Follow Your MAP to Greater Writing Productivity

Follow Your MAP to Greater Writing Productivity

Reader Comments (37)

  1. Taking a little time to plan out your writing is great. Specifically in MAP where you think about what your core audience wants/desire.

    They should absolutely be thought of and catered to for this process because they are really the only ones who matter.

  2. From my experience, what I can say is starting to write is the most difficult part. It’s even more difficult than writing itself. Once I start, I can just keep going and reach the end.

    I don’t do outlining too often, though. I think I should try this trick to improve my writing. Thanks Chris.

  3. This sort of approach lends it self well to mind mapping software — you can really visualize the MAP approach that you are describing that way.


  4. @Sajib: I feel your pain. That first graf is always the toughest for me. And I’ve never been one of those folks who can start writing somewhere in the middle and find my way to an opening paragraph later down the road.

    @Mark: You’re totally right. It’s amazing how seeing those ideas and snippets in space can kick-start the process.

  5. Great stuff! I am a big outliner. It fits my linear nature better than mindmaps or free-form brainstorming. Once I have the outline in place, the piece often writes itself. If it’s a longer piece of writing, like an article, I will even assign word counts to the different section.

    I really like how you encourage people to think of the call to action before they even start writing. So often, we get to the end and don’t know why we wrote it in the first place!

    Thanks for the great content.

  6. I was terrible at outlines in school. I hated the feeling of being locked into something once it was down on paper.
    Now I find they do help. Mostly, they help me keep the topic under control and from getting too large.

  7. Though I didn’t necessarily ‘know’ I had writing process I can testify that 1 & 2 are critically important. With 2 I tend to focus on “What is the end result I want to achieve?” Like most people I could probably do with more 3, but I guess that’s why you wrote this. And as for 4, nothing like a last minute deadline! Thanks for the synopsis.

    PS – helps to write on airplanes far above the crowd.

  8. “Mentally fix a single member of your audience in your mind and write as though you were speaking directly to her.”

    Love that.

    Personally, that the most important one and it’s also super easy to forget. Writing like you’re talking at someone is simple. Conversational writing is the challenge.

  9. I like the mind mapping process, it is easier to brainstorm there than in an outline. I feel restricted when I use an outline. I know it is foolish, but I get the feeling that once it is outlined I have to go with it. Logically I know that I wrote the outline and I can change it if I desire. Emotionally, though, I feel that once I have spent the time on the outline I have to stick with it.
    I recently wrote an article about time=money and this is one place where taking the time to map out the articles can bring in more money. Not to mention making the whole writing process easier. Taking a little time to map out the purpose and audience you are writing for can save you time later as you write. I love deadlines. If I do not already have a deadline on a writing project, I create one for myself. Timer apps are very useful for this.

  10. @Lain: Many thanks. I love the idea of keeping to a strict word count for outline sections. I’m totally stealing that idea.

    @Fiona: If working in newspapers taught me one thing, it’s that I need a looming deadline. Finding a great writing environment can also be challenging, so I’m glad the friendly skies work well for you.

    @Paul. Thanks. I teach college students, and one of my constant mantras is that I’ll never yell at them if the first two words of anything they write is a person’s full name. Focusing on a specific person helps force them to be specific and precise. I think the same is true when considering your audience.

  11. Hi Chris,

    I am the type who can sit down and write something from start to finish, but as you mentioned, doing so is not always the right way especially because I tend to get off topic (or write 3 paragraphs that I end up scrapping). So lately, I’ve turned to using outlines as you described. I’ve found that thinking through the entire thing and creating headlines for sections as I brainstorm keeps me on target and produces a better post.

    I’ll have to start adding deadlines. Deadlines give me hives. 🙂


  12. To your “2. Develop Core Message” point. Keep working and reworking your core message until it fits on a cocktail napkin, back of a business card, or as a Twitter post. Brevity increases idea “stickiness.”

    Way back when computer hardware and speed was all the rage, a PC sales guy sold me on a desktop with a capable though less-dynamic CPU. “Less cache means more cash in your pocket,” he said. Ten years later, I still remember it. Now THAT’s a tagline that sticks.

  13. I can see how this would make the writing SO much more organized, easy to read, follow, and respond to.

    In school I wouldn’t have imagined writing a paper without an outline first. It only makes sense that by using your MAP technique, it’ll improve my blogging as well.

