English - Writing Process
All good writers realize that writing is a process rather than a spontaneous, mysterious activity.
Writing is a craft, and there are steps that are necessary to create:
- a paragraph,
- a paper,
- a book,
- a letter,
- a screenplay,
For most writing projects, you will utilize five distinctly different steps, and they should be considered in this order:
Revising and Editing (Steps 4 and 5) will take care of mistakes. The more you can free yourself to write without anxiety or overloaded expectations, the better, more thorough draft you will generate, which will help you be more successful when revising and editing.
Almost all student writers use the five step writing process, but some do not complete each step in this order. Many back track along the way, repeat certain ones (especially steps 1, 3, and 4), or reverse step 2 and 3, so consider this a guide rather than a set pattern you must follow. Like any piece of writing, you may need to revise the five steps of the writing process in order to make them work for you.
Eventually, just like any process, you will make it your own, creating a process that meets your particular writing needs. For example, you may spend the majority of your time on Step 1 while someone else may spend most of her time on Step 4. Get to know the process by using it regularly until you find what works for you.
When you start any writing project, you should plan to spend a significant amount of time exploring your thoughts on the topic and generating (inventing) ideas. Many students make the mistake of jumping into writing the paper without having clear ideas. If you take the time to thoroughly explore your thoughts and think deeply about the assignment, you will immediately improve your writing.
Ultimately, during step one, inventing, your job is to generate and examine as many ideas as you can in order to choose the best ones for your writing project. You may not use much or any of the writing you generate during step one in your paragraph, but this writing is essential for the process of discovering and developing good ideas.
You need to know that writing and thinking go hand-in-hand, so you will need to be writing to explore what you’re thinking and generate ideas. There are many easy and effective ways to do this:
Free-writing occurs when you just let yourself write what’s on your mind without worrying about grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, or repetition. The idea is to just keep writing for about five minutes without stopping. You will be amazed about the ideas that can float to the surface.
Exploring your thoughts in a group can be helpful and invigorating, giving you confidence and more ideas than you might otherwise generate in a short amount of time. Working collaboratively, you present ideas to a group of your classmates, family, or friends and keep a record of all the ideas without censoring or discounting any of them.
Unlike free-writing, brainstorming is spoken and conducted as a group rather than individually. Each person in the group then keeps the list and can use it as he or she proceeds to the next step of the writing process.
You may have seen old films where a journalist is trying to get the facts for a story. You can use these same journalistic questions to explore your topic. The classic list of questions includes:
For many writing assignments, exploring the “how” and “why” may yield the most information. Asking questions and exploring and finding answers will help you to generate ideas for your writing.
Make a list of everything that comes to mind, and then go back over the list and pick what you feel are the best ideas. Sometimes, you will even find yourself writing another list from one of these ideas.
Clustering is a visual framework for exploring and generating ideas. You simply start by drawing a circle around your topic and then grouping ideas around it with lines leading to new ideas. You then draw lines to more ideas, linking them together in a diagram. See Mind Map
Topic: How should one balance different aspects of his or her life?
Free-write (notice a few typos): Balance means not falling down, maybe juggling things and not dropping them. Choosing what you do, or how to keep things together when you’re busy. I felt like I’m trying to balance work and school and my friends. I wish I had some time to manage. That’s tough. never enough time for the things I want to do just deadlines. my last assignment was in on time but I didn’t do my best. How could I balance my homework and friends and job? What is healthy?
- not falling down
- juggling things
- choosing what to do
- work, school, friends
- good diet
The next step in the writing process is organizing your ideas into a structure that fits the assignment you have been given. There are many ways to organize your ideas, and you will have to find the method that works best for you. However, most students agree that starting with some type of an outline is the way to go.
There are many different types of outline, and outlines can have many sub-points organized by letters and numbers, or outlines can look like a bulleted list. Either way, your outline should provide you with a map of what your desired piece of writing will look like.
Since you will be writing a paragraph at the end of this unit, your outline should have at least the following points:
- Topic sentence
- Supporting Points
- Specific example
- Specific example
- Specific Example
- Specific Example
- Concluding Sentence
Some writers will choose to include more detail in their outlines, and other writers will include less detail. Those who include less detail will spend more time in the drafting stage because they are organizing their writing as they go. It becomes necessary, then, to rewrite because now they have a better sense of what they are writing about after a first draft.
If you jump into drafting, you should construct a “reverse” outline, so you can see the structure of your paragraph or essay more clearly. You simply take what you’ve written and fit it into the structure of an outline. Ultimately, as long as you work with each of the five steps of the writing process, even if you invert steps 2 and 3, you will be more successful with your writing projects.
