What’s Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt?

By: Marilyn L. Davis

“A simple word on a blank sheet of paper gathers momentum as I wonder at what it could mean, where it could take place, why, and what if? And then, I write.” ― Tyrean Martinson


What's Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt? marilyn l davis two drops of ink While I may be encouraged by a Martinson quote, I also know that by the time I hit the publish button on this article, 1,999,999 other writers will be doing the same thing. As I’ve said many times, that’s a  lot of competition for readers.

So how can we attract and keep readers? We get and keep readers by creating a better article that combines excellent writing with passion and heart.


Art, Craft, and the Individual Writing Process


Combining art and craft is an individual process, although we all start at a beginning. Then some of us go in ABC order, others, tangentially. You have a method for writing, whether you consciously are aware of it or not. But that’s how we each accomplish the task of a blank page to a finished piece.

Gerard de Marigny distinguishes art and craft, in his opinion. “There’s a difference between the ‘art’ of writing and the ‘craft’ of writing. Art is subjective, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but the craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft.”

Review Your Articles


When you review your last few articles and then retrace your steps in creating each published article, you will see your process.

For instance, some writers see a news article or get an idea, immediately have thoughts and feelings about the topic, and start writing. This is an organic or free-form process; others will create an outline and write their planned articles.

Are you still uncertain about which process works best for you? If you are merely writing to write, it probably doesn’t matter.

If you are writing for exposure or to gain a following, now's the time to consider the statistics on your articles and reflect on which process you used for your most read pieces. Click To Tweet

Reviewing your numbers, you can see:

  1. Which finished article was more satisfying to write
  2. What process – Organic/Free-form or Outline
  3. Why you wrote about a particular topic
  4. What you knew about the subject
  5. How much research you had to do to flesh out your piece
  6. Which articles attracted more readers or positive comments


Analyzing the Outcomes


With this attention to detail,  you can see views for a day and then determine whether you wrote organically or used an outline. You know if you were interested and engaged in the topic and if it was satisfying to write, also.

When you see which finished piece was most useful and satisfying, it helps you define and refine your process or method. Understanding your writing process helps you narrow your focus and produce better creative pieces, whether it is organic free writing or working from an outline. Narrowing down the process helps determine a direction for the next article.


Wait for Inspiration or Plan Your Writing?


What's Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt? marilyn l davis two drops of ink

Many writers claim that they need some inspiration to write, some of us follow a schedule and write a certain number of articles a week or month. I plan my pieces and usually use an outline.

However, I recently wrote two articles after the death of a good friend, where I did not have a plan nor use an outline. I was surprised that the writing was well received as it did not stem from an outline.

What this post taught me was that certain subjects lend themselves to organic writing and others, an outline. Click To Tweet

However, without a review of my writing and analyzing the process, I would not realize this.

If I set aside the emotions and thoughts that I still have about the person and just view the articles objectively, the writing did not suffer because I did not outline. The structure of both pieces was sound.


Processing  Using a KWL Table


“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” While I understand Ernest Hemingway’s quote, I think that I have to do more than pretend.  I have to work on producing an excellent post.

When I am thinking about or inspired by a topic, I know I will do research – whether it’s the “why,” “where,” “who,” or “what if. . .” Or just a quote that reinforces my interest. Another consideration is whether I will write from the perspective of breadth or depth. I will often use a KWL Table, developed by Dona Ogle. It simplifies:

What's Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt? marilyn l davis two drops of ink


When I define the KWL information, I create a detailed outline, maintain my focus, and my articles are better structured. Invariably, I learn much more about the topic with research and in turn, can give readers value-added posts.


Breadth or Depth for the Article?


Deciding if the article is about the breadth or scope of the topic, or isolating individual elements and writing about them in-depth is a decision each writer must make in determining the piece. A writer can choose to give an interesting, informative overview of a topic and write an excellent article, or focus on specific points of the overall theme and give in-depth information and resources for the reader.

A simple way to separate breadth from depth is to think of bullet lists as the breadth and a 1000-word article about one of the bullet points as depth.


Breadth: Equal for All Elements


What's Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt? marilyn l davis two drops of ink


I often write about the craft and structure of writing.  In an overview format, I would simply list the components of an article and a brief description of each, similar to the following with all elements receiving equal coverage in the article.

Each element will have brief descriptions and be informative, but none of the components would receive more emphasis than another.

  1. Title: Predicts content, Promise of information, Stimulates reader curiosity
  2. Introduction: Appealing, Relevant quotes, Attention-grabbing, Sets the tone
  3. Content: Paragraphs of information, Educational How-to, Entertaining, Helpful
  4. Conclusion: Information leads back to the title and elements of content

In an article with breadth,  each component has the same value, and there would not be more emphasis placed on writing about one element over the other.

Article Depth: Highlighting One Element


Writing about the components of a blog or article, I would label all of them, but would focus on one particular element and give readers more information, sources, or descriptors that enlighten them about that individual component, as I have done with ‘Content’ in the image.


What's Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt? marilyn l davis two drops of ink


Breadth or Depth? Both Begin with Craft


Both types of articles serve a purpose. From a writer’s standpoint, though, looking at how saturated the market is with your topic might help you decide whether to write breadth or depth. Regardless though, first comes craft.

Each day, I try to learn a little more about the craft of writing. Some books and writers that have helped me are:

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost 
Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces by Roy Peter Clark
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Doing Grammar by Max Morenberg
Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury


Encouragement from my Muse Board

What's Your Writing Process? Planned Piece or Prompt? marilyn l davis two drops of ink

I would challenge you. If you tend to write from one process, try a different method, either writing spontaneously and organically or writing from a planned outline.

Trying different approaches to your writing will help you improve as a writer. Also, I think that when we progress in our writing, it sets us apart from those other 1,999,999 writers.



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  1. I was surprised to be quoted here.

    I think that quote is from a book of writing prompts I wrote to help writers conquer the blank page when they are stuck. Article planning is a different way of using a professional based prompts for non-fiction articles, whereas my prompts could be used for creative, fiction, non-fiction, and poetic writing. I would hope someone who desires to write non-fiction for specific, professional publications would be looking to those publications for their prompts and article planning.

    Thanks for quoting me – it’s an honor to be featured.

  2. I love that idea of a muse board.
    Thanks for all the tips shared in this post. As usual you are always generous with your advice and information. I always learn something new or come across a term I’ve not heard before (such as KWL).
    Love the Philip Sidney quote!

  3. I love all your ideas on craft. I have used some of them to teach my students. I tend to be an intuitive writer, but there are times when a plan is definitely a better way. 🙂

    • Hi, John. I printed so many helpful posts that I created a Muse Board. It has quotes, posts, and a list of excellent blog sites for writing and addiction. Helps me focus, or they can be motivating. Thanks for using mine!

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