This blog post is part of our March DEEP DIVE on Writing & Storytelling Sponsored by IDEAS Orlando, which is the first unit in our DEEP DIVE: Learn, Create, Win! Presented by Your Southern Ford Dealers. This is a free 6-month program focusing on content creation because 2018 is the Year of the Creator!
Organizing Your Thoughts
Once you've decided on your topic, you now have the task of developing the details into an organized post that effectively communicates your message. You may have discovered the secret to world peace, but if you cannot adequately communicate through your words what that secret is, it does no good! So organizing your thoughts, providing details, and walking your reader through your message in a sensible way is key.
Identify Your Reader
One of the most important tasks for you, the writer, is to make sure you are writing for your audience. Are your readers looking for a long-form blog post? Or would it be more effective to do a bulleted list? Do you need to be straight with just the facts, or do you need to weave a compelling story that whisks them away on your writing journey?
Decide Post Style: Expository or Narrative
Once you know what your audience will respond to best, you move on to determining the post style which dictates the organization. Bloggers often use two main types of writing:
Expository: This style is straightforward detailing of facts. You will need to organize your key message and supporting ideas in a sequential or sensible manner. Use of first person point of view (referring to yourself as "I" and "me" and "our") is generally not used in expository writing. Expository writing is frequently used in newspapers or informational magazines.
Narrative: This style is used in storytelling where you are relating your opinion or experiences. First person point of view is often used in this style of writing. Narrative writing is what is used in fictional writing such as novels and short stories or anecdotal writing.
Organize Your Expository Writing
You will need to organize your thoughts, facts, arguments, or ideas in a sensible manner. Here are the five most common types of organization writers use:
This style is particularly conducive when telling a story or relaying events chronologically. It walks the reader through the story from beginning to end. Click the graphic organizer to enlarge:
This arrangement is a perfect fit when describing a physical location, such as a travel blogger might do. You treat the reader as if they are standing with you and describe what is physically seen or located around you. Click the graphic organizer to enlarge:
When trying to convince your reader to a particular point of view, start by stating your main point and then following up with supportive details. You can also set the reader up with the details to lead to your main point. Similarly, do you want to move from your most to your least important point, or vice versa? Click the graphic organizer to enlarge:
In comparison writing, there are two basic organizational patterns. One is to focus on the separate items, describing each item in its entirety before comparing and contrasting. A second pattern is to make the comparisons as you go throughout the post. You will need to decide which is best for your reader. Click the graphic organizer to enlarge:
5. Cause and Effect:
This style of writing allows you to make connections between an event and what caused it. You can begin with a general statement (either the cause or the effect) and then support that statement with details that lead to or represent the other. Click the graphic organizer to enlarge:
Organize Your Narrative Writing
Depending on the information you are trying to get across to your reader, you generally will use anecdotal stories. What does this mean? It means that while you are telling a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, it is not necessarily a completely long, involved, and overly detailed story that has main and supporting characters, a protagonist and antagonist, etc. Instead, you are telling more of a "mini story" or retelling a moment or incident in a storytelling manner. Oftentimes these mini stories or moments are used in conjunction with expository writing. You hook your reader with the emotionally-charged anecdote, but then convey your information through the expository writing.
According to writing coach Jeanine Anderson Robinson, the most effective way to write an anecdotal story is by using the following guidelines:
- Start at the peak of the drama or excitement or conflict. Jump right in! (You will just back up and explain it later.)
- Set the scene: Describe what you see, what you hear, what you feel (both literally and figuratively), what you smell and taste, if relevant. These are called sensory details.
- Use the 5 Ws—Who was involved? What happened. Where did it happen? When did it happen? Why did it happen? ( “H”: How did it happen?)
- Paint a picture with your words, or even better, describe a snippet of video. Zoom in on the action.
- Usually the “action” in your anecdote takes place in a matter of a few minutes.
- Throw in a line or two of dialogue to add drama or move the action forward.
- Use “concrete details.” Be specific! Instead of saying, “The dog ran up to me.” Say, “the neighbor’s bull terrier, Brutus, charged me…”
- In general, use short sentences or mix up the short and long.
- Don’t worry about the background or explaining the larger context of the moment. You can back up and explain that in the next paragraph.
- Borrow techniques you find in fiction writing: concrete details, dialogue, proper nouns, descriptive language, emotion, strong characters, etc.
- Use simple language (avoid SAT vocab. words). Write with nouns and action verbs. Go easy on the adjectives.
- If your mini-story (anecdote) takes three paragraphs to relate, try to go back and see if you can cut it down to two or even one paragraph by keeping only what you need to re-create the moment. You will be surprised how you can shorten them, and actually make them better!
Click the graphic organizer to enlarge:
Feel free to copy and use any of the graphic organizers as a guide to organize your writing. Remember, you can tailor each to your specific blog post.
Next time we'll be talking about finding your author's voice as well as setting the tone of your writing. Smart? Sassy? Motherly? Edgy? And what about when you are writing for a brand? How do you write for another person or organization? We'll be giving tips and advice to help you put your best word forward!