Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

The Writing Process (B-Level)

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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 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 following prewriting techniques help you generate ideas though they may be used in different situations:

  • Freewriting. 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. 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.
  • Clustering. 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.
  • Questioning. 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.
  • Discussing. 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 above mentioned 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.

    In the end, you generate and refine your ideas until you decide on a final, manageable topic you want to write about.

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