As the old saying goes: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” This piece of advice applies across the board — from sports to road trips to school, and yes, it applies to writing.
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to put together a blog post, an article, a chapter in a novel, or whathaveyou. If you don’t have a plan, you’re not going to get the quality of output you are looking for.
That’s not just going to happen. If it does, it’s the product of sheer luck. You just stumbled upon it. It’s hard to repeat those results.
Why You Should Have a Writing Plan
Most people write in circles. When you have a plan, you are more likely to focus on what you want to talk about and move on. You’re not stuck in neutral repeating every other point endlessly.
Next, when you are using a content plan or some sort of project brief for your article or blog post, you stop what project managers call “project creep.” This is what happens when a supposed to be 1,000-word blog post turns into a 10,000-word Leo Tolstoy-style magnum opus that nobody would want to read.
Another great reason you should have a writing plan is that you can write more effectively and engage your readers better. Since you know that you have only so many words to work with and you’re operating within tighter parameters, you are more likely to pay more attention to your text’s engagement level.
Writing plans can help you save time and stress. These go a long way in preventing writer’s block and creative burnout.
When Creating a Writing Plan, Stay Focused on Its Tight Definition
It’s very easy to think that you have a writing plan when it turns out that you have more of a hope and a wish than anything else. Sadly, suppose you are just working with some vaguely defined idea as to your plan. In that case, chances are, you will not produce something as good as compared to one if you had a solid and well-defined plan.
To benefit from a writing plan, focus on how you tightly define it and abide by it.
What Is a Writing Plan?
There is no one-size-fits-all form or template, but it involves setting up parameters that help you stay on message. This, in turn, pushes you to write in a more disciplined way.
Whether you are writing by hand, typing out your texts, or writing with your voice or dictaphone writing, by sticking to the tight parameters that you have set ahead of time, you will produce more materials at a higher quality.
This, of course, depends on the schedule that you have set up. It also involves working with your writing habits.
Please understand that your writing plan doesn’t replace or impose a fixed set of rules over what you are already doing. Instead, it reflects your writing habits and existing production process so you can optimize your output and produce content on time every time.
When Creating a Writing Plan, Consider the Following 15 Factors
Writers who think they have a writing plan often fail because they ignore the following 15 factors. All of these have to be reflected in your plan so you can improve your output quality and produce more blog posts, articles, book chapters, or anything else you plan to write.
1. When Are You Most Productive In the Day?
Some writers are night owls — the stereotypical creative that stays up all hours of the night and blasts out a tremendous amount of highly creative content near dawn.
But not everybody operates like that. If you are more of a morning person, that’s perfectly ok as well.
What’s important is you are clear to identify when during a 24-hour day you’re most productive.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just measure your productivity in terms of how many words you produce. You should also factor in the quality of your output during those hours.
Once you figure out your most productive 2–3 hour block, make it the cornerstone of your writing plan. This ensures that you produce your highest quality work while meeting your word count requirements.
2. Where Is Your Most Comfortable Writing Spot?
Some writers produce their best work when they are all alone in the corner of their home. Maybe it’s dark, or the curtains are drawn.
Some prefer to be outdoors, while others like myself are most productive when I’m surrounded by total strangers talking to each other. The commotion pushes me to focus on my writing.
There’s really no right or wrong answer. What’s important is you are aware of the specific place or range of places where you tend to produce your best work.
3. How Do You Express Your Goals?
Every time you sit down to write, you should have goals in front of you. These set the agenda so you are more likely to produce the kind of work that will take your writing career to the next level.
Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here. You just have to pay attention to yourself.
Do you lay out your goals in very specific and meticulous terms? Or, are you more of a big picture kind of person? Do you have broad and rather vague goals?
As long as you can make sense of the goals you have laid out, you are on the right track.
The key is clarity.
4. What Are Your Writing Priorities?
Some writers prioritize output. In the back of their minds, they think that as long as they can get the words out, eventually, they will be able to edit whatever it is they produced into a tight form.
Others prefer the other way around. They’d rather commit as few words to letters so that they can spare themselves from editing their work later on.
Which one are you? Or, are you somewhere in the middle?
