It’s all in the planning

I got the look again the other day: the look I get when I tell people that they will save time if they just stop and plan before they hit a key when they write .

I was working with a group of graduates whose success depends partly on their ability to write complex reports for clients.

Like everyone else these days, they are under pressure to perform.  They’ve got to get the reports out quickly, and they’ve got to be right.

So when I let loose with the ‘P’ word, heads were shaken and lips were pursed. There’s no time to plan – they’ve just got to get on and do it.

That’s when I explained that if they write without thinking, they won’t know what they want to say until they get to the end of the process. And then they’ve got to go back and reorganise. But they won’t. Because they won’t have time. So the report won’t be doing what it is supposed to do – get a message across.

I gave them a piece of advice I often give writers: imagine the audience/client is in front of you. You’ve got to say it, not write it. What would you say? That can help concentrate the mind.

And that’s the step people too often leave out: thinking.

Think, then write. That’s the key. It’s the message that runs through all of our writing training.

So which are you? Planner? Or the other?

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