American writer, Mark Jenkins (The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival and the Soul of Adventure) says: “Maps are essential. Planning a journey without a map is like building a house without drawings.”
Writing is like a journey. Whether it’s for academic purposes, business reasons or for writing your bestseller, you need a map – otherwise you could end with something you may not have wanted when you started. Visualising that end, in the form of a draft map, can mean the difference between a good piece of writing and one that’s not so good!
Here are five visualisation techniques that not only make your draft look better, but will also help your audience receive your “message” as you intended to deliver it.
1. Brainstorm First
Some writers start with a blank page (or screen!), and build their drafts as they go along. As ideas pop into their minds, they articulate them in their writings; refining those thoughts through successive revisions until they have the final product completed.
Many professional writers, however, tend to first brainstorm and visualise a draft of what the final product should look like, and then work to flesh out that draft. The Berkeley University’s Student Learning Centre calls this ‘Prewriting‘ – which is defined as “preliminary work that precedes…” actual writing.
There are many brainstorming techniques that can be used to create a map of your draft, including:
- Freewriting: Writing for a set period of time about one specific thought/idea. Usually, grammar, punctuation and formatting aren’t considered – just the thought that counts!
- Listing and Bulleting: Drawing up a list or bullet points about your thoughts/ideas, and identify questions or areas of importance each thought/idea must address
- Idea Clustering: Writing key phrases or words about your topic, and using lines to connect those words
2. Avoid Information Overload
Drafts that are “easily digestible” can have greater positive impact on the cause for which they are prepared, compared to information-intensive pieces of finely researched content. The best way to make drafts look better is to minimise data overload.
For example a blog site about Gates and Fences, like the one below is bound to give visitors and viewers “information overload”
With so many thoughts, links, and ideas raining down on you simultaneously, it’s hard for readers to focus on the message being delivered.
Now compare a blog in the same category, Gates and Fences, but with a much different approach:
Tools such as WordPress are great when producing articles and blogs that are appealing to readers. You can even leverage graphic design tools like Canva to generate powerful infographics and images to make your drafts more inviting.
3. Paint A Picture
Regardless of what the subject of your draft is about, its ultimate objective is to communicate with your audience, and here are some facts about that audience:
- Over 50% of their brain is dedicated directly or indirectly to their vision (eyes)
- Their brains can interpret images seen by their eyes in just 13 milliseconds!
- Nearly 70% of all sensory receptors in their bodies are found in their eyes
The use of infographics, images, videos and pictures can significantly enhance a draft, while also serving to ease communication barriers. Take, for instance, an article listing ideas that creative writers can use to break their “creative block”. One way to prepare your draft could be to list each idea as a separate bullet-point. However, a much better way to captivate and bedazzle your readers would be to creatively use infographics, such as the one below, to present the same ideas that your bullet points were meant to convey.
Given that over 50% of our brain works to visualise images such as the one above, the article will make a much better impact on your readers using infographics and pictures. Specialised tools like Vizualize.Me can help you produce powerful infographics that will make your drafts stand out.
4. Polish It Off
While a lot of research and effort may go into producing that draft, all your efforts could easily come to vain if the draft is fraught with errors, omissions, typos and other undesirable elements. To make your draft impactful, you need to have some solid editing and proof-reading strategies in place.
While you may enlist the assistance of friends, family members and colleagues to help with giving your draft a once-over; there are professional services, like Proof-Reading.Com and Scribendi, that may be able to assist you polish your draft to give it that final touch.
5. Visualisation Hindsight
The final product may not always reflect the draft that you visualised. Depending on how you feel about the final version, satisfied or unsatisfied, that may or may not be a great feeling. However, it is always advisable to learn from your draft visualisation efforts.
- Go back and compare successive drafts to the final version
- Highlight key differences between each iteration of the draft
- Understand why those changes evolved, and what impact they have on the final product
Doing a retrospective review of drafts will help you fine tune your draft visualisation strategy, which will ultimately strengthen your writing abilities.
General information visualisation principles
The examples used above were illustrative of how information visualisation works in any given context – not just in the corporate world. For example, the Gates and Fences blog could represent any other application or situation where information needs to be visualised and presented.
- Plan your draft carefully
- Present your ideas without overloading your audience
- Help readers to better visualise the information using pictures, infographics and charts
- Review, revise and refine your drafts
The underlined point is that the “situation” doesn’t matter – it’s the principles, techniques and application that are universal.
A map to successful drafts
For a writer, nothing can be more demoralising than not receiving the enthusiastic acclaim they hoped for. For business writers, the impact can mean loss of revenue and customer desertion.
If you want your reports, research papers, presentations and other documents to achieve their desired objective, then you need to start mapping and visualising your drafts before you start preparing them. It’ll not only help you save time and effort, but it will also result in creating a better end product too!
by Bailey Belmont. Bailey is a professional writer, blogger and learning geek. She is here to share her thoughts and ideas on how to use writing to expand our personal and professional frontiers. Keep updated with Bailey via Facebook and Twitter and her blog.