Organizing and Starting Your Writing Project

Organizing and Starting Your Writing Project┬áIf you’ve ever been involved in a writing project that went off the rails after only a few pages, the odds are that the project manager did not spend sufficient time organizing the project before beginning the actual writing. The bigger the project, the more organization and planning it will take up front to ensure success. Even for small projects written by a single individual such as is done with most small business proposals getting organized up front is just as important.

In the organization phase, there are many questions that must be answered. These are all discussed below.

Who is the audience?

Sometimes, as in the case of answering an RFP (Request for Proposal) or applying for a grant from a specific committee, you have a very precise idea of who will read and judge your writing. In other cases, such as writing a report or a proposal for a product or service, you may need to gather information about the audience you will write for. Who are they? What do they already know? What do they need? What do they want to know?

You might need to do some research to get this information. If you are working inside a big organization, question the marketing and customer service departments to find out what they already know. If you’re writing a proposal, it might make sense to talk to the prospective clients or recipients of your proposal so you can be sure you understand their perspective.

What is the objective?

What do you plan to accomplish with the writing project? If you’re writing a business proposal, your goal is usually to pitch products or services to a customer. Project proposals are usually written to get a project approved by your company or client. If you’re writing instructions for users or if you’re working on a public service campaign, your goal is to provide information the readers need. If you’re writing a report, your objective is usually to document the methodology of a research project and explain its results. In any writing project, you always need to keep your objective in mind so that you don’t waste time on tangents that may be distracting and don’t add value.

What are you promising to deliver?

Are you describing a need and explaining how you will fill that need? Are you providing instructions for using a product? Are you describing all the aspects of a proposed business venture and providing statistics to show why it’s a good investment? Are you comparing alternatives so your readers can make the best choice? Make sure you understand all the elements your writing project must include. If you are not familiar with the type of writing project you have been assigned, you may want to start by looking for samples of that sort of document to see what they typically include.

If you are pitching products or services, check competitors’ web sites and marketing information, too, so that you’ll be sure to include all the information they do. If you are responding to an RFP, make sure to read all the instructions carefully to understand what you must provide and the format in which you must deliver it. If you have not been given a list of contents for your writing project, make an outline for your project and get your manager and other team members to sign off on it, and decide whether you need to deliver a printed document, a PDF file, or both.

What resources do you have to work with?

Your organization probably already has existing web site content, brochures, or other advertising or information content. If you’re describing a not-yet-developed product, you most likely have access to a white paper, specifications, or other descriptions. Proposing a new business venture? You should have statistics and financial information. Don’t forget that many of your resources may also be people who have information you need.

What tools or supplies do you need?

For most writing projects, the basic requirements will be a word processing program on your computer, but in some cases you may need more components, such as photos or charts to include. Make sure you have them in hand or know where and when you can get them before starting your project.

You may also want to invest in business packages that can help you with your writing project. A proposal kit is one such type of package you should consider: these kits are specially designed for writing proposals, business plans, reports, as well as other general business documents. A kit contains thousands of templates with extensive examples and instructions to guide you, as well as detailed sample proposals and reports for you to study. All of a pre-made kit’s templates will be visually appealing or you can customize them with your own company logo and design theme. And the templates work with basic word processing software, so using it will speed up your project instead of inserting a big learning curve into your schedule.

What’s the schedule?

If you are responding to an RFP, writing a grant application, or proposing a project to a potential client, you will have a very specific deadline to aim for. Make a schedule for your writing project. If others are providing information or producing parts of your project, assign one person as the project leader, and make sure all participants agree to meet their assigned deadlines well before the final delivery date of the whole project. Be sure to allow time for editors or other team members to review the writing in each section, as well as time to make changes and incorporate new information.

At the high end, large companies have entire teams of people working for months on a proposal for multi-million or billion dollar proposals. Most groups spend days or weeks preparing proposals in small groups. Many small businesses have a single person responsible for writing proposals. Small businesses are also more likely to be the ones who’s schedule is “tomorrow” or over the weekend on short notice. The shorter your schedule the better off you will be starting with a ready-made proposal writing kit and doing it yourself. If your idea is to hire a proposal writer be aware that many professional writers will reject clients who are not already organized or who have very short deadlines.

Don’t forget the delivery stage of the writing project. If you are delivering a printed document or a PDF that must be included in a software package, you may need to schedule time to produce and deliver the final format. Make sure you have people assigned to complete every phase of the writing project.