It’s important to be clear about your priorities so your plan will reflect how you actually work.
If, on the other hand, you come up with a plan based on how you would like to work, you probably would not get the results that you’re looking for because it’s not rooted in how you actually write.
5. What Things Do You Do Before, During, and After Writing?
Believe it or not, your rituals play a big role in how productive you are and the overall quality of your work.
Do you practice meditation or mindfulness? Do you walk around the block or do some sort of exercise? Also, once you have written your materials, do you rest or take a nap during your break? Or, do you just watch some TV or check out the internet before getting back to work?
Be aware of your patterns and see which “rituals” lead to the best output. Focus on those and make them part of your plan. For whatever reason, they help you perform at a peak level.
6. What Are Your Expectations From the Piece You’re Thinking of Writing?
When putting together your plan, be clear on what your expectations are.
Don’t just write for the sake of writing. Don’t automatically assume that if you’re writing a blog post, then it has to share the same parameters as the previous blog post that you’ve produced.
Be as specific about your expectations as you can. This can go a long way in helping you push yourself to higher and higher writing proficiency levels and output quality.
7. What Genre or Type of Content Are You Writing, and What Quality Standards Does It Need to Follow?
Different genres and different nonfiction categories have different quality requirements. In too many cases, they have to follow a certain format. Research these carefully and include them in your writing plan.
This way, whatever you produce at least lives up to certain minimum standards for that type of content.
8. What Is Your Practical and Absolute Deadline?
There are two types of deadlines most writers work with. Unfortunately, a lot of writers tend to focus on the absolute deadline and lose sight of their practical deadline.
It’s much better to be clear on what the practical deadline is. This is the deadline you set yourself, giving you enough room to make any needed revisions to your output.
You don’t want to set your deadline all the way to the last minute because you might have to change your manuscript. Or, they might be something wrong with your content, like you researched the wrong topic for your blog post.
Whatever the case may be, give yourself some sort of time cushion or padding in the form of a practical deadline so you can do what you need to do to whip your work into tip-top shape.
9. How Do You Brainstorm During Outlining?
Make no mistake. Great outlines make for great content.
Many writers are completely blind to this, and that’s why their output is very erratic. On some days, they produce amazing work; on others, not so much.
If you want to produce consistently high-quality content, you have to outline. It can be as spare or basic as a few lines or sentences, but it has to guide you sufficiently so you can produce the kind of content you’re looking to create.
When you’re outlining, you have to brainstorm because you can present the content in so many different ways. You have to reflect your particular brainstorming style in your content plan. Hence, you increase your chances of producing a truly high-value outline.
It doesn’t matter if you are outlining fiction, such as chapters in a novel or nonfiction blog posts and articles. You have to go through the outlining process, and you have to be clear as to how you come up with ideas.
One way to speed up this process is to dictate your outlines.
10. When Do You Know Your Piece Is Complete?
Don’t just focus on the word count of your output.
For example, if your assignment editor tells you that you have to produce 2,000 words. Don’t get a false sense of security when you hit that figure. You have to look at the big picture.
Ask yourself the following: Is the content complete? Did I hit the major points? Did I deliver the kind of value the expected readers of this content would be looking for?
Another way you can test if the piece is complete is whether you are able to deliver by the deadline. Of course, this is a very limited form of measuring the completeness of your output.
I would suggest that you develop a writing plan that incorporates elements of topic completion, word count sufficiency, structure compliance, and deliver the work by a certain date.
11. How Do You Optimize Your Writing Practices?
Your writing plan should not be static. It shouldn’t just be a laundry list of the things that you want from your output.
It should also reflect how you write. At the very least, it should help you diagnose any rough spots in your writing process so you can do better next time.
12. How Do You Scale-up Your Best Practices?
A lot of writers don’t even think about this, but if you want a writing plan that will not only help you produce great content but also level up your skills and production processes, you need to wrap your head around this factor.
Every writer writes in a different way. We all have our idiosyncratic style or particular preferences.
You have to find your best practices within this context.
Notice that in certain situations, you’re able to produce more words, and your articles need less editing. In other situations, you produce very little and whatever you come up with is problematic.
