3 Prewriting Steps You Probably Skip (but Shouldn't)
People who say, "I don't do outlines," are often the same people who say, "I can't write unless I'm inspired." Sketching out your ideas on paper before you start writing has at least three benefits:
- First, you'll have more good ideas. As your brain tries to organize the mush of information it's holding, it will unleash a lot of thoughts you didn't know were in there.
- Second, you'll save time in the long run. Like most investments, a little pain on the front end will pay dividends later on. Starting with an organized writing plan will make revising a lot simpler and faster.
- And third, you'll know your stuff. If you've ever been caught off guard by someone deep into the approval process coming back to question the source of some obscure fact, you know how comforting it can be to have the answer right in your notes. If you haven't yet, you will.
Writing = rewriting. The earlier you start a project, the more time you'll have to polish it to the shine it deserves. And, unlike these guys, you'll save yourself from looking back on sentences you can't believe you wrote, like, "Shooters must follow all the rules for firing weapons outdoors, like staying far away from homes and highways, and not shooting over night." (That's as opposed to under night, I suppose?). Or purple prose like, "But there was always the smoldering ember of mental illness in his mind."
Writers often complain that this era of bottomless demand for instant content has lowered the overall quality of most prose. If that's true, I have a prediction: Like the four-minute mile and landing on the moon, somebody's going come along soon and raise the bar on acceptable writing quality in the digital age. How you say something (or at least whether what is said is intelligible) will again matter as much as what you say.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.