Speed Writing Preparation Methods

Mindmapping, 12:4:2

  • Mind-Mapping
  • 12:4:2 Method

There are as many ways to prepare for writing, and this article will teach you four of the most powerful and effective ways to create a "road map" of where you are going with your writing. Without one, you may have a very swift and effective start, but somewhere along the way you flounder.

When speed is of the essence, there is no room or time for floundering. There is no time to take "side trips" or wandering off on a tangent. To stick to your plan, you must first have one. There are several ways of creating that plan or road map.

You Must Have a Plan

There are many ways to develop a plan. For the purposes of Speedwriting, the first exercise for you to try is Mind-Mapping.


If you have ever attended a brainstorming session, you might have seen a form of mind-mapping where an idea is circled, and the other lines and circles or bubbles are attached to an original idea.

Here is an image of a traditional Mind-Map:

For people who like to think with a pencil in their hand, this is an excellent start. However, more and more people prefer to "think" on the computer, which leads us to a unique method of Mind-mapping. For the purposes of this article, the first things that were put down were the major categories that seemed appropriate for Speedwriting and a general order was chosen as this was done with the FreeMind software. This is a free mind-mapping software available at:


The only disadvantage to this Java platform software is that it takes a while to load every time you want to use it, but it is well worth the wait.

Mind-mapping is an excellent way to get your ideas down on paper, without worrying initially if they are in the proper order.

Here is how you start out:

Give your new Mindmap a name.

As you continue, you attach your ideas in a type of spiderweb around the main idea. Initially, your ideas will move around your central idea in a cloud. This is an excellent start because you don't want to edit your thoughts!

This is very similar to drawing a Mind-Map on a white board, or on a piece of paper and then allowing ideas to expand from the central or core idea.

The beauty of using Free-Mind is that you can go into as much detail as necessary, to as many levels as necessary to ensure that you have all the information that you need for your writing project.

In this way, you never have to worry that you left anything out. The next advantage to using FreeMind is that you can move any of the nodes where you like. So once you are done brainstorming, you can actually create an outline with the same software.

Editing your thoughts, especially in this initial stage of planning a larger project will stifle your creativity and many of your really great ideas will be lost! As an adjunct to mindmapping, you might choose to write a single idea on one 3 x 5 index card. This way, ideas are recorded, but without any type of form or order. As you thumb through those index cards, you will be prompted with ideas that you will add to the appropriate area on your MindMap.

Once your main categories/chapters/lessons are established, then you can add additional ideas (child nodes in FreeMind language) to each major category. Adding more ideas (sibling nodes in FreeMind language) fleshes out the topics that will be handled under each main category.

As you will see in the next illustration, changes were made to improve the flow of information, making it more logical.

When you use mind-mapping, you are not constrained in quite the same way you are when creating an outline.

This is an excellent way to just throw all your ideas down in one place and then arrange and rearrange them until they begin to really make sense to you.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Speed Writing course?

Don't allow any judgment in this exercise. Once all your ideas are down, then you can remove things that are obviously out of place, or belong to a different writing project. Adding ideas to places that appear to be a little "thin" is easier when you mind-map. Or, you can see a correlation between two ideas that seem to "thin" to stand on their own, and when put together, they have the substance and depth necessary. When you outline, you don't have this kind of flexibility.

However, outlining still has its place…once the mind-mapping is done. When you are satisfied with the organization of your material as you do the mind-mapping, you will then move onto a more structured format, which is called the "outline".

Remember, while mind-mapping you may wish to change something. When the various topics were first placed some of them seemed out of order.

12:4:2 Method

This method is very arbitrary, but sometimes it helps people who have no idea where to start and how much to include in the various categories. When planning a book, for example, consider doing it this way:

Establish 12 chapters that cover topics that are broad enough to be called a chapter. For each chapter, establish 4 sub-topics that need to be covered in that chapter.

Then, write two pages for each of those four subtopics for each chapter.

This will net you 12 chapters x 4 subtopics x 2 pages/subtopic = 96 pages.

For many people, this may not seem long enough, however, for the average person, writing 96 pages seems like an unattainable goal. That is why the 12:4:2 method is called "arbitrary".

You can just as easily say 24 chapters, 4 subtopics, 2 pages per subtopic…this will double your output and would be a very nice sized book.

The idea here is to break down that huge, huge task of writing a book, or long article, or 24 page report into something that is so much more manageable.

The only way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time.

The only way to tackle a large and lengthy writing project is one subtopic at a time. It is really much easier to sit down and write two pages on a single topic than it is to sit in front of your computer with a blank page in front of you with the words: "Chapter One" at the top.

The average person will develop the biggest case of writer's block and the project will be avoided until the last possible moment, it will be thrown together, and when you get it back either from an instructor, editor, or dissertation advisor, you know you will deserve all the red marks and criticisms, but you simply didn't know any other way to approach this project.

Break it down!




It doesn't matter how you break it down. Just break it down into manageable bits and then you can write in a non-linear fashion, i.e. write those sections that you know you can write quickly and easily. Once you have some good writing under your belt, you begin to feel the necessary confidence to tackle some of the more difficult writing.

