Potpourri

You Made your Case

Set timelines for the stages of your work.

There are various stages of writing: developing and gathering ideas; ordering them in an outline; drafting the text; letting the text cool; revising the text; and editing and reediting the final product. If the only deadline you set for yourself is the filing date, you will not give each of these stages the time it deserves. Establish a schedule for completing each stage.

Let’s say it’s Wednesday now, and you have a brief due to be filed next Wednesday afternoon. You have to establish intermediate deadlines, and you must work backward from the filing date to set them. You’ll want a clean, full draft first thing Monday morning so that you’ll have time to show the brief to colleagues, amplify or trim back the ideas here and there, vet the citations, and generally polish the brief. That means you’ll probably want to write the brief Saturday afternoon. (Ideally, the first draft of a brief is written in as few sittings as possible.) That means you’ll want an outline by Saturday at noon (you’re planning to use Sunday as a cooling-off period). And that means that you’ll be preparing your outline in earnest late Sunday morning, from 11 o’clock, say, until noon. And that, in turn, means that you have until 11 a.m. Saturday to master the file, read and analyze the cases, take notes, and ponder the problem.

Hence your intermediate deadlines:

Wednesday through Saturday a.m.: research; take copious notes; brainstorm the questions presented.

Late Saturday morning: prepare an outline consisting of complete sentences (the beginning of your argumentative headings).
Saturday afternoon: sit down to write, blockings out all interruptions as best you can; flesh out the brief using the skeletal headings that you’ve already devised.

Monday: revise, preferably with the help of others; prepare the table of authorities and the table of contents.

Tuesday: polish; verify all citations; edit and re-edit; verify all page references in the tables.

The process we’ve just outlined may sound mechanistic, but it works. You’ll find that you become much more efficient as a writer if you habitually establish similar benchmarks. Of course, the process is collapsible to an hour or expandable to a yearlong writing project. In fact, it pretty well describes the way we’ve written this book.

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