One of the most annoying problems we writers sometimes experience is that we have far too much to write about on a specific topic. In fact it can be almost as frustrating as not knowing what to say. Either way, you are left trying to figure out which pieces of information belong where, and or, how they fit with what you have already written. This is hard for anyone who puts pen to paper, no matter what subject matter they are writing about. So when it gets to this stage you have to realise that in order to achieve your goals you really need some strategies. The sort of strategy which will allow you to figure out what to include, as well as those which are similar to the ones involved when brainstorming and generating ideas.
It’s an important process, and one which should be started early on in order to leave time for reading. You see, not only does reading help us think about a topic, but it can also help us decide what is important enough to include in our outline, and the final draft. In order to assist you understand how to organise your thoughts here are some suggestions which we feel will hopefully help you stop feeling as if you should be tearing your hair out.
Let’s start first with writing your ideas down.
Often the best way to get organised is to stand back from your ideas and to just think about them. Once you understand what it is you want to achieve, and have done enough research, then can you create a list of ideas. By having all the pieces in front of you, it will help you decide what to do with them. You can do this on paper, or even better use index cards, so you can move things around more easily.
Next you need to be able to make your ideas work together
Firstly sort out the ideas you have. Ask yourself are some of them making the same or similar points of view? If so, then question whether you could use just one as a main idea while the others remain as examples? If you have created categories, ask yourself: in what way might the categories be related to each other? This will help you decide which one to talk about first, second, third, and so on. Always keep in mind the overall point you want to make, you know, your argument, your thesis, the way you want your story to flow. The question has to be, are your categories or ideas ordered in such a way that they will allow your content to build, meaning you ultimately accomplish your goal in writing? Creating an outline is very useful, even if it looks like a detailed or ordered list.
Remember to be ready to leave out some topics. When we have a lot to say about something we can very easily be led off the track. Let’s say you are writing about pet ownership, well you could include things like what kind of pet one should buy, the best training programmes to utilise, how a having a pet can influence your social life. All these things are related, but including all of them in one paper could be overwhelming. The easiest thing it to select the pieces that fit together best, and save the other points for a different piece of writing.
Revise your ideas often
After you’ve finished a draft, be sure to seek feedback. Like many writers, once you have completed the piece, you are often too close to it to see if your ideas are working together or not. You might need to rearrange them, or even add or cut something, in order to fully develop your piece. This is where Beta Readers come into their own. And it’s not just for authors but for anyone who produces a piece of written work.
A good revision strategy which I often use is to work on organising the ‘reverse outline.’ To do this, you take your draft and write a brief summary of each paragraph, either in the margins or on a separate page. This is a quick and easy way to see if and how your draft moves from one idea to the next. At the end of the exercise you will be surprised how much editing you will do and how much better the read will be.
It’s very easy to get carried away when writing, much the same as it is when chatting to people, especially if you love the subject. I know and I also know how hard it is to control the urge to keep on writing or talking on a specific subject. Over the years I have learnt to temper my enthusiasm. Not that I aren’t as excited about the subject matter I write or talk about it’s just that I am more careful and pedantic in how and what I say. I have found it works better. And as that famous saying goes – less is more.
Give it a try on your next piece of writing and see how it works for you.