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Overcome Writer’s Block with this Proven Technique #3

Tackling a big writing project, it’s easy to get bogged down and twisted up with details.  This aspect of writer’s block occurs when you struggle to communicate the overarching structure because you are overwhelmed with many details.  It might also occur when you have readers or audience members who require differing levels of detail.  When this happens, follow the failsafe technique of Light, Layered, and Linked.

I discovered the Light, Layered and Linked approach in a book called Writing for the Information Age by Bruce Ross Larson, published in 2002.  These three Ls have been a guiding force in everything I’ve written since.  The three Ls help me to overcome writer’s block by reminding me where I should start.  They also help my writing to be more clear, concise, and compelling.

Here’sthe technique, in Ross-Larson’s words (formatting mine):

  1. Keep your writing light, especially at the beginning, to engage readers, not repel them.
  2. Slice your content into layers of progressive intensity and detail, so that readers skip across the surface and go deeper only when they find what engages them.
  3. Where possible and useful, try to inject links that point your readers to related material that is easy to find.

Here’s how to use the technique:

  1. To prepare your first layer, think overview or summary.  Give the reader a quick aerial view of the material.  Think of this as the Google Maps version where the reader can see the structure and the flow of the terrain.  This first layer contains all the key points and conclusions, but in overview form.  This first layer can be short or long, depending on the document (or speech).  In business and technical reports, this layer is the executive summary.  Target it as such, even if there is no executive involved.   In a technical report, that overview might be between 5-10% of the document.  In an e-mail, the overview might be between 1-2 sentences.
  2. To prepare your second layer, use the material from the first layer as the structure you build upon.  Your points from the first layer may even serve as headers in this second layer.  Don’t worry about repeating from the first layer—some repetition is actually a good way to help the reader follow.  Once your structure is set, add details to “fill out” the meaning.  You might add facts, statistics, details, or examples to help the reader understand or act upon the points in the summary.  Target the level of detail to the majority of your readers.  Think of the first layer as targeted to executives, the second layer as targeted to managers, and the third layer as targeted to technical professionals.
  3. To prepare your third layer, add material that describes the fine detail to those who are interested.  You might insert links into the text or add appendices to the document.  This layer allows you to provide information to those who need it without creating clutter in your second layer.

The Light, Layered, and Linked technique to overcome writer’s block allows you to work in stages, from big picture to fine detail.  This helps you know where to start, and to overcome a main cause of writer’s block in the process.  The approach also helps you to write any piece in a way that’s clear, concise, and compelling.  Give this method a try.  It works!

Posted by Bonnie Budzowski in Business Writing Techniques, Multipurpose Content, Overcome Procrastination and tagged , , , .


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