I promised to follow up my last blog post on searching for relevant grants with a post on how to write a killer proposal. Well, here we are, at my next blog post, but also in another world. One with far more questions than answers–not just about writing, but about basic life and the shape of the future. I have had too much time during shelter in place to think how useless, or even callous it would be for me to carry on as planned. Will there even be grants for writers in the future? Shouldn’t I write a post about how to navigate the now, rather than the not so certain future?
I am not a navel-gazing sort, and my only advice on how to get through the current day-to-day is simply do your best, forgive yourself often and fully, and give yourself permission to pursue what you love and want to do as often as you can. And that last piece of advice is what convinced me to carry on as planned. Because ‘permission’ to do what you love is often linked to having the financial means to do so. Perhaps it’s naïve, but I believe that when we reach the other side of this transformation there will still be opportunities worth pursuing that will require proposals and applications. Perhaps not necessarily just for writing fiction. Perhaps for getting a job. Perhaps for landing a contract. Perhaps for applying for school or education.
Whatever future we are reeling towards, knowing how to describe what you want to do convincingly, concisely, and purposely is useful. Even if you only do it as an exercise to clarify your own understanding of your goals. So here is a strategy for writing an awesome proposal, for whatever you want to pursue.
How to Write a Killer Proposal
At different points in my career some very smart, successful people (including scientists, humanities scholars, writers, and even fitness gurus) have given me advice about how to craft a good project proposal. Despite their drastically different career paths, their advice was surprisingly consistent and could essentially be boiled down to one cardinal rule and four basic pieces of information.
The Cardinal Rule: clarity of language is of more value than trying to write to impress, whether with style, wit, language, name-dropping or jargon. (Although if you can be clear and witty at the same time, then by all means do so.) A good proposal is not about how much you say, but about how well formulated what you say is.
The Four Basic Elements of a Good Proposal. Simply tell them:
- What you propose to do.
- Why it is important.
- Why you are the ‘only’ or ‘best’ person to do it.
- What you need to get it done.