Stuck? Develop A Writing Topic Fast

Angela Booth

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Every writing task goes more swiftly when we've developed a writing process that just WORKS for that particular tasks. I like having checklists that I go through for each task. This means that you can write no matter what, because you've got a clearly defined process. First you do this, next this, next this… until the article, book or Web site is complete done.

The following “develop a topic" technique is useful if you need to write something to order quickly and don’t have a thought in your head. It's also useful if you're bored with whatever you're writing and want to goose up your creativity.

You can use this system to write articles and essays. You can also use it to develop material for business writing, to write anything from a report to a proposal or a manual. You can certainly use it to write fiction as well; it's handy to work out character motivation and plot.

Start with a topic, condensed to one word, for example “oranges". (The fruit. )

Turn on a timer, or look at your watch, and spend ten minutes free-writing about oranges.

(Free-writing: write as quickly as you can, without thinking, and without taking the pen from the paper or your fingers from the keyboard. Don’t go back to reread or to correct typos or grammar. )

At the end of ten minutes, read what you've written, and circle interesting words, sentences and phrases.

Choose one item (word, phrase or sentence) you've circled, and spend another ten minutes free-writing about that.

=> The development stage

At the end of 20 minutes, you've got around four to six pages of material. Most of it's useless, but that's fine. Circle the interesting stuff, and copy it into a fresh sheet of paper. If you're working on your computer, just cut and paste it into a new document.

You'll notice that at this stage, you don’t have a theme, premise, slant or angle. However, you will have enough material so that you can ask some questions. Write down provocative questions.

Now go looking for new material to answer those questions. If you're writing for publication, you may interview primary sources, or do some research. If you're writing about oranges, for example, depending on which publication you were writing for, you could interview orchardists, nutritionists, gene scientists, or horticulturalists.

When you've answered your questions, you'll be able to work out your slant on the material. A slant is an angle. The angle you take depends on the publication. If it's a health magazine, your angle could be: oranges cure cancer, or oranges prevent cancer. (Note: I made these two slants up. Neither one's true as far as I know. )

When you've decided on a slant, you'll need to structure your work to prove the angle you've taken.

Here's an example of ultra-fast structure:

1. Tell them what you're going to tell them;

2. Supply three proofs (examples, anecdotes etc):

3. Tell them what you told them.

Now you're ready to write your article, essay, booklet, brochure or Web site.

The major benefits of using this process to develop a topic are: you have a system to follow, so you don’t waste time, and since you'll create way more material than you need without stress, you eliminate procrastination.

Multi-published author and working copywriter Angela Booth also coaches writers. Contact Angela for one-on-one mentoring at her Web site at

Whether you're a new writer or an experienced pro, Angela can design a mentoring program to make the most of your talent. Copywriting help: if you're a new copywriter, Angela will help you to get your first client; if you're experienced, she'll help you to expand your client base.


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