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 2)
If you generated ideas and selected a manageable one, you still should not go straight into writing. If you do, every time you have a “better idea,” you will find yourself rewriting paragraphs, moving ideas around, and wasting a lot of time.
Wasting time and having to rewrite things can be frustrating. You should first plan how you want to develop your ideas!
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Writing without a plan is like navigating a new city without an itinerary or a map. You will likely get lost and spend your trip trying to re-orient yourself. Letting things happen as you go along can be adventurous if you’re on vacation; however, it does not work very well if you’re writing on a deadline.
Planning Your Writing
You should first consider your topic, purpose, and audience.
How broad or how narrow is your topic?
If you were assigned a specific topic, much has already been decided for you. Other times, your task is to write about a broad topic, subject, or area. Either way, be sure to know both exactly (1) what your topic is,
(2) how broad or narrow it is, and (3) how broad or narrow you want it to be if that is a choice you have.
Your prewriting helped you generate ideas, but you may have ended up with too few or too many ideas. Too few ideas will leave you without enough to write about; too many, and you won’t be able to develop your ideas fully. Make sure you have enough to say about the topic but, at the same time, keep it manageable.
Too little. If you fear you may have too little to write about, use one of the prewriting techniques again but, this time, limit its scope to what you already generated. Expand that idea or ideas.
Too much. If you believe you may have too much to write about, consider limiting its scope to something more manageable. Unless you are writing a long book, you sometimes need to throw out what you think are good ideas, but that is part of the process.
A note for college students
If you are in college, you must follow instructions for written assignments. Understand the length and scope of your assignments before you start working on them so you produce the correct product.
Let’s say your assignment is for a short essay and you turn in a very long paper instead. Although your work may be excellent, ou may be penalized for not turning in the correct product.
What is your purpose?
The purpose or reason for writing is very important because it determines the style of writing, the format, and the mode of writing.
For example, if you are writing to describe something, your writing may be formal or informal, and your paragraphs will be structured so that you create a picture in the reader’s mind.
If you are writing to tell a story, you must consider the sequence of events over time, the characters, the setting, the moral of the story, and so on. If your purpose is to persuade the reader, you need a good logical structure and sufficient, relevant information to support your argument.
What is your audience?
The audience refers to who will read your work. You write for a real audience and an intended audience. The real audience refers to the people you know will read your work. The intended audience refers to the people that might be interested in reading it.
For example, let’s say you are completing a college assignment, and your topic is “the democratic process in the United States.” Your real audience is your professor and perhaps your classmates. Your intended audience is anyone interested in government and politics.
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Why is it important to think of your audience? Knowing your audience helps you decide on how formal and detailed your writing should be. For example,
- If your essay on “the democratic process in the U.S.” targets an academic audience, you must use academic English.
- If young children are your target audience, you must consider how much a young audience can understand complex concepts.
- If your intended audience are experts in the area, there is no need to define keywords or concepts; you can expect the audience to know them.
- If you are writing for a “general audience,” you should define keywords and concepts such an audience might be unfamiliar with.
Video Activity 3
Watch a video to learn about generating ideas and planning. Take good study notes.
Note. This video was part of the previous lesson. The second part of the video has information about planning your writing. If you have already watched it, watch it again as you review your study notes.
Continue the Lesson
Continue the lesson to learn more...