A Framework (or System) for Writing Better and Faster
Someone recently asked me if I knew of any good writing frameworks. He wanted to know how to write with higher quality at a faster rate. At first, I said no. But after thinking about it and doing some research, I realized I do have a writing framework. (Note that I prefer the term system). And I’ve documented it here. This was a good exercise for me. It forced me to document my approach and clarify it for myself. Without a doubt, this system helps me improve my writing. And by documenting this system, I’ll be able to continuously improve it. It’s not perfect. Please let me know if you see any improvement opportunities. Also, please feel free to repurpose this in anyway for your own writing goals.
Writing is my creative outlet. It is the best way for me to express myself. So I’ve built a writing system to help me maximize my output. My writing system enables two outcomes: gaining knowledge and sharing knowledge. It also prioritizes the quality of my writing over the quantity of words. Finally, my writing reduces writer's block and procrastination.
My writing system is simple. It’s a series of six steps anyone can take to produce quality content. Great writing isn’t only about sharing what you know. It’s about gaining knowledge and ideas from different sources and combining them in a new way.
If you decide to use this system, make it your own. Iterate it to work for you toward your desired outcomes on a project-by-project basis. In other words, don’t be a slave to this system!
Here are the six steps:
Vet. Vet your idea via online search before you research it.
Research. Gain the knowledge required to execute the idea.
Outline. Gather your research and structure it.
Draft. Draft a complete piece from your structured outline.
Revise. Get your draft ready for editing.
Edit. Get your revised draft ready to publish.
Read on for details. I use a tool board called Trello to track my ideas as they move through each step of this system. Click here to view a sample Trello board.
Step 1 — Vet.
Vet your idea via online search before you research it.
This is where you weed out less-than-great ideas and define what will make your piece unique. Ask yourself the following questions and answer them with some quick online research:
Who is the target audience for this idea, and what value will they get out of it?
Is this idea unique?
If it’s not unique, is there a way for me to make it unique?
If you can’t answer these questions, scrap the idea. I use Google for article research and Amazon for book research.
Step 2 — Research.
Gain the knowledge required to execute the idea.
This is where you become a subject matter expert. Ask yourself: what do I need to know to deliver on this idea? Then, go get that knowledge any way you can.
Complete research by searching online, by reading books, or by conducting interviews. Whatever you do, make sure to document your key takeaways in a single, searchable database. Research from a previous idea will often come in handy for future idea. I use a note-taking tool called Evernote to maintain a research database from all my sources.
Step 3 — Outline.
Gather your research and structure it.
This is where you pull all your research together and structure it in a new way. In a document, use your research to outline each section with key points. Then, rearrange everything until you are happy with the structure.
Nothing improves the quality and efficiency of writing more than a structured outline. I use a tool called Google Docs for documents.
Step 4 — Draft.
Draft a complete piece from your structured outline.
This is where you create a complete first draft with as little effort as possible. Aim for completion, not perfection. Do not worry about quality.
If you built a structured outline, creating this draft should be as easy as filling in the blanks. I use Google Docs for drafts.
Step 5 — Revise.
Get your draft ready for editing.
This is where you go back through your draft, section by section, and try to make your writing sound good. The goal is not perfection. You want it to be good enough to share it with people you trust. Start at the top. Then, move down the document section by section focusing on the following areas:
Sentence construction. Is each sentence clear and using as few words as possible? (I strive for sentences with an average of 8 words or less.)
Sentence flow. Do the sentences flow well from one to another?
Sentence gaps. Are there any gaps in logic that might leave a reader confused?
You'll know you're done revising when your excited to share your work with close friends. I use Google Docs for revisions.
Step 6 — Edit.
Get your revised draft ready to publish.
This is where you edit the piece until it meets the standards for publishing. These standards could be set by you or the third party you are writing for (e.g. a publication, an employer, or a professor). Either hire a good editor or edit it yourself. Here are some guidelines for editing:
Cut unnecessary words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs.
Make sure you have a consistent voice.
Clean up sentences that are hard to read.
Remove unnecessary adverbs and replace them.
Fix errors in style and grammar.
Make sure your citations are correct (if applicable).
This step is tedious, but necessary to ensure quality before you publish. I use an online tool called Hemingway to help me identify improvement opportunities.
I’m always trying to improve my writing. Let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve this system.