Writing. It’s an age-old process. We learned it in school. We’ve written tons of useless papers in an attempt to perfect it. Some of us are good at it. And some…well, not so good. But that’s ok! Writing usually requires practice. And as with most things, practice makes perfect, right?
So, what is the writing process?
Anytime you sit down to write – whether it’s an essay, short story, novel, or in many cases nowadays, a blog – your process of writing usually follows some sort of guideline. For many experienced writers, this guideline is engrained. They don’t have to think about the process because it comes naturally. But less-experienced writers may need their guidelines written out in front of them in order to keep them on track.
So whether you’re new to this game called “writing” or if you’d just like a short refresher to reorganize your mental files, here’s an easy 7-point guideline to spark your writing spree.
This is a fancy way of saying “everything that happens BEFORE you actually begin writing anything.” Easy enough, right? This mostly entails entertaining your rambling thoughts, browsing your mental stockpile of abandoned knowledge, or summoning inspirational ideations. More simply: you’re brainstorming. You may have a topic that you want to write about, but if you don’t, this is the stage where you think it up. Sometimes this can be the most cumbersome step in the process. If you’ve ever sat down to compose a creative writing piece, and all you managed to think about was the mating habits of elephants (why are you thinking about that?), you’re not alone. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep thinking.
Also included in prewriting is your research. But don’t let the word “research” scare you. You’re not gonna get swatted on the hand by Mrs. Finkelstein for not learning everything there is to know about, well, the mating habits of elephants. You just need to research what you want to write about and find factual information.
After the mental anguish of brainstorming and researching, your next step is to outline your information. This will keep you on track for the duration of your writing. If you find yourself getting sidetracked, just go back to the outline to regroup and refocus. Remember to outline your writing so as to ensure readability. It must flow to keep a reader’s attention.
Here is where you actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and commence your writings. This is also known as the rough draft. During this phase, don’t stress too much about misspellings, grammar, or flow. Just get those ideas down on paper. I’m sure you’ve had those moments when a really good thought pops into your mind, only to be lost when you answer a phone call or your pizza rolls are ready. Even if it doesn’t make sense yet, write it down.
At this point, you have a bunch of sentences written down, which may look like a foreign language to someone other than you. Now is the time when you read through your rough draft and make the changes necessary to make it readable. Cross out, add in, delete, delete, delete….These are all done during the revision step.
Here is where you need to become, or enlist the help of, the grammar police. Any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, punctuation oversights, etc. will all be corrected now. Take your time editing your work. Sometimes one misspelling can destroy a reader’s perception of your credibility. And commas should never be taken for granted! Cuz “Let’s eat, Grandpa!” is one comma away from cannibalism – “Let’s eat Grandpa!”
Tip: Often times it helps to print a hardcopy of your work for editing. Seeing it in black and white vs. scrolling the computer screen may help mistakes jump out atcha.
During this stage is when I like to add character to my writing. Now’s the time to add images or a fancy signature at the bottom. You may want to italicize or bold some words to affect importance. You may also wish to insert your call-to-action or outbound links if this is a business piece. Make it shiny and pretty by “polishing” it.
Alas! You’re finished. Well, almost. But this is the easy part. After your ducks are all in a row, and your work is polished and sparkly, it’s time to publish. This entails submitting to your publisher via email, mail, fax, etc. If you’re blogging, it involves posting it on your site. Whatever your medium, go ahead and get rid of that thang!
Always give ample thought and planning to your writing. A well-thought-out post will always shine over a mish-mash of last minute fluffery. Remember to take into account how long your blog or article should be and who comprises your audience. These will help you breeze through the above steps.
By Lori Isbell
Have any of your own unique rituals or steps? Let us know!