Posted Sept. 10, 2019
Many writers simply launch into a draft right away, with no strategy except to throw out a bunch words onto a blank page and hope it produces a usable document. This makes the effort much harder than it needs to be (there are few things more intimidating to a writer than a blank page), the document less effective than it should be, and the whole process more time-consuming than necessary.
That’s because a haphazard, unprepared approach to writing will entail slower work and often produces an initial document that needs to be completely rewritten rather than just fine-tuned.
But what’s the alternative? Pre-writing.
Before starting the first formal draft, a series of pre-writing exercises can help writers formulate a strategy, figure out the best way to make their points, and begin generating ideas in a coherent way. That way, when they’re ready to start drafting, they’re not working from a blank page. In fact, they already have a good idea of what to say and how to say it. That facilities a faster drafting process and generally necessitates fewer revisions.
Some pre-writing activities include:
Analyze readers. Get inside the reader’s head. Try to understand why the reader is reading, what they need from the document, and what they already know about the subject. For more help, here are critical questions to ask when writing. It’s faster to write if you know what you need to convey to the audience before you start writing.
Mindmap. Mind-mapping can help writers figure out the angle they want to take on a particular topic; it also provides a visual representation of the topics and how they might be addressed, which works well for some writers. Clustering helps authors plan, generate ideas, and it sparks creativity!
Brainstorm. This activity is pure idea generation. In brainstorming, writers simply jot down quick ideas, maybe even little drawings. The idea is to get major points and facts out of the writer’s head, coherent or not. Separating brainstorming from drafting means writers won’t be constantly deleting or erasing passages to re-write them because they’re still trying to figure out what to say. We suggest brainstorming as a group when writing a mutli-authored document, as doing so can save time by ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Freewrite. Freewriting is typically more stream-of-consciousness than formal drafting. Often, it won’t even entirely make sense. The freewriting might produce usable material, or it may be garbage. That’s not the point; its value is in starting to translate raw ideas into words. Freewriting can thus help rev the mental engine. Then, when the writer is ready for the real draft, they’re already primed to say what they need to say, the first time.
Outline. Outlines don’t work for everyone or in all situations – and we don’t recommend starting with outlining – but for complex or multi-part documents (like a lengthy report or multi-section article), an outline can serve as a map to the document. Outlines can make drafting easier because the writer goes in knowing exactly what to say where. The blank page ceases to intimidate or slow down the writer.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.