You’re inspired. An idea seizes you and before the energy fizzles, you whip out a laptop, open a new document, and slam out words. Get it down fast—start writing and discover along the way what you want to say.
I support this approach! Capture the core idea while your creativity sizzles—before your vision fades!
At some point, however, you need to take a minute to be sure you know four key elements of this project or else your final product may miss the mark.
For everything we write, we really do need to know:
Imagine if today’s article had been titled “Follow These 3 Rules to Organize and Optimize Your RV Kitchen.” You’d wonder if you clicked on the wrong link or cued up the wrong podcast. I do like RV travel and could probably write about it, but because this website provides writing input to readers, an RV article might suit the medium of a podcast that focused on RV owners, but it would not fit the topic, audience, or purpose of a writing coach podcast or website.
Understand these fundamental elements of your project, and you’ll save time in the editing stage and ultimately impress publishers and serve readers. You'll build an audience that can tell you are knowledgeable and you understand them.
Build This Step into Your Writing Process
Experienced writers who publish regularly often work through this instinctively because they’ve written for years about a particular subject matter for an outlet that follows a specific format. These professionals may be able to sit down and tap out an impressive draft that follows style and formatting guidelines, and falls close to the ideal word count.
But if you’re…
new to writing
returning to it after a long break
craving a refresher on the basics
concerned your work isn’t connecting with readers
stepping out to write new subject matter, reach a new audience, or publish in a new media style or outlet
…I recommend you build this step into your writing process more intentionally.
Consciously, deliberately pause in the early stages of development to think through—even write out—brief descriptions of your project’s topic, audience, purpose, and medium.
Know what you’re setting out to accomplish and why. Determine what you’re writing about and who it’s for. Consider where it’ll be published and distributed, because that affects its depth and design, tone and topic, length and layout.
Lock this in before you brainstorm, research, outline, or free write and you’ll find the writing, revising, and editing process more efficient and the finished project’s impact more effective.
Let’s start with that initial inspiration. That creative spark. That idea.
THE TOPIC QUESTION: What’s this project about?
Sometimes you’re assigned a topic; other times the idea blooms from within. Either way, you’ll need to confirm the high-level topic and then articulate how this project will narrow and focus on a particular aspect of it.
For example, your high-level topic may be vegetable gardening. Are you writing an article for a local garden shop’s newsletter about growing potatoes or how to plant a Three Sisters garden? That’s how you would narrow the high-level topic to be more focused.
If you function as your own publisher, your “brand” may cover three or four categories that lead to obvious topic choices that always fit the audience, purpose, and medium.
The food blogger writes about the high-level topic of food, but narrows it to a few categories like main dishes, side dishes, slow-cooker instructions. Then, she publishes specific articles and recipes under each of those.