Eleven “Power Points” That Will Help You Write Now
Don’t be intimidated by a blank page. Getting started is usually the hardest part of any writing project. Here’s how to produce highly-effective business writing in minimal time.
You may feel blocked because your thinking is too linear or perfectionistic. Perhaps you’re agonizing over that opening line or first paragraph.
Simply start writing, even if that means beginning in the middle. Have a “conversation” with your reader, getting your ideas down in whatever order or raw form they come. You can worry about sequence and editing later.
2) Give yourself time to warm up.
Often, by the time you’ve been writing for at least fifteen minutes, you’ll want to change what you started with. You may be ready to edit, or completely redo, whole sentences and paragraphs.
It’s likely that you weren’t warmed up when you started. Like a car’s engine, your writing mind needs a little time to get moving optimally.
3) Rewrite as often as you need.
Some folks believe that a good writer never needs to change or add anything. That misguided notion doesn’t work for the writer who must consistently produce quality work.
Most of the creative media you encounter took a lot of trial and error. So don’t worry about getting it “right” the first time–or the second, third, or fiftieth. The end result is what’s important
4) Know your objective.
There are essentially five purposes behind most pieces you’ll create: to persuade, to inform, to inspire, to entertain, or to critique. Your work may have elements of all five, but its primary purpose will likely be only one. Write with that purpose in mind.
5) Keep your work “receiver-oriented”.
Create with your reader or listener in mind. If you’re writing a sales letter, ad, or Web site, keep your words “receiver-centered”. Don’t bore your reader with how wonderful you are, or with how great your product or service is. Focus on what your prospect wants. Using words he or she will understand, write as though you’re crafting a letter to a good friend.
Your reader doesn’t care nearly as much about you as she does about herself. She wants to solve a problem or address a need, and is hoping you’ll offer a solution. Show the reader how she’ll benefit. Meanwhile, as you reread your work, count the number of times you used the word “you”, and compare that with the number of times “I”, “we”, or “us” appears.
6) Write for the “ear”.
Good writing sounds good.
Vary your sentence lengths. Use active verbs (e.g.. don’t say “the joy of weight-loss can be yours to experience” when you want to say “lose weight” or “feel good”). Use clear, direct language.
Read your work aloud, if possible (or whisper it to yourself). Have someone else read it aloud. Does it have the tone you’re looking for? Are there any phrases or clauses that sound clumsy? Are any of your sentences too long?
7) Be concise.
Keep your words to a minimum. Eliminate redundancies or confusing terms. And use short paragraphs.
That’s especially true when you’re writing for the Web. Net surfers “browse” much more than they “read” (which is why “Web browser” is such an apt term). Long paragraphs and big chunks of text may inspire quick use of the “back” button.
Bear in mind that people today are busier and more saturated with media than they’ve ever been. So say something useful, and say it quickly.
8) Reduce clichés.
A cliché is anything overused in the language or culture. That includes such phrases as:
- on the money
- get the ball rolling
- hit the nail on the head
- get the show on the road
If you want your reader’s attention, keep your words fresh and lively. Over common phrases make your writing stale and unoriginal.
You’d think that most writers and Web weavers would realize the importance of checking for spelling, grammar, and usage errors. An appalling number, however, do not.
Most word processing programs come with an array of powerful proofing tools. At the least, use the spell checker.
Don’t over rely, however, on such utilities. Not only should you read your documents over several times–both while you’re working and after breaks– but you should also get one or two good human proofreaders to examine your work.
10) Use others’ good work for inspiration.
Keep a file of your favorite writing (ads, clippings, articles, letters, prose, etc.). Warm yourself up before each writing session by studying or even typing out exemplary work. You can even use that work as a template for your assignment. Just make sure you don’t leave another author’s paragraphs, sentences–or key phrases–verbatim in your finished draft.
As you go over that prose, ask yourself what turns you on about it. Is it the descriptive language? The word choices? The rhythm? The way it’s organized?
11) Write during your peak hours.
Research indicates that, for most of us, mental energy is at its highest from around 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, and peaks again between 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Conversely, our mental “edge” slips most noticeably between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM, and after 9:00 PM. So schedule your writing/thinking sessions during your peak hours, and save the routine tasks (paperwork, phone calls, housework) for the other times.
By being more process-oriented–writing consistently, without judging yourself or maintaining lofty expectations–you’ll be more productive than ever. In any case, I hope that the above techniques prove helpful to you, whatever the scope of your writing assignment.