Writing Tip: Plan First Write Second
All the way through school the emphasis in writing tasks is on the planning. From when you first learn to write, to university assignments, there’s an underlying notion in academia that you must have a clear plan before you get to develop your ideas. It makes sense — you’ve got to set the foundations before you start to build.
But writing, ultimately, is a creative task, and over-planning blunts that spark in me and makes it tricky to get into it when the writing part begins. Previously I’d write a detailed plan of every point in order, and then when I’d start to write I’d unintentionally scrap the plan and go down a different route. It was a waste of time — I couldn’t organise my ideas before I’d had the chance to form them.
Now, whether it’s in my writing work or degree, the method that works best for me is to write first, get my head on a page and go with the flow. Only then do I plan and make it a readable piece.
Research aside, here are the steps I go through when writing, whether its for blogs, articles, or academic work. I’m no expert, but hopefully you find it helpful!
1. Write something (anything) down
This is the most important, but quickest, part. Just. Write. Something.
Take your topic and think about a sentence you want to include somewhere, something that sounds good to you, and a new way of thinking that’s popped in your mind. Develop some parts into paragraphs, or leave them as random disjointed ideas. Just get whatever’s in your head on the page, get into the flow of it, and find new inspiration whilst writing.
For me, this usually includes short paragraphs with ‘???’, ‘blah blah blah’, ‘…’, ‘find out more’, thrown in for good measure.
2. Shuffle and reshuffle
Put your first bits of writing in an order that kind-of works (even if it only makes sense in your brain). At this point, you can see where it’s going to go and what you want to say.
I usually do a bit of planning here, like the plan the first line of each paragraph/ section, and include the bits of writing I started with, notes on where I need to read or research, and quotes to include underneath.
3. Time for the Crappy First Draft
American Author John Dufrense made the simple but solid point: ‘the purpose of the first draft is not to get it right, but to get it written’.
Think of this as like the first step, with a little more restraint, but keeping the focus on flowing with it. Write fast and don’t overthink it.
Make your notes into a story — a bad story is fine at this point, as long as it’s there. Delete repetition, add explanations, and hopefully, it looks like a thing now.
4. Sentence by sentence
Now we press pause and slow it right down — and I mean ridiculously slow.
This where you make it good. You got caught up in the process and now its time to step back and read it as an outsider. Labour over every word, every sentence, and every paragraph until you like the sound of it
Get Grammarly on the case, polish it up till you’re happy with it, and get it out there!