Comparing these two situations, figure out what your best practices are. Things don’t happen by accident.
So identify certain patterns and reflect these in your writing plan so you can replicate your best quality work.
13. How Do You Add Effective Writing Practices to Your Daily Routine?
It’s one thing to identify your best practices. It’s another to strip them down into a form that you can effectively add to your daily actions.
Doing these daily actions are important because, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more you repeat something, the more you’re able to connect the dots and do things more efficiently and quickly.
Rebuilding your writing processes around your best practices will eventually help you produce greater quality work in less time. This, in turn, enables you to produce better books, blog posts, articles, which will improve your earnings.
14. How Serious Are You About Planning and Writing Skills Development?
Writing skills development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. By ensuring that your writing plan revolves around your best practices and supports your routines, you increase your chances of becoming a better writer.
If you are not this meticulous, you’re basically just rolling the dice and hoping that you produce better work on some days than other days. When you do that, things are just too random that your chances of actually leveling up your skillset and producing consistently high-quality output are going to be remote.
15. What Process Do You Follow When Moving From Your Outline to Writing?
Pay close attention to how you go from your outline to the actual finished blog post article or book chapter. Don’t automatically assume that you are fully conscious of this process. You may be doing certain things or taking additional steps that might slow you down and reduce your output. Or, they might actually be increasing the overall quality of our materials.
You don’t know at this point. Observe how you move from your outline to your writing process. Do not skip anything.
Study the way you actually work and once you figure out which of these lead to better results, include it in your writing plan.
Some Common Writing Plan Examples
Now that you understand the 15 crucial factors that you need to be aware of when putting together a writing plan, here are some examples of common writing plans. There are three main categories of writing plans: 1) procedure-based, 2) structural, and 3) freeform.
Procedure-based writing plans lay out a set of steps the writer needs to go through in order to produce output that has a consistent quality and meets certain production standards.
A structural writing plan , in contrast, just lays out the basic blocks or forms that the writer’s content must conform to. As long as the writer produces content with a certain structure or form, there’s a good chance that it would have a certain minimum quality level. But with enough practice, the writer can actually produce a lot of content in a fairly short period of time because writing materials that have a certain structure has become second nature to them.
Finally, freeform writing plans use pretty broad parameters that give a general shape to the output but are very flexible. The idea is to do away with as many structural limitations as possible so the writer’s creativity and problem-solving skills won’t be held back.
And at some point, once a writer gets used to this process, they have to zero in on the parts that work and impose stricter rules. But at the beginning, things are fairly loose and not tightly defined.
The key is to basically hit your stride and figure out what works and then start adopting a more structured process so you can write materials that are more consistent in quality and volume.
1. Procedural Writing Plan Example
Step #1 – Pick a genre or topic category: list out its requirements.
Step #2 – Be clear on genre / content type writing goal.
For example, an essay has a different goal than a typical blog post or product description.
Step #3 – Identify and stay focused on your audience.
You have to be clear about who you’re talking to and who you’re trying to pass value to. Understand their word choice, preferences, and how they prefer the content to be presented to them.
Step #4 – Step into the audience’s shoes and tackle key questions as you outline your project.
When you’re writing online content, don’t assume that you’re going to be starting from square one.
For example, if I’m writing a blog on MBA programs, it doesn’t make sense to begin my blog post with “An MBA is a Master’s in Business Administration.” Chances are people who search for MBA-related keywords and end up on my MBA-focused blog already know that information.
They are at my site looking for information they don’t already know. Start there.
When you step into your audience’s shoes, you look at your content from their perspective. What can you safely assume they already know?
Based on the topic you’re writing about, what are their expectations? Write accordingly.
Step #5 – Schedule your writing location and time.
Know when you are most productive. Pay close attention to the context of your most productive writing. If you have any social preferences in terms of writing stimulation, include that in your process.
Step #6 – Be clear on word count and “final form.”
Step #7 – Pick and optimize your structure.
Usually, structures are set by the type of content you’re writing. An essay has a different structure compared to a product description, for example.
Step #8 – Produce your first draft.
