Snippets

How do I structure my writing?

I was talking to a friend and former colleague about a writing workshop I’m hoping to run somewhere warm and sunny next year.  More on this to follow… but while he was excited about my plans, he indicated that a workshop a bit closer to home would be appreciated too.  I was a bit surprised because I know he thinks of writing as a task akin to watching paint dry - so I asked what he’d want me to cover.  Writing for the web is his main interest, but the question he really wants me to answer is this: “how do I structure my writing?”

I know this is a common question, challenge and frustration for writers whether you’re putting pen to paper for college, business or pleasure.  I will work on a workshop in Scotland in the not too distant future, but in the meantime I’ve used this week’s podcast (3 minutes 21 seconds) to answer the question: how do I structure my writing?

Here are five things you can do:

  • Get clear on your point before you start
  • Work out what state you want your readers to be in at the end
  • Think about how to get your readers from where they are to where you want them to be
  • Edit your writing to cut out distractions and make the path from A to B as easy as possible
  • Ask yourself hard questions at the end:
    • did you make your point?
    • what state did you convey?
    • is the path from A to B as easy as possible?

What suggestions would you give in answer to the question?


You can listen to the podcast by following this link or going to my gcast page.

Linked pieces:

Create a clear path through your words (podcast)
Getting clear on your point

Do you have a writing question you’d like me to cover in a podcast or writing tips piece?  You can let me know in the comment box below or e-mail me at joanna@confidentwriting.com

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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4 Responses to “How do I structure my writing?”

  1. On December 5, 2007 at 12:55 pm Lea responded with... #

    This is a great question - and one that I think many people (bloggers especially) need to think more about!

    I’ve been doing a lot of work on my own writing recently having just started writing ‘professionally’ for some more prominent blogs than my own!! As far as structuring writing for the web (blog posts) goes, I use this process/structure…

    1) Think about the point I want to make and more importantly, what I think specific audiences will want to read
    2) Craft an initial title
    3) Bullet-point the key points
    4) Flesh each point out
    5) Write the intro and then the conclusion - ensuring that the intro induces a state of wanting to read more and that the conclusion summarises everything a reader has just read and goes away knowing how it will benefit them.
    6) Go and re-order the points if necessary
    7) Go back and edit ruthlessly

    I’ve basically modelled my style and structure on what seems to work for some of the most popular writers around the blogosphere and then tried to put my own slant on it.

    Of course it takes me an age to craft each piece at the moment but I’m still learning and hoping it (I) will get much faster!

    Where ‘sunny and warm’ are you thinking of for the workshop???

    ReplyReply
  2. On December 5, 2007 at 5:07 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Lea, thanks for sharing all that - I’d love to pull it out of the comment box and into a post - assuming that’s okay with you?

    I’ve seen your recent blogging glory - I’m really pleased for you. Next stop a gig at Copyblogger??

    As for the workshop - can’t say just yet, but will keep you in the loop…

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  3. On December 5, 2007 at 5:17 pm Jim Murdoch responded with... #

    All your points are fine but here’s my tuppenceworth.

    If you know what you’re going to write why write it? I know that sounds facetious but bear with me. When I start writing a blog or even a comment like this I have an idea what I’m going to write but it is through the process of writing that I clarify those ideas. I’m often surprised with what ends up on the page.

    Sometimes I think I know what I’m on about but as soon as I put the words on the page it is obvious I’m out of my depth. The important thing for me is to get the words out of my head so that I can distance myself from them. It is hard trying to be objective when everything is on the inside. So I tend to dump and trim like a maniac afterwards. Structure for me has to come last, not first. I need something to structure and that’s when the point I’m trying to make reveals itself.

    ReplyReply
  4. On December 5, 2007 at 9:47 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Jim, thanks once again for your thoughtful comments. I can see where you’re coming from following our conversation about curiosity in writing, and learning from our own words (as they come out, rather than before).

    I think part of the answer is that different approaches will work for different people - and I’d encourage you to go with whatever works for you.

    Another part might be around the purpose of your writing - for example if it’s to communicate something about your business you might have a clear point in mind that you know you need or want to express - but just can’t work out how. That might be a different kind of process to one that’s more exploratory, curious, full of possibilities.

    And then there’s the question of how you go back and structure the work after the words are down. I think a lot of (most?)people need some kind of framework to hang their writing or indeed their editing on. If you’re cutting like crazy - I suppose I’m wondering what it is that you’re cutting to reveal?

    Which would probably take me back to my three points as providing some kind of structure (for those at a loss to know where to start). It’s a framework to hang your words on. I didn’t know what precise words I was going to write (or in this case say) but I did know I wanted one point (a simple framework will help), to create a positive state (belief and confidence [that structuring your writing is possible]) and to get from A to B (don’t know how to structure… to some idea of how to give it a go… in 3 and a bit minutes)

    Not sure if that’s entirely answered your point - I’ll keep mulling it over meantime

    Joanna

    ReplyReply

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