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!
Revising your work is about making “big picture” changes. You might remove whole sections, rewrite entire paragraphs, and add in information which you’ve realized the reader will need. Everyone needs to revise – even talented writers.
The revision stage is sometimes summed up with the A.R.R.R. (Adding, Rearranging, Removing, Replacing) approach:
What else does the reader need to know? If you haven’t met the required word-count, what areas could you expand on? This is a good point to go back to your prewriting notes – look for ideas which you didn’t use.
Even when you’ve planned your piece, sections may need rearranging. Perhaps as you wrote your essay, you found that the argument would flow better if you reordered your paragraphs. Maybe you’ve written a short story that drags in the middle but packs in too much at the end.
Sometimes, one of your ideas doesn’t work out. Perhaps you’ve gone over the word count, and you need to take out a few paragraphs. Maybe that funny story doesn’t really fit with the rest of your article.
Would more vivid details help bring your piece to life? Do you need to look for stronger examples and quotations to support your argument? If a particular paragraph isn’t working, try rewriting it.
Tip: If you’re not sure what’s working and what isn’t, show your writing to someone else. This might be a writers’ circle, or just a friend who’s good with words. Ask them for feedback. It’s best if you can show your work to several people, so that you can get more than one opinion.
The editing stage is distinct from revision, and needs to be done after revising. Editing involves the close-up view of individual sentences and words. It needs to be done after you’ve made revisions on a big scale: or else you could agonize over a perfect sentence, only to end up cutting that whole paragraph from your piece.
When editing, go through your piece line by line, and make sure that each sentence, phrase and word is as strong as possible. Some things to check for are:
- Have you used the same word too many times in one sentence or paragraph? Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.
- Are any of your sentences hard to understand? Rewrite them to make your thoughts clear.
- Which words could you cut to make a sentence stronger? Words like “just” “quite”, “very”, “really” and “generally” can often be removed.
- Are your sentences grammatically correct? Keep a careful look out for problems like subject-verb agreement and staying consistent in your use of the past, present or future tense.
- Is everything spelt correctly? Don’t trust your spell-checker – it won’t pick up every mistake. Proofread as many times as necessary.
- Have you used punctuation marks correctly? Commas often cause difficulties.
Tip: Print out your work and edit on paper. Many writers find it easier to spot mistakes this way.
The final step of the writing process is publishing. This means different things depending on the piece you’re working on.
Bloggers need to upload, format and post their piece of completed work.
Students need to produce a final copy of their work, in the correct format. This often means adding a bibliography, ensuring that citations are correct, and adding details such as your student reference number.
Journalists need to submit their piece (usually called “copy”) to an editor. Again, there will be a certain format for this.
Fiction writers may be sending their story to a magazine or competition. Check guidelines carefully, and make sure you follow them. If you’ve written a novel, look for an agent who represents your genre. (There are books like Writer’s Market, published each year, which can help you with this.)
Tip: Your piece of writing might never be published. That’s okay – many bestselling authors wrote lots of stories or articles before they got their first piece published. Nothing that you write is wasted, because it all contributes to your growth as a writer.
Photo courtesy of: ddeubel.edublogs.org