06 September 2018

Good writing is all about process

Author :

I've written all kinds of content. From defining a brand to complex financial products, legal documents and everything in between. And I always follow the same process.

It's really very simple. But let's use an analogy to make it a little more interesting.
Imagine you're a builder and your task is to construct a house. You're given nothing to begin with - it's up to you to do it all.

Gather the resources. Design the architecture. Put up the scaffolding. And, finally, pour the concrete, get the damn thing built, and make it easy on the eye.

So how does this relate to content writing?

Well, words don't simply flow from the mind to hand to screen (not good ones anyway). Good writing follows a very clear process.

Hunt and gather
First, I always start with the basics. What do we already have to work with? Often you'll find bits and pieces lying around. This is akin to a builder finding a brick here and window pane there. So first, we gather.

Boil it down
Then we deconstruct. If you've found an old draft that's relevant to what you're doing, strip it down to bullet points. If you've come across something on the net that speaks to what you're doing, take what you need and strip it down to bullets too. This'll leave you with a good long list of everything that exists right now.

Find the gaps
Then we brainstorm. It's a cliché term, and in practice means we look at the scatter we've collected and ask ourselves, "OK, what's missing...? What's relevant to this topic and the audience that we don't have on our plate yet?"

Add it in.

Make it make sense
Finally, we organise. Take your bullets and get them into an order that makes sense.
Look at what you've got from the lens of the audience. Start with the assumption that they absolutely don't care and their time is precious. What do they want to know? Why?

And always front-load the good bits. No one likes a waffler.

Where's the value?
If you have too much, now's the time to cull. It's very straightforward - simply look at each point and ask yourself, "Does this add value?"
If not, kill it. Be ruthless. Remember: no one cares.

And then write
If you've got that far, the rest is easy. You should have a clear structure already in front of you. Each bullet warrants a sentence, and sub-bullets mean you need to add a little more detail.

So write a draft. Then go make a cup of tea or work on another task, come back to it fresh, and polish.


Written by: Nathan Haslewood, Content Lead at  Service Victoria.

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