I was recently tasked with writing an article for a client that proved more challenging than most other assignments. In most cases, I form the questions and gather information before starting the writing process. But in this instance, a colleague conducted the interview, and I wrote from the notes provided. Why is that different?
It’s different because one of the most unappreciated and overlooked parts of the writing process is the organization of thoughts.
Usually, during the course of an interview or shortly afterwards, I begin to crystallize the organization of the story in my head. Having notes handed to me created another step in the process. It was like driving into a tunnel, because I didn’t know where the interview or the article were going. It forced me to think hard about what was being said, so that I could begin organizing thoughts in my head.
I even needed to jot down an outline so that I could focus on the direction of this particular article. That’s very old school (I started writing back in the day when people used typewriters, for heaven’s sake!) but sometimes, it is still the best way to collect thoughts, remember them, generate a proper flow, and make sure that all of the important details are covered.
While I wrote outlines for articles when I was starting out, it has become much easier over time to skip that part of the process. But that does not mean I eliminate it altogether. Quite the contrary. I keep the idea of a formal outline in my head.
Tom, in his typewriting days.
I find creating organization and structure to be important in writing, but every phase of life. It’s important to have a plan.
In working with younger writers, they frequently tell me “I don’t know what to write.” My comeback is always the same. You first need to identify the message that you’re trying to send.
At the end of the day, writing is a form of communication. You are conveying a message to an audience. Knowing what that message should always be at the forefront of any writing project.
The next step is where it pays to organize the message. What are the most important points? What are the details and information to support that point? Do I have enough details to make a cohesive article? Inexperienced writers also frequently tell me “I don’t know where to begin.” My response is to begin at the beginning. Know the message that you want to convey, and start writing it.
Over time, organizing and structuring articles becomes easier. Words and sentences begin to flow, and before you know it, fingers are dancing across the keyboard. Every so often, though, it becomes necessary to step back, slow down and draft a written outline. It might seem like a tedious step, but it is a good way to make certain the narrative you’re writing is accurate, concise, and delivers the intended message.