“What’s the best piece of writing advice I ever received?”, he writes, posing a question no one has ever asked.
Let me tell you about it…
I was 17. I was in College…
… and I remember my reaction when I heard it…
“Why didn’t someone tell me this before?”
I felt wronged.
You see, while I was always OK at school stuff, I was crap at writing essays.
I’d start off fine, but give me about half an hour, and I’d have crafted an argument so convoluted and confusing that even Agatha Christie couldn’t have written her way out of it.
I’d keep getting lost along the way, throwing in more and more arguments and wandering off into tangents… until the whole thing became a mess.
The written equivalent of this:
… until she told me the secret.
My A level Law teacher was a lady called Miss Pickles.
She must’ve been about sixty years old, with grey hair, and wore the kind of glasses you’d find in Specsavers, on a rack labelled, “Librarian – tame”.
She was also a little bit barmy.
In the middle of class once she yelled, “John Holt… GET OUT!”
To this day, I have no idea why.
… is a district in East London. Miss Pickles would love it there.
Anyway, when she wasn’t randomly asking me to leave the vicinity, she did give pretty helpful advice.
Including what I’m about to give you – a piece of advice that would save me hours of struggle and is probably the main reason I managed to survive University.
“You can find justifications for any argument, so start by writing your conclusion and then work backwards.”
I don’t use the words “game-changer” that often, but that’s exactly what this was for me.
Starting at the end made EVERYTHING easier.
When I sat down to write, I knew the conclusion I was going to come to, so I wrote that first. No more battling with the blank page, waiting for inspiration for me!
Once I’d done the conclusion, I knew exactly what I needed to write in the essay to come to that conclusion.
So I wrote that.
After I’d written the main part of the essay, I knew what I had to introduce at the start of the essay…
… so I did that.
Holy Harvard referencing system Batman! When I started from the conclusion, the essay pretty much wrote itself!
It was a doddle and it took way less time than usual!
I speak to a lot of business owners who struggle writing emails, blogs and social media posts.
“I start off OK, but… it kinda dwindles off and I lose momentum.”, they’ll say.
(Any Brooklyn 99 fans wanna jump in here with “title of your sex tape”? No… OK.)
Start at the end.
When you start at the beginning, you’re facing the scary blank page of doom – looking into an empty void… a world of endless possibilities.
That “endless possibilities” stuff might be OK when talking to your kids about how they can be anything they want in life…
… but when you’re looking to knock out a blog post, it’s pretty bloody scary.
When you start at the end, it’s never like that.
You form a conclusion – a point you want to get across – before you even think about opening up your laptop.
What’s the one point you want to get across to your reader with this piece of writing?
Don’t get a vague idea – come to a clear and decisive conclusion.
“In my email today, I’m going to write about the power of small gains. So many of my tribe think they have to overhaul their life, but what they should be doing is making one small change at a time.”
Get the conclusion clear in your head and THEN sit down to write.
When you do that, you’re never facing the blank page.
As soon as you open up Word, Google Doc or the prison library computer, you can hit the ground running by bashing out your conclusion.
Once you’ve done that, you know what you need to write for the main part of the piece.
After that, it’s just a case of writing the introduction. And since the introduction is mostly telling them what you’re going to tell them (and you already know what you’re going to tell them – because you just flippin’ well wrote it)…
… welcome to Doddle city, baby.
Speaking of things that make your business writing life easier…
… I’ll see you Sunday with TEYCSTW #4.
P.S. Oh, I almost forgot (thank god for “P.S.”s, right?)…
I updated “The Sniper Approach” PDF in the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!! (subscribers only – sorry!).
If you’re looking for a cool, non-sleazy, non-slimy way to get on someone’s radar, you’ll find it useful.
I’d love to know what you think. If you have any questions, or anything is not clear, just ask.