Drawing things out

When writing about complex topics, it sometimes helps to diagram things and then describe out loud to yourself what’s going on in the picture. … A signals B. B starts rotating. C slides off of B. D catches C. E sends a signal to F by means of G to alert F that the C is ready for processing. F dispatches an H to collect the C.


Image source: loc.gov/rr/print/swann/artwood/aw-political.html

It doesn’t matter whether you can draw well. Use stick figures, arrows, and simple shapes.

Why is drawing an important writing technique? For one, it ensures that you haven’t missed any steps in the story—that you’re covering the entire process, whether it’s a technology process, a legislative procedure, a business deal, a bureaucratic process, a health-care overhaul, or some other complex scenario.

It also lets you visualize what’s important and what can be left out. (Remember, leaving stuff out is often as important as putting stuff in.) Are there too many steps in your drawing? Are there several steps that can be boiled down to one step? Are there steps that relate more to a business angle rather than the technical angle that you want to cover?

Drawing things out also gives you something tangible that you can then describe in words—as opposed to the cloudier images that you might be trying to create in your head as you embark on the writing process. It’s a reference piece for when you get stumped. (What happens next? What goes where? What sits next to what?)

And be sure to draw while your notes are still fresh. A lot of times a picture you have drawn will not get “cold” and become cryptic after sitting for a few days—whereas handwritten or even typewritten notes might read like cuneiform after a few days.

Copyright © 2013 by L. Scott Tillett, lstillett.wordpress.com. All rights reserved.

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