I'm taking a summer break this week, and hope all of you will enjoy the July 4th Holiday week. It's steamy hot here in the Boston area, so I hope you're hydrating and staying cool. While I'm not writing much this week, I am talking (and reading). I was recently a guest on the "Blog You Want" podcast where I talked with host Scott Winterroth about how I approach the writing process, whether I work for brands/clients or when writing for this blog. It's an in-depth, 25-minute discussion about the craft of writing and I hope you'll take a listen!
ON THE WRITING PROCESS
1. Thoughts on Pre-Writing
After a certain point, writing is largely about following your process. Your particular process and mine may be different, but the only way we find our unique writing voice is through following our process. I've come to my process after some twenty years of writing, and I follow it every time I write for a client.
Writers don't even necessarily need to understand their process, i.e., they don't need to map it out on a whiteboard next to their computer but they need standard ways of approaching work.
I have steps I take in the pre-writing phase, depending on the length of the article. If the piece is shorter, I tend to begin the research as soon as possible and then seek to find the structure of the writing as I go along. Once the research is done, I'll re-read my notes and then start to make a basic structure. For shorter pieces, this structuring process won't take long and can even happen on the back of a napkin. Obviously, you need a beginning, middle, and end, but you need to know the goal of the piece too in order to do it well.
As I research the work, I keep my goal in mind and look for a way to "hook" readers at the beginning. Sometimes the research will reveal an interesting fact or an engaging story or an amazing individual. Whatever is most engaging in the whole story is often the best place to start.
You also need to answer the "why" of what you're doing in the pre-writing phase. Are you seeking to educate the reader, seeking to sell (marketing is selling), or seeking to get the reader to act (advocacy). Your approach will be different in each case. Sometimes the client will tell you outright, sometimes not.
Chuck Leddy is a Boston-based digital content provider who's been delivering engaging stories since 1995.