*One of our awesome professional editors Sharon Gray is taking over the Visual Adjectives blog today and breaking down the first two steps of the writing process. This list is good for all types of writers!*
Whether you know it or not, there’s a process to writing – which many writers follow naturally. If you’re just getting started as a writer, though, or if you always find it a struggle to produce an essay, short story or blog, following the writing process will help.
I’m going to explain what each stage of the writing process involves, and I’ll offer some tips for each section that will help out if you’re still feeling stuck!
Have you ever sat staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank document on your computer screen? You might have skipped the vital first stage of the writing process: prewriting. This covers everything you do before starting your rough draft. As a minimum, prewriting means coming up with an idea!
Ideas and Inspiration
Ideas are all around you. If you want to write but you don’t have any ideas, try:
- Using a writing prompt to get you started.
- Writing about incidents from your daily life, or childhood.
- Keeping a notebook of ideas – jotting down those thoughts that occur throughout the day.
- Creating a vivid character, and then writing about him/her.
Tip: Once you have an idea, you need to expand on it. Don’t make the mistake of jumping straight into your writing – you’ll end up with a badly structured piece.
Building on Your Idea
These are a couple of popular methods you can use to add flesh to the bones of your idea:
- Free writing: Open a new document or start a new page, and write everything that comes into your head about your chosen topic. Don’t stop to edit, even if you make mistakes.
- Brainstorming: Write the idea or topic in the center of your page. Jot down ideas that arise from it – sub-topics or directions you could take with the article.
Once you’ve done one or both of these, you need to select what’s going into your first draft.
Planning and Structure
Some pieces of writing will require more planning than others. Typically, longer pieces and academic papers need a lot of thought at this stage.
First, decide which ideas you’ll use. During your free writing and brainstorming, you’ll have come up with lots of thoughts. Some belong in this piece of writing: others can be kept for another time.
Then, decide how to order those ideas. Try to have a logical progression. Sometimes, your topic will make this easy: in this article, for instance, it made sense to take each step of the writing process in order. For a short story, try the eight-point story arc.
Sit down with your plan beside you, and start your first draft (also known as the rough draft or rough copy). At this stage, don’t think about word-count, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Don’t worry if you’ve gone off-topic, or if some sections of your plan don’t fit too well. Just keep writing!
If you’re a new writer, you might be surprised that professional authors go through multiple drafts before they’re happy with their work. This is a normal part of the writing process – no-one gets it right first time.
Some things that many writers find helpful when working on the first draft include:
- Setting aside at least thirty minutes to concentrate: it’s hard to establish a writing flow if you’re just snatching a few minutes here and there.
- Going somewhere without interruptions: a library or coffee shop can work well, if you don’t have anywhere quiet to write at home.
- Switching off distracting programs: if you write your first draft onto a computer, you might find that turning off your Internet connection does wonders for your concentration levels! You might write several drafts, especially if you’re working on fiction. Your subsequent drafts will probably merge elements of the writing stage and the revising stage.
Tip: Writing requires concentration and energy. If you’re a new writer, don’t try to write for hours without stopping. Instead, give yourself a time limit (like thirty minutes) to really focus – without checking your email!
*Stay tuned for the final three steps of the writing process: Revising, Editing, and Publishing!”*
Photo courtesy of: ddeubel.edublogs.org