by John Hunter, guest blogger
Let me share a technique for initially drafting paragraphs within documents or chapters so the message stays on track. It’s called hidden headers.
During the initial stages of the creative process, make a list of concise headers corresponding to the content and purpose of each paragraph. Shuffle the list until you create a logical connection and progression from one to the next. From here, expand each header into a complete paragraph that fleshes out the point. But the trick is not to delete these headers; rather, hide them when they’re not required.
Apply “Hidden” Style to Create Hidden Headings
How do you do that? Most word processing programs allow you to assign various styles of the components within a document. By simply assigning the “hidden” style, you can make these headers invisible.
Although these hidden headings are useful when a document is initially drafted, there are benefits in maintaining them throughout the editing cycle. Editors sometimes struggle with the logic flow of large documents. If the headers can be viewed on their own, it helps them analyze the author’s intended flow. Then it becomes a matter of verifying that the headers accurately represent the content of the corresponding paragraphs.
Write a Précis of Key Content in Hidden Headings
This piecemeal approach helps the focus of the piece because each paragraph can be written in relative isolation with guidance from the header. In this context, the hidden heading is a précis of the paragraph’s intended point. Because the header summarizes the message, it’s easier for the editor to sharpen the content to that key message.
You can use this technique for individual or shared documents and extend it to an online implementation for a broader audience. The online version clones any document containing the optional headers, which can be switched on or off as required.
To see an example of this in action, go to http://rulesforeternity.com/chapter1.php Be sure to include the undocumented URL parameter so the hidden paragraph headings are visible. http://rulesforeternity.com/chapter1.php?para=show
You’ll find this hidden headings technique helps enormously with flow while keeping the message aligned with your original intent.
John Hunter was raised in Australia where an uncluttered lifestyle provided hands-on exposure to the wonders of nature. At the University of Melbourne, he earned an honors degree in science, qualifying as a particle physicist. But it soon became apparent that nuclear-phobic Australia offered limited career prospects so he completed a second degree in electrical engineering. John worked with Schlumberger as an oil engineer before retiring to Queensland where he established a small electronics business—purely a front to facilitate his desire to invent things. His proudest achievement was inventing the Computaphon, the world´s first electronic phone. He has since gravitated to software development and cosmology, interests that continue to this day.
What techniques help you in the writing process? Share them here.