    I’m going to save this and really work at applying it.

    Thank you!


  14. Thanks for showing the details. This is good for every field.

    In special education we use a similar process called “Maps” for building person centered planning to try and give people with disabilities better connections to their neighbors and friends. It always stricks me when I see this in business.

    Wonder, Chicken and Egg…what came first?

    • I would just venture a guess that there are about 1000 different uses of MAP as an acronym for different processes. 🙂 It’s such a perfect word to create an acronym around!

  15. @Paul. Ditto.

    And while this is true for each medium, I find this particularly true of blogs.

    Blogs have such a low barrier to entry that is so easy to forget your audience.

  16. I think my writing process is similar. For me, it starts with a topic or a phrase. Then, subtopics and keywords follow. The brainstorming is the easiest part for me. It can even wake me up!

    Then, I make a sketchy outline, so I remember all the ideas I want to include. I’d like to think of my purpose before I start writing; however it doesn’t always present itself until after I’ve found something interesting to get me started: quote, stat, etc.

    I try to get to my main point quickly, so that everything supports it. And, I always give myself deadlines. Although sometimes I find my writing improves when I take a break and come back to it.

  17. It’s interesting to me that many people resist structure because they think it will stifle creativity, but I’ve always found that when I start with structure, I can be much more creative. Structure is really freeing! It’s trying to build something without the tiniest framework or support structure that can be overwhelming.

  18. Excellent! I really appreciate the pre-outline free-form ideas. The idea of a core message that is the nervous system of your piece also stood out for me. I will definitely be applying these ideas. Thanks!

  19. I think of outlining as one of the pre-writing techniques that I can use. I was making an outline when my staff came. And great timing indeed because I just saw an rss update and there you are talking about making outlines.

    Thank you very much.

    Jef Menguin

  20. Great refresher, thanks.

    I’ve always struggled with structure but, even though I have to work harder at it than many, fully recognise that my written and spoken work is the better for it. Ask my wife!

    Cheers for the encouragement.

  21. Billy Wilder said “The audience is fickle. Know where you’re going”. In other words, without structure you’ve got bubkas. But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Because structure is holistic. You can’t structure just part of a screenplay or blog post. They’re like watches. Change one cog and it impacts the whole piece.

  22. Medium, Audience, Purpose — I love this! I hate to say it but I’m a fan of outlines. I like everything organized and structured, although when I recall those days in school when I had to cram, I did a pretty good job WITHOUT an outline! 😛 Now that I’m maintaining a blog, outlines help a lot. They keep me focused, and I love how you can reduce and expand your ideas with the help of a good outline.

    Great post, thanks for the tips!

  23. I’d like to reinforce Lain’s point about giving a wordcound to each section. Get a sub-heading and stick your intended wordcount in brackets next to it. Even if you don’t end up sticking to the wordcount it helps keep you on track.

  24. Sometimes I have trouble coming up with ideas so I sit down and just write. Often you’ll come up with a topic and some good content, but perhaps a bit disorganized. You’ve come up with some excellent ways of organizing your writing to get the real message across to the reader.

  25. BEST advice ever! Even though I write a column for publication regularly, I always look for a way to AVOID doing what I should do: make an outline! Thanks for making it so clear as to both WHY and HOW plus the obvious benefits for taking it to heart.
    Thanks –

  26. I like your combination of right-brain and left-brain techniques. Your focus on a core message is very smart. I’ve always had to start by writing down ideas and even diving in before I can write an ‘outline.’ I find that mind maps help me brainstorm and link ideas together and then I can do a more linear-type outline.

  27. Deadlines are key. They may be step 4 in this, but when it comes to writing, like you said, it’s near impossible to write something from start to finish in one sitting. It helps to break down your writing into sections (hello outlines) and tell yourself you need to have this section written by time A, the next by time B, and so on. If you visual it in steps it makes it much more approachable and sets easier goals. I am a huge advocate for outlines, but I almost thing that step 2. develop a core message, sh/could come first. If you have that central message that you want to continually drive home for your audience, I feel as though you almost need to know it PRIOR TO the outline so you can ensure that it IS in every section (or Roman numeral, as you so nostalgically referred to!). But, whatever the order, those really are four crucial – and helping – steps, and MAP is key, too. Never seen them referred to as MAP, and I like it…catchy!

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