Planning your writing, whether it is for song lyrics or for poetry or for a book, is one the most important aspects you will need to consider. The ability to write a properly constructed and interesting article or story from scratch with minimal planning is a rare talent, a talent most writers do not possess.
Your first objective is obviously to decide what subject you will be writing about and to decide on a working title. At this stage, the title is unimportant as it is purely a label for use while you focus on the writing itself. Many editors or subeditors will change your title anyway at publication to fit their needs or for some other reason.
Write down a brief summary of your idea and an initial structure that you think will be suitable. Some people like to do this graphically, like an organization chart, but textual is equally as effective. Whichever one suits you best is the one you should use. Again, this can be changed later as you start getting the detail written. This approach works equally well for both creative writing and technical writing.
Now, looking at your planned structure and summary, you should be able to decide what research is required, if any, to back up your writing. Make a list of all the facts or elements of the story or article that you will want to research. This list can grow as time goes on. You won’t know what the full list is at the beginning.
If the subject is one that you know well, this may be a very short list. This will help you decide which parts of the work are feasible and which parts are not, in terms of being able to get information to assist you. You will probably now want to revisit your summary and restructure your article bearing some of this mind.
If you are a technical writer, you will already be familiar with this approach as structured writing and the availability of technical data upon which to base your output is a fundamental part of this kind of writing. You might need several attempts at this, especially in your first few assignments. You will now have a sound, structured approach to follow and assist you when you start to fill in the detail.
A further advantage of this approach is that you don’t need to write everything in order but worksheets are always good to use. If you have broken the article, or story, into smaller logical chunks, you can write any one of them when you have the inclination or the background research available. You will, however, have to check carefully that everything ‘fits’ together when you have finished and that there are no contradictions as a result of the approach you took.
Organizing Yourself to Write
If you’re going to write, you’ll need to get organized. There are a few simple things you can do that will help you create your own writing environment that works for you if you want to discover if there’s a writer in you, after all.
Firstly, organize your work area. It’s important to get the right environment for writing. You should try and make sure that the desk or seat (or wherever) you use is well organized with the things you’ll need close at hand. If you’re using a desk, make sure it’s not too cluttered as you’ll want to find your scribbles and notes easily when you need them. Some people don’t like their work environment too sterile though: you’ll know what suits you. As some people say: “a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind.”
Start a cuttings library. Save any interesting newspaper or magazine cuttings that you think may be of use in the future. These might include news stories or articles with details you may want to use for a storyline or plot in the future and you might even start selling your lyrics online. Bear in mind that anything can contain things you may want to keep, not just newspapers or magazines. You might find a description of a holiday resort in a brochure, or details of a product or service in your usual junk mail. Inspiration can come from anywhere.
This library will build up quickly, so make sure from the very start that you structure it in a way that allows you to find what you’re looking for later. Spending unproductive time looking for extracts of your writing or cuttings will reduce your productivity. It might be an idea to get a hold of an old filing cabinet or set of drawers that you can use to let your writer genie develop. Old office folders and paper wallets are ideal for this kind of thing.
Thirdly, you should keep a notebook, specifically for your ideas, observations and little bits of text or writing that you jot down when they occur to you. Many people find it helpful to carry a small notebook and pen with them at all times. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Make your notes clear enough that you will know what they are about if you revisit them even months or years later. Check out also this very useful post about mistakes you really should avoid. Don’t rely just on your memory as you’ll find the small details that occurred to you at first fade with time. These may just be the details that you need to give your writing the feel you’re looking for.