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Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

The Writing Process
(Intermediate, B-Level)

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Enrichment (non-ESL)

Note. This page is part of a course about the writing process. See the table of contents for the complete course.

Stage 1. Think (Step 1)


A common mistake novice writers make is to jump right into a blank page without first thinking about exactly what they want to write about. You may think you can get the job done faster if you just start writing right away, but that actually ends up taking you longer.

You may “get writer’s block,” ramble, find yourself going in circles, and get frustrated.

You may start writing about something and suddenly realize you changed your idea halfway through, so now the first few paragraphs do not make sense anymore.

Do not “jump right in.” Instead, spend some time prewriting, planning, and creating a thesis before you start writing.

Prewriting and Generating Ideas

Prewriting refers to tasks you should complete before you start writing your paragraphs. A number of prewriting techniques can help you explore a broad subject or topic, generate ideas about it, and start gathering and organizing your thoughts. These prewriting techniques can be adapted to generate ideas for any topic, for any purpose, and for any audience.

Each of the prewriting techniques listed below can help you generate ideas. They may be more or less useful depending on the situation.

Prewriting Techniques


In freewriting, simply write whatever comes to mind on a topic for 10-20 minutes, using free association. Then, go over your ideas looking for patterns and highlight ideas you may want to develop further.


Brainstorming is similar to freewriting in that you let one thought flow into the other, but you list ideas. Then you choose the idea you would like to develop into writing.


In clustering, write the subject or topic in a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Branching from that circle, write subtopics, or different aspects of the topic. Choose the “cluster” of ideas you would like to develop in writing.


In questioning, you generate ideas by asking questions about the topic. Answering questions about a topic forces you to think about distinct aspects of the subject. It also helps you figure out what you may need to know about the topic (because you cannot answer your own questions). Then, go over your answers and select the portions that you would like to write about.


In discussing, you simply talk about your topic with other people and take notes. Discussing with others forces you to start thinking about the topic, and you may think of things that you might not think about otherwise. Later, go over the ideas and decide what you want to develop in writing

Your Own Technique

Your own technique is what you ultimately develop as you try the aforementioned techniques over time. You should use the technique that works for you and for a particular task and create your own by combining or adapting techniques.

For example, you may start out by brainstorming and identifying “Topic A.” Then you can use clustering and find subtopics on “Topic A.” Next, you could discuss those ideas with others. As you would when using any of the other techniques, you end up generating and refining your ideas until you decide on a manageable topic that is suitable for your writing task.

Video Activity 2

Watch a video to learn about generating ideas and planning. Take good notes.

Note. The second portion of this video includes information about planning your writing, which you will cover in the next lesson. Take good study notes so you can use them in the next portion.

Video: Generating ideas and planning.

Continue the Lesson

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