Make a plan, Stan

By | January 6, 2016

“Make a plan” sounds like advice from our mothers (and probably was) but it`s crucially important for any writing project, business or creative. When I taught business writing to first-year students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University last fall I was reminded by the very excellent textbook (Business Communications Essentials, Fourth Edition, Pearson Canada) just how important planning is.


Planning improves the final product. By carefully analyzing what you intend to say, how you intend to say it, and who will receive it, you vastly improve your chances of success. A good plan forces you to calculate the quality and quantity of research you need to do before you start writing. A good plan spotlights potential content and structural potholes, quagmires and swamps, so you can either avoid them or blast them out of existence.

Planning speeds the writing process. A good plan should have an outline that tells you where to start, where to finish, and what to put in the middle. No stalling in neutral, no staring at the screen hoping for inspiration. When I wrote my novel, Hold Me Now, I spent six weeks working on a detailed outline, scene descriptions and character sketches. This is why I was able to crank out a first draft of 80,000 words in just eight weeks, working three to four hours a day.

Planning reduces stress. A good plan builds confidence, making it easier to start writing and easier to finish. That means less stress and anxiety for you.

Planning takes time. Planning can take up to 50% of the total time you spend on a specific writing project, so don’t rush it. Resist the urge to jump to the keyboard and write that first paragraph until you’re truly ready.

Planning improves creativity. Yes, it’s true. Planning gives the unconscious mind more time to mull over the ideas that will eventually make their way into print or onto the screen via your fingertips, and your reward will be better ideas and more of them.

Professional writers do it. No professional writer I know would dream of starting any writing project, large or small, without a good plan first.

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