Now the writing begins…

After you have answered all the questions discussed above and completed any advance research you need to do, you’re ready to sit down at the computer and write. With good organization and a well thought out plan in place, you should be able to efficiently fill in the outline for your proposal , business plan or report or provide all the information required for your RFP or funding application. You’ll look like an expert when you deliver your writing project on time in a thoroughly professional manner.

How to Write an Instruction Manual or Handbook

Have you been assigned the job of creating an instruction manual or employee handbook? Are you wondering how to go about accomplishing this task?

Don’t panic. You probably already know all the information you need to include, or at least you know where to find it. Now all you need to learn is the process and the structure.

To start, write a description of the audience your manual or handbook is intended for. What do they know already? What do they need to learn? What are their goals? What are the goals of the manual or handbook? You may want to discuss this audience description and goals with colleagues or your boss to make sure you’re including everyone and planning to meet the needs of the organization.

Next, make a list of all the topics you need to include. Do these topics need to be in a specific sequence to be understood or learned? In other words, does one section build on information learned in the previous section? Or do topics / procedures need to be grouped by category, such as “Employee Benefits” or “Troubleshooting Procedures”? If so, order your topics accordingly. Then share your outline with others and request their input to make sure you’ve thought of everything. Get approval if needed. This outline will become the basis for the table of contents in your manual. Now you’re ready to get started writing the body of your manual or handbook.

Although you could write in any sequence to fill in your outline, we’ll start at the beginning. First you’ll need a Title Page with a descriptive name, like “How to Use the ZYX Printer” or “Smith Corporation Employee Handbook.” Next should be a copyright page, which should contain the date of printing and information about ownership by the author, company, or publisher. This page sometimes includes disclaimers, such as a statement saying the publisher and author are not responsible for misinformation that might be included or for any information that was left out. If you find you have a lot of disclaimers or a lengthy legal explanation, you should put that on a separate Disclaimers page.

Next will be your Table of Contents, but the odds are that you will need to create and insert that after you have completed writing your manual, so for now, just keep in mind that it belongs here.

The first page you will probably want in the body of your manual is an Introduction, where you’ll explain the purpose and goals of the document. You can also include here any assumptions you are making, such as that all your readers are using a specific operating system or that they are familiar with standard medical devices, for example. If you need to list a lot of Assumptions, include them on a separate page.

Now you’re ready to write the main content of your manual or handbook, with all the procedures or topics your readers need to know. After you’ve written all your topics, you may want to end with a Conclusions or Summary page, and perhaps include an Index to help readers find easily find topics.

Does that sound like too much work? Keep in mind that you don’t need to start off with a blank word processing screen to do all this. Using a pre-designed kit can help tremendously. The templates in a kit can give you a big jump start on creating your manual, and help you at each step along the way. Each template contains suggestions and examples of information to include on that page.

There are more than a thousand topic templates, including templates for all those pages mentioned above in a kit. You can probably find precisely the topic you’re looking for, but if by chance you don’t, a well-designed document building kit contains templates that you can adapt for any purpose. For employee manuals, there are many company-oriented topics like Mission Statement, Organizational Structure, and Ethics, just to name a few. The templates are Word documents, so you can easily adapt them for your use, and you can insert graphics like charts, illustrations, and photos.

Any manual or handbook is likely to be read by a large audience, so you want to be sure that the grammar and spelling are perfect. It’s always best to use a professional editor if you can, but if that’s not in the budget, then enlist someone who is not familiar with your manual’s content to proofread it. Testing is an essential component of finalizing any “how-to” or informational booklet, too. You want to be sure that your instructions are clear, complete, and useful for your intended readers. You might also need to get the approval of your company’s legal department before publication, too–corporate attorneys and personnel departments are often concerned about employment issues, trademarks, and all sorts of consumer information that may cause legal issues in the future.

A business document writing kit is perfect for assembling any kind of Word document. Using the included Wizard software, you simply pick the templates you want and fill them in, and then let the assembly software do the page numbering and create a table of contents for you, as well as take care of the cover page and any appendices. A pre-designed document writing kit handles the layout and design of your manual, so getting started with a kit not only helps you write like a professional, but also makes your finished work look professional, too.

Your final manual or handbook can easily be printed and bound, or transformed into a PDF file to send via email or read on any electronic device. You can even use various tools available on the Internet to translate your masterpiece into an e-book for use with Kindle or other electronic devices.

You’ll find that using a pre-designed document writing kit is great for producing and organizing any kind of document. It’s a powerful addition to your arsenal of office tools.