There’s a lot of pressure to get the words right in this business. But there’s not a whole lot of explanation as to what that really means.
Our words start with our ideas. Until we know what it is we’re trying to put into words, we’re really not ready to settle on what the right words are. Admittedly, writers often write to figure out what they want to say. This is called drafting. Drafting can help you get to the right ideas, but it rarely leads you to the right words.
The first draft helps you settle on the right ideas. These ideas have meaning. So, in your second phase, you need to go through your draft, cutting and adding and shaping your text until you have expressed your meaning throughout your draft. But you’re still not done.
Once you know what you want to say and you know that you’ve actually said it, you need to concentrate on who you’re saying it to. This is your audience and audience matters. Imagine, for example, that you’re writing a nonfiction article about obesity. Is that enough information to craft your piece? Of course not! An article written for doctors is going to be very different from an article written for parents, which is going to be different from an article written for a health magazine.
Now, ideally, you’ll have had some idea who you’re writing for back in the idea stage. After all, the ideas you include are going to be shaped by your audience, too. However, once the ideas are down and the meaning is clarified, then you still have to craft the words of your piece to your audience.
If you’re like me, then you probably write to a variety of different audiences, because you write a variety of different kinds of pieces. In that case, you have probably developed a voice and style that is your own no matter what you’re writing, which needs to be adjusted to suit your different audiences. The words you choose need to be adjusted to fit the particular audience of a particular piece.
When you have a firm grasp of your idea, your meaning, and your audience, you can find the right words for that piece. In the meantime, keep drafting and crafting until you’ve discovered what you need.