The writing process. Oh, the dread! Every writer dreams of harnessing the elusive, mysterious magic of writing “in the zone,” where the words just pour out in perfect, poetic prose, painting a flawless first draft. Alas, this is but a dream, the unicorn myth of our profession, and as every writer knows, the masterpiece of a beautiful final draft is the direct result of the stodgy, relentless struggle of revision after revision of countless rubbish drafts.
And for us in the grant writing sector, there’s the added pressure of perfectly capturing the voice and vision of our nonprofit clients to woo funders into a marriage of money and mission. Only the grant writing wordsmith knows the behind-the-scenes blood, sweat, and tears that pounded out the eloquent iron of a masterfully compelling argument that gives music and movement to a worthy client’s funding request.
6 Keys To Streamlining the Writing Process
Since January is the perfect time for all things decluttered, why not start with our writing? Whether you’re writing for yourself or for a client, a beginner, or a pro, we could all use a little help now and then to streamline the writing process. Here are our 6 best tips to take the angst out of your art:
- Begin With An Outline
Unless you are writing a journal entry or a grocery list, always, always, always start with an outline. What are the main points you want to make? Making a general list of your main points with jot notes under each one will not only help you organize your thoughts before you even begin, but will speed up the writing process considerably. It’s far faster and easier to jot down a bullet point first and then flesh it out into full sentences later than it is to try crafting the perfect paragraph from scratch.
- Do The Quick Sections First
Remember that teacher we all had in middle school who told us to read through the whole test and do all the easy questions first? Did you do it? Yeah, me neither. I had to learn it myself the hard way. But it turns out that teacher was on to something… and it’s never too late to harness the hard-won wisdom learned by our inner stubborn-perfectionist-I’ll-do-it-my-own-way-middle-schooler by actually doing the easy sections first 😉 In grant writing, this means going through the application questions and plugging in all the quick and easy information first that doesn’t require any “crafting;” like contact information, tax ID numbers, budget totals, etc. Then, go back and start filling in the sections that require more attention and effort. Oftentimes, simply seeing lots of completed text fields bolsters the motivation to tackle the rest, making those blank fields less daunting. Try it! You’ll like it! 🙂
Now, I’m a teacher at heart, so I could talk all day on any given topic but put me in front of a blank screen and all my brilliant ideas flee like cockroaches when the light comes on. Can I get an Amen? Never fear, kindred spirit. Dictation apps are here to save the writing day. My favorite one is Otter and the free version is more than enough for me. It has impressive accuracy and I love that I can export files as documents and then edit them on my computer like any other word document. Fantastic! Now we can “write” while we walk the dog. Multitasking for the win!
- Start In The Middle
Cousin to the ol’ “do-the-easy-parts-first” trick, is this one. Start in the middle. Don’t worry about starting with the perfect introductory sentence right out of the gate. Just start where your thoughts start. In the middle of the section, the paragraph, the sentence, even the middle of the thought. You’ll come back and nail that amazing intro later. For now, just get some words out. The rest will come, I promise.
- Take A Break
Ok, armed with your awesome dictation software and these amazing pro-tips, you’ve done it! You’ve hammered out that dreaded first draft… well done! Now walk away. Seriously. Go do something else for at least 20 minutes. Preferably longer. Your brain and eyes need the rest. So does your keyboard (do I smell smoke?).
- Revise/Edit With Fresh Eyes
Once you have sufficiently rested your brain and your eyes, (which for me is usually the next day), the revision and editing process will be sharper and quicker. Coming back later to revise and edit that first draft with fresh eyes is so, so important. Your next draft will thank you. So will your body.
Well, there you have it, our top 6 pro-tips for streamlining your process so you can write, (and polish!) more brilliant words in 2022! Join us every Monday for another pro-tip post in this streamlining series. Write on! (See what I did there?) 😉