It’s important to keep in mind that when you stop writing, what you produce is the first draft. Don’t automatically assume that you can go straight to delivery.
Don’t believe for a second that your freelance writing client will take whatever you come up with. It has to be the best, and that’s why you have to treat your output in terms of drafts because if you assume that this is just a first draft, you are more likely to be critical of our writing.
You also would be more open to getting an editor to look at your materials.
Step #9 – Take a break before reviewing your draft.
You put in all this time and effort coming up with a first draft. Don’t jump straight to the editing process. Take a break.
Maybe watch a Youtube video, enjoy a meal, hang out with your friends or significant other, then when you have a fresh set of eyes and you’re mentally relaxed, check out your draft.
Step #10 – Assume you’re a stranger when viewing your draft.
Assume that you are a member of your target audience and you are in no way familiar with the writing process or the project.
What would you want to see? What do you see, and how do you make sense of the draft?
Step #11 – Tweak and revise.
Using the information that you’ve gotten from Step #10, keep tweaking your draft until you think it delivers the kind of value you hope it would.
2. Structural Writing Plan Example
For this type of writing plan, it is the structure that actually whips the content into shape.
Step #1 – Pick type.
The type of content sets the format.
For example, if you pick “essay,” then your content has to talk about your topic a certain way. Everything has to be arranged according to the essay format, which is the main thesis, first claim, second claim, and under each claim will be supporting content.
Step #2 – Set your thesis.
There are many different types of content out there. There’s a product description, the sales page as well as the typical informative blog post.
In this writing plan example, we’re going to be focusing on the essay.
So for Step #2, we’re going to be laying out our thesis. This has to be clear. What is our main claim or argument?
Step #3 – Set key claims for the thesis.
The thesis is a conclusion that sums up our argument, and the conclusion is broken down by different claims that lead logically to that conclusion.
Step #4 – Supporting pieces of evidence for claims.
Since a thesis is a conclusion that’s broken down by different supporting claims, it’s important for people who want to persuade others with their essay to provide facts that support these claims.
People are not going to take you at your word just because you’re passionate about your position. They want supporting facts.
This way, they can see if you are just making stuff off or being emotional. Or, your argument is actually based on reality.
Step #5 – Counter evidence and rebuttal.
The mark of a well-structured and high-quality essay is that it doesn’t hide the ball.
So it’s not enough for you to lay out your key claims in clear and very easy-to-understand plain English. It’s also not enough for you to include facts to support the claims that lead to your thesis’ conclusion.
You also have to show what the other side is likely to say regarding your claims. They would have counter-evidence. Represent those and rebut them.
This is how a winning essay is structured.
As you can tell from the essay example above, the structure goes a long way in organizing information that you put into it. By doing so, it also makes that information do something.
Structural writing plans seem fairly basic, but they are actually powerful because the format produces an effect. It helps you organize crucial information that you might have otherwise forgotten to include or have phrased in a way that would make it less effective or more confusing.
3. Freeform Writing Plan Example
My final writing plan example involves a more freeform approach.
You’re not limited to the four steps below. In fact, you shouldn’t even consider these as steps but more like broad guidelines.
The whole idea of a freeform writing plan is to motivate you to get started and open your mind to learning from yourself as you figure things out.
Generally speaking, a freeform writing plan would include the following:
- Set key goals you can remember.
- Read sources or reference materials.
- Record your insights.
- And narrow down or boil your insights into final forms.
On a practical level, #1 and #2 are the most important.
#3 goes without saying, but with enough practice, #4 becomes clear and will guide you to develop a more effective and tightly defined writing plan.
The Final Word on Factors to Consider When Creating a Writing Plan
A little bit of clarity at the beginning of the writing process can definitely pay off tremendously later on. Not only would you be able to produce a lot more content on time every time, but your output will live up to quality standards.
As a professional writer you already know that 9 times out of 10 volume is the name of the game. You may be the best writer in the world, but if you don’t have enough content out there, people will probably not know about you.
You have to strike a happy balance between quality and output.
The good news is if you have a well-crafted writing plan that truly reflects how you write as well as your habits and mindset, you eventually will be able to produce a content production process that will help you move faster towards your professional goals.