Strategy is where I’d say the basis of all good writing begins. Whether you’re sitting down to write a 500-word blog post, or an 85,000-word novel, strategy is the ink that fills the pen. Strategy is the little spring beneath the keys on your keyboard.
I say that because I’ve only recently discovered the difference between writing with a strategy and simply hammering away at a keyboard. Regardless of your writing style, it’s a must to remember that different kinds of writing require different strategies.
Below I’ll discuss a few different strategies that I’ve found have worked for me as a content writer.
It’s an interesting title, but an interesting writing strategy deserves an interesting title. I refer to this strategy of writing as vomiting because that’s essentially what your brain is doing. Let the ideas flow; type as much as you can as fast as you can, and don’t worry about mistakes. You’ll come back to them later.
Keep in mind that when you “vomit” thousands of words, going back to edit them will be quite the task. You’ll no doubt find dozens of spelling and grammar errors, and editing this kind of work can be tedious. You may even discover that what you wrote is complete bullshit, and you never should’ve written it in the first place. Don’t be in love with what you vomit (that advice probably applies to more than just writing).
This kind of writing strategy likely won’t produce the next great American novel, but nevertheless you can produce good work if you do a lot of writing. Sometimes it’s good to ignore the traditional writing process and switch things up a little bit.
I learned this strategy from a copywriter at one of the most creative advertising agencies in the world, and it works. I truly believe that the human brain only can write for so long per day before it runs out of gas, and this strategy ensures that you’ll make the most out of that precious time.
Grab some sort of timer; it can be on your phone, the microwave, or a stopwatch if you’ve got one near you for some reason. Set that timer for 33 minutes, and when you hit go simply sit down and write. During the 33 minutes, you must do nothing but write, drink coffee, and stare into nothingness. Ignore all the callings of reality, and completely dedicate yourself to your craft.
Once the timer buzzes, take a break. Don’t work a minute longer. Spend the next hour doing whatever it is you want, but try not to think about writing. When you’re ready for the next 33 minutes, fill up your coffee cup and go. Doing this six times per day means you’re getting three hours of solid writing done, without any sort of interruption. It’s a strategy that works.
Like I mentioned earlier, different types of writing require different strategic approaches. I’ve found that using a strategy based around outlining tends to work more effectively when your writing requires heavy research. Outlining what you plan on writing about means your final product will be clearer, and will likely flow better when compared to writing without an outline.
It can be tedious to sit down and hash out an outline, and many writers dislike outlining because the writing can feel too structured. But structure is never a bad thing, and having an outline means you usually won’t hit a wall while writing, since everything is already planned out.
I will be honest; most of the writing I do is done without any sort of prewriting. But for specific projects that I’ve done in the past, prewriting has been key to helping me produce quality work.
I’ve usually found that doing some prewriting helps with more specific projects that I’m working on, since it lets me get out the basis of my ideas without focusing too much on quality. For me, prewriting involves jotting down anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs on the specific topic. I use these short notes to get me back on track if I get lost or stuck, and I find having something to reference can be helpful. It’s almost like having a more detailed outline; one that’s more colorful and useful for creative writing when compared to a traditional outline.
Every writer does prewriting differently. For some, it’s about brainstorming keywords. For others, it’s about answering the traditional journalists’ questions.
Finding Your Time
In addition to approaching writing with an overall strategy, it’s also important to be strategic in other ways. While not a writing “strategy” per se, understanding when you write your best is key to getting the most out of the strategies discussed above.
It’s important to understand when you’re at your peak throughout the day, or even throughout the week. When I was young and living at home, my dad would always wake up around 4 a.m. and write for a few hours. He found the wee hours of the morning to be his most productive.
I, on the other hand, work best in the mid morning. My writing between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon is much more polished and clear when compared with my writing in the afternoon. I have no idea why that is, but I know that’s what it is. Other writers I know struggle to put pen to paper in the morning, and instead flourish in the afternoon.
If you do a lot of writing, chances are you know what time works best for you. If you feel like you aren’t getting the most out of your writing, trying to write at a different time might be a good thing.
Strategy is important for writing, just as it’s important for business. Having one that works for you as a writer is the difference between producing writing that people want to read and simply fodder that people ignore. If these strategies work for you, awesome; if they don’t, figure out what does. Just because they work for me doesn’t mean they work for anybody else.