather you resources and evidence before you start.
This one’s a big time-saver. If there are books, reports, charts and pictures you’ll need, gather them before you start writing. Then you won’t have to spend time finding them later. This also forces you to think a bit before you start writing.
4. Give yourself thinking time.
Preparation is very important to good writing. The first three tips will take thinking and time, although they can happen in the days leading up to your actual writing time. I often think about projects at odd moments when my brain is relatively free – in the car, taking a shower, or on a walk. In fact, I often get my best ideas when I’m not focused on the project.
5. Create an outline.
An outline may help you organize your thoughts. It can make writing easier by giving you a framework from which to work.
6. Set aside time to write.
Thinking and preparation are important, but writing is the ultimate task. I need quiet and no interruptions to write. I recommend you carve out some uninterrupted quiet time for yourself when a big writing task looms. If you can’t get this in your office, see if you can work off-site to get it done.
7. If it’s not working, set it aside and come back to it later.
There will be times when you get stuck. When it happens to me, I’ve found that doing something else for a while works wonders. The something else may be getting a cup of coffee, taking a walk, stretching or working on another project. When I get back to my original piece I can address it with new energy.
8. Don’t expect perfection.
The first go at a written piece is often unpolished. The second attempt may not seem much better. The first thing to consider is that maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. Think about your objective. Does what you’ve written meet it? Does your writing convey the key messages you defined? Does it speak to your audience? If your answer to these questions is yes, it could be that what you’ve written is good enough. Let go! If your answer’s no, maybe it’s time for tip #9 – have another set of eyes look at it.
9. Get feedback.
The ideal critic for your writing would be someone in your targeted audience (or who at least understands your audience) and who will be honest. Take in their comments (positive and negative) without argument. Use whatever feedback you find helpful and ignore the rest.
10. Call in a pro, if you need to.
If you just don’t have time to get the writing done, hire a professional. If the writer’s any good, s/he’ll ask for the input in numbers 1, 2 and 3, so be prepared.
Hope these tips make your next writing assignment go more smoothly