Overcome the fear of a blank document, and start writing by asking yourself 10 question prompts.
In this post, I’ll be sharing 10 Prompts to Start Writing. Not only to get the words moving, but to lay a proper foundation beneath your project.
Improper planning can rob our projects of valuable writing time. Start writing too quickly, and you’ll figure out why it would have been more efficient with a plan.
How can we tackle both together with a creative approach to planning?
These prompts will help you start writing your plan. Not your post. (here is a good article for Draft writing tips)
Each question allows for lots of expansion – and even potential posts to spawn off of this initial one.
Let’s get started.
Jot these Down, and Tweet this Article to Share These Prompts to Help Your Friends Start Writing!
1. What is Your Idea in 4 Bullet Points?
Jot down 4 bullet points about your topic or idea. They can be talking points, arguments, counter arguments, or even jokes you want to make sure you include.
Whatever you have floating around the concept – put it down and forget about full sentences.
Limiting this one to 4 Bullet Points can help it seem less daunting, and narrow your focus.
Full sentences are overrated when writing drafts.
2. Who is Your Idea For? (Be Specific)
Who would your target audience be for this post? Often, they are written for people on the same journey as us – but further behind than us.
In other cases, you may want to focus your post on people facing a specific problem.
This post, for example, is targeted to people who can’t seem to get past line 1 on their document – even with a full idea in their head. In that case, these prompts weren’t going to be idea generators. Instead, they had to be motivators.
It’s not finding a niche for your posts, but instead finding the ideal reader. The more specific you can be, the clearer your writing will be.
If finding specific target audience is difficult right now, just go with your gut. It will get easier the more you write and publish. Bonus points for fully engaging and interacting with your audience when one does arrive.
At first, finding readers means making connections and asking questions. “How Can I Help You?” shouldn’t be reserved for retail jobs.
3. How Will This Post Help Them?
Now that you have found your ideal reader – or at least an idea of one – you can decide how you want to help them.
Are you solving a specific problem? Unveiling new information? Or providing an alternate perspective?
The simplest answer is what I mentioned above – Ask your readers. If you don’t have that option at this stage, use yourself as a case study.
Is there friction in your life that could be simplified? Are there methods you use in your work to make things easier? Share the answers to your own struggles, and you’ll quickly hear the struggles from your audience.
By finding out exactly how you want to help your ideal reader, you design the perfect hook without even trying to write.
4. What Advice Has Your Reader Already Heard?
Now that you found the problem, you have to stand out.
Define your own angle, and try to offer a different perspective. Most readers are looking for answers, advice, or experience. If you offer the same results as every other page, there’s nothing that stands out.
Nothing standing out means nothing gets remembered when they leave the post. When they deal with their problem, you want them to think about your solutions – not the solutions.
Do some simple research. Google your keywords, and related searches. Try to follow your reader’s rabbit hole, and find the advice that’s missing the mark.
Try to offer new advice, while still staying on topic and relatable.
5. What Advice Are They Overlooking?
That’s not to say all repeated advice is bad.
Often times, important advice is overlooked by newcomers in any field. To your target audience, there could be a simple re-framing of common advice that could open a new world of understanding.
Clarify or add nuance to common, generic advice on the topic.
6. How Would a Textbook Describe This?
If your post was an overpriced College textbook, how would the information be conveyed?
Textbooks aren’t designed for entertainment, but they provide dense value and important definitions. By laying out how your post would fit a textbook, you get your most important facts laid out in a hierarchy. And you discover areas that need further defining.
Don’t be afraid to be boring when brainstorming. Boring is clear.
7. What Would the Textbook Leave Out?
Now to add some spice to number 6.
Textbooks often leave out extra information, and focus on their chosen case studies. Sometimes, some bonus facts and swaths of success stories go a long way to show your research.
Textbooks would also be leaving out any sense of personality or jokes. Feel free to go through and add those in this time around. You want the reader to connect with you, so try to make sure they’re authentic.
Get the idea clear, then get creative.
8. What Would Your Post Look Like as a Fictional Story?
This is my favourite one.
Take your post, and embed it in a fictional story. Convey the same arguments and points, but try to make it follow a story-arch.
This exercise allows your mind to stay on your topic, but to loosen up. When writing non-fiction, we can get ourselves locked to rigid standards. Yet, abstract examples are often the most effective at deepening your own understanding.
This is the #1 way I nail down metaphors and clear explanations.
Have fun with your idea. Follow storytelling rules, and create characters to make your points for you.
9. What Would the Readers First & Next Question Be?
Would the reader want to ask a question after the first paragraph? What would they want to ask when they finish the post?
After the first paragraph, your reader will be in 1 of 3 states:
- Hooked into the rest of the post.
- Overwhelmed and leaving.
- Underwhelmed and leaving.
If their hooked, keep it going.
If they’re overwhelmed, you may be dishing out too much information too early. Here’s 2 solutions to that problem:
- Rework the Introduction to guide them gently into the topic.
- Insert some definitions and explainers after the first paragraph, before you go deeper.
Slowing your introduction down is the best option. Focus on your hook, and get the reader strapped in. But for some bigger topics, overwhelmed is inevitable. Make your definitions and explainers stand out – They can be an important “safe zone” for your reader to be reassured.
If your reader is underwhelmed, then there’s a chance you have made your post too personable with too much backstory. Or, you are providing information they have already seen.
Ask questions like a reader. Answer them like a writer.
10. How Can You Help the Info Stick?
Your reader will find your info valuable when they are on your post. But how can we make them remember it when they are back in the world dealing with the problem?
This is where I think Call to Actions (CTAs) are underrated.
Too often, we default our CTAs to generic ones like “Follow”, “Share”, “Turn on Notifications.” Instead, why don’t we use the CTA to get our reader involved.
Tell your reader to send an email to you if they have questions that could help them. Suggest to them to document their fix, and share it in a similar fashion as you. Anything to get them involved, not just supporting.
Let your reader join your team, and tackle the issues together. Not overload them with info, and turn them back to the world.
Your Turn – Go Start Writing
InTakeCreate’s entire goal is to revolve around this philosophy of an engaging CTA. We want to help creators move ahead in their journey and create more. Calling them to subscribe, follow or share is not helpful to them.
Instead, our CTAs are going to take the form of prompts like these. And we want your answers in public!
Use #InTakeCreate on Twitter and create your own 10 Prompts. If we all do this, there will be so many prompts to start writing that no creator in our community will get stuck.