This is a trick I like to use for writing fiction, but that also applies to business. I start at the end. The exercise is something like this:

By the end of this piece, the following will have happened: ____ , ____, _____.

The plan is that you start thinking about all the various things you want to include in your piece by looking at the “grocery list” of things you want to see covered. Say it’s a superhero story. I am writing Panda Man #51 and it’s the first story in an arc. I say, “By the end of this piece, Panda Man will have his identity uncovered by Mrs. Jaegerweller, the annoying neighbor with the prosthetic head. We’ll see his peanut allergy rear its ugly head again. He’ll run afoul of the local Immigration Rights group.”

From there, I can throw a skeleton of a plot together, and just be sure that the plot and scene elements find me a place to plug in the above situations. It’s a way to be sure I keep some sense of what I want to accomplish, even if I might not be sure where the story is going.

If you’re not a fiction writer, there are variations on this theme.

If you want to present a new business plan to the board, start with the list of things you want them to remember. The most important things must be punched hard in the presentation, so why not start with them? “This new product line will re-use our current plant and save 40% of project costs.” Things that matter can be guaranteed pride of place by using the grocery list method to be sure you’ve covered them all.

Try it. The next piece you have to write, fiction or otherwise, try putting together a “grocery list” of points you want to cover before you write the final piece. It might even help you redefine the purpose behind writing what you’re choosing to write.

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