Thinking in Terms of Self-Assessment in Your Writing
Wait! Come back! Don’t run away! “Self-assessment” is just a fancy term for taking an objective look at a personal situation. In this case, it’s simply taking an objective look at how we create and put that creation into writing.
Over the years in my technical writing, my method was to outline the user manual, then start filling in the details. Now, I say “outline” but you need to throw out your concept of “outlining” using Roman numerals that you learned in school.
If you find that the thought of writing in the typical outline structure frightens the bejeebers out of you, then read on, my friend. Read on.
Turns out that I’m a pretty organic writer. I go with the flow. In my technical writing persona, I write in whatever direction my brain is in the mood to go that day. Not up for writing about “setting appointments” today? How about “posting charges”? Yeah? Great! I’ve always known this, but to specifically acknowledge how that manifests itself when I’m writing manuals gave me the insight I needed to attack my creative writing.
I would create just a chapter heading like “Setting up the System” or “Claims Processing”. I would transfer any notes related to that section of the document, but other than that, it would be blank.
Then I’d go back and start fleshing out each chapter. Again, I would use headings to “outline” the chapter. The first few headings might be “In This Chapter”, “Overview” and “Service Codes”.
Pretty boring for you, I know, but it was insight into how I think when I’m writing.
Under each of those would be the details related to processing claims with the software. Any notes I had would be funneled into those sections.
There wasn’t much else to outline so I think you get the idea. Then I’d go back and start writing. (The other thing I noticed is my tendency to color code. *chuckle* I didn’t realize the extent of my color-coding passion until I did this exercise, but that’s a tale for a future fireside.)
If I got bored or ran of material for one section, I had other sections I could work on. This allowed me to be efficient with my time, and I learned over the years how to recognize when I was “spinning my wheels” and not getting anywhere. I could just move to another section for awhile.
Notice anything about this method? Imagine my shock when I instinctively called it “outlining”. Yes, this is outlining. Shock! Horror! However, since this is a self-assessment, we have to take out the emotion and look objectively. Outlining doesn’t have to be rigid. It can be flexible. It doesn’t have to contain Roman numeral headings.
Once I realized that the method detailed above was how I outlined, it made all the difference in the world to me. I ended up thinking about each of the books I wanted in my series, and gee, I could apply this method, couldn’t I? I mean, books have chapters and scenes, right? Those are similar to the chapters and sections of a user manual.
THAT is how I ended up approaching my current and first work-in-progress. I’ve made so much progress since this discovery AND kept the momentum up (mostly) that I’m ecstatic!
Structure is all well and good, but what’s the purpose? Where do I want to go with my creative writing? Now, it’s time to think in terms of business.
Happy Writing and see you next time!
Have you conducted a self-assessment of your writing process? What did you find?