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Crossman’s Crash Course in Writing with Impact: Step Four — Organize

So you’ve determined the purpose of your document, put some thought into who your audience is, gathered far more information than you can humanly use and consumed way too much coffee in the vain effort to forestall information overload. The file facing you is a long dreary litany of unrelated and quite scrambled information and it is sitting there daring you to do something with it.

You think perhaps it is time to answer some emails or call your mother. This is typical writer behavior so you are in good shape for the next stage of writing which is to organize your information. This is not for the faint of heart but I have a dandy little template for wrangling all that information into a form that anybody can use and that will make instant sense to your audience.

So let’s just dive in:

You need four headings: “Why?,” “What?,” “How?,” and “So What?”

Starting at the top of your file, go through all of your information and move any information that explains “why” your topic is important to a spot under the “Why” heading. When that’s done, do the same thing for information that explains “What” your topic or program actually is and next, “How” it works.

If this is an original document you may need to throw in some point-form explanations of your own to round out the subject matter in each of these three areas. When all that’s done, you can tackle the “So What” area, which is really just a summary of why anybody should care – what is the “big dream” your project makes possible or what new potential does it unlock in the world? If your material doesn’t provide satisfactory details, add in the ones you know yourself to be true (with references if necessary).

You will probably be left with a passel of information that doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. Check through it again just to be sure none of it answers “Why, What, How or So What” and then take one more look to see if it contains any nuggets of information that might make either a great introduction or a fabulous conclusion. You need both, so if the existing material doesn’t help you out, you’ll need to invent them yourself.

That means you need to make a new heading just above the “Why” heading and it will read “Introduction” and another new heading just below the “So What” heading which will read “Conclusion.” Add in all the information you can think of to these categories and go grab another coffee. (By this point I sometimes prefer a soothing green tea to calm my jangled nerves.)

The next step in the planning process is more painful for some people than it is for others: you have to check for what’s missing and we’ll deal with it in a future blog post.

To catch up on the other steps I’ve so far provided, please check out the Overview, Step One: You Need a Goal, Step Two: Connect with your Audience and Step Three: Collect Your Facts.

Do you want some assistance organizing your writing? Contact me today!


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