Recently, I started listening to the “Writing Tools” podcasts available at iTunes university. The author, Roy Peter Clark, outlines 23 rules that provide the nuts and bolts of writing effectively so that what we want to communicate comes through clearly to our readers.
The last chapter of this book describes a metaphoric writer’s workbench. A five step description that describes how writers work.
As we develop our company stories these steps provide a basis for starting the process.
Step 1 : Get your ideas. Take the time to explore your environment. Open yourself up to listening, watching and being mindful of your company and your business. Look for ideas that will get your customers attention.
Step 2 : Explore those ideas. Look at your business as a storage room of ideas. Collect related and even unrelated details. Keep your mind and ears open.
Step 3 : Collect evidence. Get out of your office chair. Leave your office and explore your business environment.
Step 4 : Find your focus. Get to the heart of the story. As the author of “Writing Tools” states “Break the shell and extract the nut.” This step requires research, going through all the gathered information and critically thinking about the message and how the message is supported by clear evidence. In this step, the focus could be expressed as a summary paragraph, mission statement, theme statement, or a question that your business story will answer for your customers.
Step 5 : Select the best parts. A writer knows that they can’t or don’t want to include everything. It is in this process that they eliminate research that doesn’t fit or clearly document the focus of this business story. I find this step a difficult one because I would like to include all the information that my hard work has generated. However, my readers could become overwhelmed and miss the nugget of what I want to get across if I included everything. Be selective. Keep what you don’t use because it may be useful in another story but for now cut what you can’t effectively use to make your main point.
Step 6 : Put your key points in order. Outline the scope of your work. Develop a plan and work from that plan. Working from a plan gives you, as the writer, the benefit of a vision that allows you to see the story in your head and understand fully your mission. At this stage, simply outlining the beginning, middle and end of your story is sufficient.
Step 7 : Write a draft. Just write, if you can, fast and free. Don’t scrutinize or criticize your initial draft–just write and get your thoughts out in writing. If you have taken the time to complete the first six steps this step will be more fluid. Remember this is a draft and for your eyes only so just write and write and complete a draft.
Step 8 : Revise and clarify. Now is the time for rewriting. Alone in your office, read your work out loud. See how it flows. Does it make sense? Does your story document your goal?
Roy Peter Clark identifies the steps in these key words…Sniff. Explore. Collect. Focus. Select. Order. Draft. Revise. Now have a good time developing your business story.