You will need to consider what organizational pattern will best suit the assignment and the details which you have gathered for it. There are many patterns of organization that include:
- Compare/Contrast: Explore the similarities and differences between two or more ideas, things, events, etc.
- Cause and Effect: Analyze the causes that have led to a particular effect or the effects that have proceeded from a particular cause.
- Division and Classification: Divide a topic into types or parts.
- Process Analysis: Detail the steps to completing a task, cooking a meal, fixing something, etc.
- Illustration: Describe a topic in detail.
These patterns will generate additional information and supporting details. During the next two steps of the writing process, drafting and revising, you will continue to develop and organize your ideas.
After you have explored your topic and organized your ideas, you are ready to write a draft of your paragraph. Many writers begin and end their writing process in this one step, and their grades and success suffer as a result.
Drafting is an important step, but it need not take the long hours and become the stressful activity that some writers fear. With the preparation of Exploring and Organizing (Steps 1 and 2), writing becomes much less stressful and less time consuming. Once you learn about the benefits of Revising and Editing (Steps 4 and 5), you will be even more comfortable during the drafting step.
For drafting, the most important thing is to get down to business. Seize the moment. Take your outline and write.
- Don’t stop to correct every sentence.
- Don’t stop to change direction.
- Don’t fix spelling.
Just write with the outline as a guide.
During the drafting stage, you will begin to shape your writing into what it will eventually look like as a final product.
Therefore, if the assignment is:
- a paragraph, you should draft a complete paragraph before you move on to the next step.
- a multi-paragraph essay, you should complete a draft of all the paragraphs.
However, you need to remember that this is only the third step, so it need not be perfect.
A note about Writer’s Block: To help keep you moving through this step, remember that your draft need not be perfect.
Ideally, after you have generated a full draft, you should set it aside for a day or two. Good writers manage their time carefully and allow for ample time in between each step of the writing process. The time in between steps is useful for your brain by giving it time to process information. Some call this “soak” or “stew” time. Even just a few hours in between steps will help you become more successful.
Once you've written a full draft and let it sit for a day or two, you are ready to revise.
The word revision means to change a text and review, but the root of the word is vision, which means to see.
Therefore, in this step you will attempt to see your paper from a different or new perspective. Most writers find that there are two types of revision:
- and Micro.
Macro means large, so macro-revision means that you are considering your paragraph as a whole, on a large scale. Some people will refer to this as global revision. Many writers find collaboration and sharing helpful during this step.
There are many different methods for revising, but here are a few key ideas and activities that you should always consider during macro-revision.
You can remember these with the acronym QUEST:
- Question whether you have enough information and if it matches the assignment.
- Understand what is working and what isn't. Keep what works and cut what doesn't.
- Explain it to someone else to see if you've missed anything and if it is clear. Getting a different perspective, while it can be scary, is irreplaceable during this stage. You will find that having someone else read your draft, or reading it to someone, will provide you with valuable insights.
- Shift and move information if necessary.
- Title & Topic Sentence are evident, clear, and match what you've written in the paragraph.
It is always helpful to be methodical and to reread your draft several times and note or make changes. If you are working on a computer, you may find it helpful to save a draft and then revise a new document so that you can compare the two versions after you have finished the macro-revision.
Micro means small, so with micro-revision, you are looking at your paragraph on a smaller scale considering your sentences and how they fit together. Some people call this local revision. During the micro-revision step, you will need to look at your sentences and check them for clarity, variety, and effectiveness:
- Clarity: Do the sentences clearly communicate to the reader? Are there any sentences that need additional information or restructuring to be clear?
- Variety: Are the four sentence types used in the paragraph?
- Effectiveness: Do the sentences in the paragraph work together to create a clear and cohesive message to the reader? If not, have you included necessary and appropriate transitional words and phrases?
If your paragraph lacks transitions, use them to help you create a smooth, logical flow of ideas in your paragraph. You will also find that you need to link all the details and sentences together carefully when you are composing a paragraph. Transitions not only provide a smooth shift from one idea to the next, but they will also create logical relationships within your topic. Each of these words or phrases will help you to generate more information and supporting details. In addition, using these words will make your paragraph easier to read.
The final step in the writing process is editing. Some writers call this step proofreading because this is where you are considering the smaller details of your final draft.
You check and correct your:
- and formatting.
This is the final step because doing this earlier will be a waste of your time because you will find that your sentences and content will change, sometimes radically, when you are revising.
Now that the paper is set in terms of content, organization, and sentence style, you can concentrate on rereading again with a close eye on grammar, punctuation, spelling, spacing, formatting, etc.