As a writer, I’m always playing with a variety of approaches to planning and researching my writing. I did a blog post series a few months back outlining my method at the time.
This was my strategy a couple months ago. It was an outline of sorts, based off my research.
I still do my research similarly, collecting a list of links and notes so that when I go to actually write, all of my resources are at my fingertips.
But recently I have changed some parts of my blog post generating process.
One change I made was to my planning process. Instead of creating a vague list of the things I want to say I do it this way:
1. Print Out Your Notes
Instead of simply reading off my computer screen, I’ve found it much easier to take my document filled with notes and links and print it out. Because it is no longer on a digital screen,
I find it easier to digest the information. I did a bit of research on it and found out that people in this 2013 study who read on paper scored better on tests than those who read them on the screen. This was attributed to the actual act of turning pages and touching the pages aiding in memory. But there’s a lot of research out there that says it doesn’t make a difference. For me personally, the act of printing out the pages and reading through my notes makes it easier to draw out the details that I need to form my plan.
2. Flip to a Blank Page in Your Notebook
I also do this part on paper as opposed to a screen. Again, I suppose I could do the same thing digitally, but the act of actually filling a blank sheet of paper is what works for me. I record most of my personal notes and journal on paper too. I actually enjoy the feeling of flipping the pages and drawing out each idea while I think about where I will place the next. I feel that I plan more slowly and more effectively on paper.
3. Write Down Your Article Topic in the Center
It just has to be a few words; it doesn’t need to be in-depth. After all, that’s what the other bubbles on your page will be for, to flesh out the idea. I write the main idea smack dab in the middle of my page and draw a bubble around it. This is the launching point for your article and is the basis for all your subsequent bubbles.
4. Skim and Plot Main Ideas
Now go through the research that you printed out in step one and skim it over, searching for the main ideas that you want to include. These are the overarching ideas in your article. They will be the ones that will likely make up your main headings in the final post. As I come across these ideas I will write them down, but won’t put the bubbles or lines around them yet. This gives me more space to add ideas later. I also won’t put in any of the details during this stage to avoid cluttering up the page.
This is where things get a bit messy. I will add the details for each of the main ideas that I am covering. This will cover a number of areas, including bullet points, subheads, as well as random anecdotes and statistics that I want to sprinkle throughout each section. Sometimes these details will fit into more than one area and I’ll write them between the areas. That brings me to the next step…
This last step is where I draw the actual bubbles around each of the ideas that I wrote and connect them first to the main idea. Then I link them out to each detail. If a detail fits into more than one group, I link it to both. I will use it in whichever place feels more natural while I’m writing.
Now it’s finally time to write. What I normally do is write out each of the main ideas and bold them. That way if I feel like I’m getting writer’s block or have an idea for details in another section I just throw it under the main idea it belongs under and write around it later. This method is useful when writing on a deadline because it feels more like fill-in-the-blank than a daunting white page.
This method has been working for me for a while now and I’m a really big fan of it. I’m sure other people out there use something like this but I wasn’t able to find anyone who wrote about it and used a similar style to this one.
Let me know what you think. Is this paper planning technique a good strategy for producing content? Does it work for you? Do you have something better? Let me know in the comments section.