10 Days to a Better Whitepaper – Day 6: Writing the Draft

For the writer facing deadline, there is nothing as intimidating as a blank page (or computer screen) screaming for words. At the same time, that blank page offers a world of potential just waiting to be developed. Now its time to turn this potential into a powerful, compelling finished piece.

At this point in the process, if you’ve properly prepared you should have an approved outline in hand. The outline is the culmination of your research and  prewriting and is actually a first draft. Now it’s just a matter of developing the abbreviated form of the outline. With a solid outline, the paper often writes itself and the process is just a matter of writing it in paragraph form.

Sounds easy enough doesn’t it? No question planning helps but here’s a few tips to keep in mind as you write:

Keep it tight and to the point:
It is amazing how many potentially powerful white papers suffer from verbose, wordy and overcomplicated copy. If you force the reader to dig to find the message, they won’t. No matter how complex, make it easy to read. Cut out the extra words and if it isn’t needed to convey the message, get rid of it.

Short Paragraphs and Subheads
Shorter paragraphs topically grouped by subhead make the paper much easier to read. While it’s true that many will print your white papers, readers will usually skim first, usually on a computer, before making the decision to read further. Keep this in mind as you write the paper. Look for natural breaks and write informative subheads that encourage an in-depth reading.

Target Audience, Target Audience, Target Audience:

If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, you’ve already clearly defined your target audience. What are their hot buttons? How are you going to solve their problems? Are they familiar with the technology at hand or do you need to educate?

Keep them in mind with every word you write. If the paper doesn’t speak to them, they won’t read it. If they won’t read it, the paper will fail.

Keep it Objective:
Good white papers build trust with their readers by providing useful, objective information. If your product truly solves the readers’ problem, you don’t need to skew the information. Show them how.

If the white paper reads like a sales brochure, readers will read it like a sales brochure. Once the reader switches from learning mode to customer mode, the filters drop into place and the white paper will  lose it’s power.

No Time for Humor
While we all enjoy a good laugh, humor just doesn’t fit the white paper format. A serious tone conveys a serious topic. Humor will only distract from the issue at hand and can ultimately result in a loss of credibility.

Revise as Needed
Revision is part of the writing process. Don’t ever become so attached to your writing that you can’t go back and make drastic changes. However, if you’ve used the outline process described in this series, the major revisions should be out of the way.

Once you’ve written your draft, it is also good to put the paper aside for a day or two. It is much easier to identify problems with fresh eyes. The immediate sense of completion can cause an attachment to the writing that can stand in the way of good revision.

This is the sixth post in a 10-post series on creating better white papers. Click here to read day 5.Click here to read Day 4, here to read Day 3, here to read Day 2 and here to read Day 1.

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