You may find that using a combination of mind-mapping and 12:4:2 is a good compromise for you. You have a set number of chapters or sections and a set number of supports for each chapter or section.

Outlining and Blueprinting for Speed

Outlining and Blueprinting for Speed

  • Basic Outline
  • Basic Outline - Expanded
  • How to Blueprint

Basic Outline

Sometimes it is a relatively simple task to prepare a basic outline. For short writing assignments, it might be enough to do a quick mind-map, and then order the topics into an outline that makes sense.

Remember, a mind-map simply puts ideas down but without any specific order. It is when you view the completed mind-map that you begin to see the relationship between various aspects of the topics that surround your main subject.

Here we will take a basic mind-map for an article on a Mother's Day Tea:

In order to create a road-map from your Mind-mapping exercise, it is now time to put your ideas into some sort of order.

You have all been taught how to outline in school, haven't you. Start with Roman numeral I. which is followed by A., down one more line to 1. down to the next level a. and on and on and on. Microsoft WORD has an automatic outlining system that goes to a depth of 9 levels! This is about six levels too many for most of your writing purposes.

Most writing projects will organize very well if you limit yourself to three levels. The problem with going any deeper is that you suddenly find yourself way off topic. Do your readers really need to know THAT much detail about a trifling point? Probably not.

For your Basic Outline, let's put Mother's Day Tea at the top and then list the main topics underneath, only going down one level in this way:

I. Mother's Day Tea

A. Ways to Celebrate

B. Proper Way to Prepare Tea

C. Savories

D. Gifts

E. Sweets

F. Decorations

G. Types of Tea

This is not the best order for the article, is it? Looking more closely at this outline, we can combine savories and sweets because those are foods. We can combine the types of tea and how to prepare tea…like this:

I. Mother's Day Tea

A. Ways to Celebrate

B. Tea

C. Food/Recipes

D. Gifts

E. Decorations

Now all that remains is to make sure this is a good order.

Would you agree that a discussion on how to celebrate Mother's Day Tea is a good opening? As such, we will leave this in position A.

The next topic, however, might be Decorations rather than a discussion of what type of tea will be served. After all, you need something to serve and drink the tea from, so we will move Decorations to position B.

Now, a discussion of the type of tea to be served and how best to prepare it would be appropriate.

Follow this with Gifts and finish with all the recipes you will use. This is a very good, logical basic outline for your article.

Basic Outline - Expanded

Here is one way you could expand the outline in preparation for writing the article:

I. Mother's Day Tea

A. Ways to Celebrate

B. Decorations

1. Teacups

2. Teapots

3. Tea Cozies

4. Tea Linens

C. Tea

1. Types of Tea to Serve

2. Proper Way to Prepare Tea

D. Gifts


2. Books

3. Sachets

4. Packets of Tea

E. Recipes

1. Sweets

a) Scones

b) Lemon Curd

c) Clotted Cream

d) Raspberry Bars

2. Savories

a) Chicken Salad Croissants

b) Cucumber Sandwiches

c) Watercress Sandwiches

Remember, outline the way you learned in school, but remember to go no deeper than three levels. For example, in the recipe section, under scones (which is the third level) if we were to go down another level we would be talking about flour, and possibly what kind of flour, etc. This is getting pretty far off the topic of a Mother's Day Tea. Stick with three levels and you'll do quite well.

How to Blueprint

Blueprinting is a further expansion of your expanded outline. The idea is that you will take your outline and turn each of the entries into questions. Why do you use questions? Because your brain will immediately go into "problem solving/answering" mode and chances are good you will not be able to keep up with the writing that will result.

What questions should you ask? Start with the basic questions of thejournalist, the 5W's and How:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

This process will turn our Mother's Day Tea Outline into the following Blueprint:

I. Mother's Day Tea

A. What are the different ways you can celebrate Mother's Day?

B. Decorations

1. What decorations should we use?

2. Whose teacups/pots should be used?

3. Why use __________'s linens?

4. Who will remember where ______ came from?

C. Tea

1. What types of tea should we serve?

2. Do we have a type of tea for everyone?

3. What is the proper way to prepare tea? Why?

D. Gifts

1. What type of gifts can be used?

2. Who should receive gifts?

3. When shall the gifts be presented?

4. How will the gifts be presented?

E. Recipes

1. What Sweets should we serve?

a) Scones

b) Lemon Curd

c) Clotted Cream

d) Raspberry Bars

2. What Savories should we serve?

a) Chicken Salad Croissants

b) Cucumber Sandwiches

c) Watercress Sandwiches

Do you see how your response to this "outline" is different? Because you are presented with questions, your brain immediately begins to problem-solve and answer them for you.

This is the purpose of blueprinting. If your article is somewhat argumentative, your questions will prompt your mind to anticipate and answer possible objections or questions your reader may have. This will result in a much more in depth, introspective, and complete article or book.

Once you try the blueprinting process, you'll be amazed at how it changes your perspective of organizing your thoughts before writing.