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A 7-step process for better writing

Write Better with The Magnificent 7

Want to write better faster? Here's an easy-to-adopt process I share with writers who have lost their writing mojo or need to improve fast:

  1. Breathe. Seriously. Taking a deep breath before we start writing reduces anxiety and sends a little boost of blood and oxygen to our brains. We think faster and more clearly, and make better decisions, when our brains have a little fresh fuel.
  2. Pre-write. Take a couple of minutes to work out the piece on paper -- yes, actual paper. I like the Idea-Details Strategy® for this because it's fast. The goal is to work out your main idea -- the most important thing the reader needs to know -- and a few crucial pieces of support -- the evidence, explanation or examples -- that provide necessary context and rationale. Jotting these thoughts down sets the course for the writing that follows. Worst case: it's a fast way to figure out we aren't sure what we want to say or that we don't have enough details so we can do a little more research. Though it might not seem like it, this is a time-saver because you don't waste time writing the wrong thing or staring at a flashing cursor.

The Idea-Details® Strategy from Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc.

  1. Draft. Take your notes and write as fast as you can. I like setting a timer. The goal for drafting is not to produce our best writing, but to get all the thoughts out of our heads so we can make them great. Don't get caught up in organization or word choice or even spelling. Just write.
  2. Rest. Whether it's 2 minutes or 2 hours, step away from what you have and let it marinate. This gives your brain a little time to process what you just wrote and do some background work on it while you're having a walk or doing something else.
  3. Prune. We all overwrite -- even the best writers. Do a quick word count on your piece and determine 25% of that total. Then go through the draft with an aim to slash at least that many words. Easy targets for deletion are qualifying statements, conditional phrases and helping verbs. This ensures our writing is tighter and our meaning clearer. Learn more tricks for reducing wordiness.
  4. Revisit. Look back at your pre-writing and add back or strengthen anything you left out. You may even identify stuff that you don't need in there -- so you can take that out, too.
  5. Read. It's going to feel a little awkward, but reading aloud is a fantastic way to identify errors and to "hear" mistakes in logic and sentence construction that we frequently miss when reading to ourselves. Make the necessary revisions, then  do a to-yourself read to correct final spelling, punctuation, usage and grammar issues.

If you're in a hurry, you're can publish/distribute, whatever. If you've got time or need approvals, your piece is now ready to send off for review or put it on ice for a while before coming back and making more revisions.

Give this process a try. You'll find it helps you produce faster, clearer content.

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