Updated May 2024

A good friend is writing a how-to book. He's got all the knowledge -- he does actually know how to. But while he writes a mean email and even some good web copy, he doesn't consider himself a writer. Especially not an author (insert cymbal crash here). So he asked me for some tips to get started with only an hour or two a day to work on the book. Here's what I told him, but this advice is helpful for any kind of writing you need to do in limited timeframe.

  1. Draft fast. Don’t try to make the draft “perfect”. This doesn't have to be the best writing you've ever done YET. Your goal right now is to get it out of your head and into a medium you can work with. Yes, you'll need to do another pass to revise it into final form, but I promise you it takes less time to draft fast and revise slow than to draft trying to be perfect. Get my take on the writing process.
  2. Write to one person. Think about someone you know who needs this information (like me, for instance) and write as though you’re sending me a quick email. Keep it brief and chatty. Read more about audience-first.
  3. Nail the big take-away. For each topic, try to get down the single most important thing they need to know and the 3 to 5 key details that support it. We often use this little organizer:

A hand-written idea-details strategy on The Word Factory blog

Ready? Set. Go!

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