5 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Single Word

Auriane Alix
Make your writing process much more efficient.
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I used to sit at my desk, choose a subject from my list, and immediately dive into the writing process. I wrote as it came. It didn’t work too badly. But it lacked depth, perspective, and structure.

From now on, I take paper and a pen and I ask myself these 5 questions before writing a single word. Since then, my articles are more often accepted in publications, and I see the difference in my statistics, and what follows.

No need to elaborate on the answers. A few words are enough. The answers are for you alone and are a good way to see if an idea is ripe to be developed in writing or not yet.

Here are 5 questions to focus your creative energy in the most effective direction.

#1: If I had to sum up this article in one sentence, what would it be?

Summarizing an entire text in one sentence gives a precise direction to your work. A common thread.

It forces you to respect one of the most fundamental rules of writing, something I learned in journalism school:

1 idea = 1 article.

If you can’t sum it all up, it’s a warning signal that it’s still a bit messy in your head. You can try to list a few points to make a plan, but if again this doesn’t come naturally it’s a sign that you should let the idea mature a little longer.

#2: What does my experience as a human being add to this?

This one forces you to add personal experience and storytelling to your article. People love stories. It is much more interesting to read the words of a human being who shares one of his stories with us and makes sense of it, rather than someone who spreads common advice.

It makes you think about the “why?”. What happened to you, what did you think about, that makes you want to write this today? The answer might make you add some interesting points to your piece.

For example, I’ve been a writer for 5 years, and I studied journalism for 3 years. My training and my (small) professional experience have enabled me to write hundreds, if not more, of articles. The more you do something, the more you encounter recurring situations and patterns. And problems. Thanks to this, you develop your own techniques. Today, I wanted to share one of them with my fellow writers. Hence this post.

#3: To whom am I writing a letter today?

Choose one person in particular. Someone you know, or someone you invent, with specific characteristics. By writing to a restricted profile, you make your message precise and personalized. And that’s what will make it resonate with your audience.

It is better to have a small audience that feels concerned, rather than a large audience on whose back your words slip.

Besides, you move from writing to yourself to writing to someone else.

#4: What problem of my audience am I trying to solve?

Some of my writing ideas come from problems I encounter in my life, or from thoughts that have raised questions in me. I want to develop them through writing. But I can’t just talk about them. It would go round in circles.

People read to learn, to have fun, or to solve their problems. The aim is therefore to provide, if not a solution, at least some food for thought. Delineating the problem precisely is essential in order to start looking at solutions.

#5: Title & Image — Would I click on this story if it was on my homepage?

No, a title is not everything. But yes, a title is what makes your work read or not. Think of yourself in a library, looking for new books to read. You scroll through the shelves at random. What makes you pick a specific book?

The cover. And the title. If these two elements don’t catch your attention, you’ll never look at the content.

This question puts you in the position of someone who is trying to decide whether or not to read your article. As far as I am concerned, the decision is made in less than 3 seconds. I look at the title, subtitle, and picture. If nothing triggers me, I keep scrolling.

Reading the same headlines with simply inverted keywords bores me. What makes me click on an article is some sort of specificity in the title. Something that arouses my curiosity or that speaks to me personally.

Final thoughts

These 5 questions help me get through the tough process of transforming the raw material of my thinking into words. Writing always feels like a tightrope walker, trying to get from point A to point B without losing momentum or balance.

The answers to these questions, written on a notebook next to my keyboard, act as a kind of safety net and help me stay on the rope and get back on track when the wind knocked me down.

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