In a sense, you begin by deciding on your first word. Although, in practice, most writers begin by deciding on their first sentence.
Then you decide what follows those first few words. And so it continues: one word at a time; one sentence at a time; one decision at a time.
At some stage – hopefully not too far into the process – you decide how much of your subject to include. More importantly, you also decide how much to leave out. And, while there is often an inclination to include everything, if you want your prose to be clear and concise, everything is probably going to be way, way too much. Less is usually more.
But one of the most important decisions comes when you think that you have finished writing whatever it is that you are writing. That is when you have to decide: Have I said what I intended to say? And, in our experience, this is where a lot of writers come unstuck.
Just a few days ago, a client came to us with a nicely crafted piece of prose. It was easy to read, and it had a satisfying ‘heft’ to it. The only problem was that it didn’t actually say what the writer had intended to say.
‘It’s your decision,’ we told the client. ‘But we think that you might want to decide to start again.’