When most people sit down to write something, they typically go through the same fundamental process. With a basic idea in mind, they start with the beginning, penning that first sentence and that first paragraph. Then, they continue with writing the middle, fleshing out that initial idea until they feel like they’ve made the point they wanted to make. Finally, they wrap up the piece of writing with some sort of conclusion.
This writing process is quite common, regardless of the exact time of writing. It could be an email message, a blog post, or an academic essay. You start in the beginning, you work on the middle, and you finish up the end… but is that really the best way to go about things, especially if you want to make a career out of writing? Do you really need to write from beginning to end, in that exact order?
The Argument for Writing in Order
To put it simplest, the main reason why you want to write in order is that it’s the easiest way to do things. You start at the beginning and just start typing. When you’re done, you’re done.
What’s more, we also have to recognize that people are generally going to read in order too. When you write from beginning to end, especially in a single session, you’re more likely to get into a flow. The writing may not feel as disjointed, because the reader is following your train of thought in a singular direction.
The Argument for Following Your Inspiration
The mind does not usually function in a linear fashion either, oftentimes jumping from one idea to the next. In this way, it might make the most sense to follow your inspiration, writing about what comes to mind first. You can later sort through those thoughts and put them in a logical order.
Indeed, the hardest part of writing is getting started. This might be because we are trying to force ourselves to write an introduction to a work where we haven’t really explored the “meat” of the argument yet. That’s why some writers advocate writing the introduction (and deciding on a title) as the last step, rather than the first.
No Right or Wrong Answer
At the end of the day, should you write in order or not? Well, it depends. Under some circumstances, it might make the most sense to go from beginning to middle to end, but in other instances, like writing a review, it might make more sense to set an outline and jump from section to section. For my part, I use a combination of both these strategies, using what works best under the conditions of the project.
Each writer has his or her own way of doing things. For instance, here’s how author Jerry Jenkins writes his books. What about you? When you write a blog post, ebook, academic essay, formal report, cover letter, or any other piece of writing, do you tend to go in order or do you jump from section to section and back again?