Understanding the writing process/prepation writing

This page explains a basic process for getting started and how to do preparation writing (brainstorming and freewriting).

Never just sit down and write a whole essay!!!
Why not?
It doesn't work.

OK, it might once... twice if you're lucky... but if you're looking to write a good essay and to receive a good grade you have to get used to the idea that essay writing is a process. You also need to get used to the idea that it is not an easy process.

What does PROCESS mean?
It means that there is a sequence of steps to follow to help you develop and shape your ideas to the point that you can write about them clearly and in a structure that will help show them well and tie them together into a whole answer. An essay, after all, is just a big answer... so we follow the steps to create that big answer. You don't have to have that big answer at the beginning of the process - you just need the question (or assignment). By following the process we find the answer and all the parts of it that we need to show, and what order we need to show those parts in. This process page eventually will lead you to the structure page which will show you how to lay out your answer before you write it as a draft essay.

Preparation writing
When we get a question and try to think about it,often our mind goes blank. It's not necessarily because there's nothing in there - often it's because there's TOO MUCH in there! As we can only think and write about one thought at a time, we need to find a writing technique that helps us empty out our ideas. This technique is called brainstorming. Conversely, sometimes our mind is blank because we really can't think of anything... maybe you need to look at that essay question again (see Interpreting questions/assignments) or, maybe, you need to find a way to loosen up and to let your mind start to flow around and over the topic. This technique is called freewriting and it will actually help you find and generate ideas you never even knew you had. Often what stops us from coming up with ideas and finding out what we think/feel is that we get caught up in our own head where we can only think about one idea at a time and may never discover all the other wonderful ones that we have. Don't worry about organization and correctness. Don't worry about grammar. Don't worry about what anyone else will think; worrying will just get you stuck! Brainstorming and Freewriting are a way of thinking on the paper, but you need to let your ideas flow, and that way everything gets found, nothing gets lost, and you have lots of material to eventually shape your essay from. It's important to also remember that we can't have a lot of ideas unless we start looking for them.

Preparation writing is for you. It will help you to find and make ideas. It is not for presentation for a reader, so it doesn't matter what it looks like! Don't spend any time rereading or proofreading or correcting when you are actually brainstorming or freewriting.We want to find more and more ideas, not judge and change the initial ones. It is important to write EVERYTHING down and not to censor yourself. What might seem like a silly idea now, may turn out to be the seed of your best idea later.

  • Brainstorming
    • How to brainstorm
    • Practicing brainstorming

  • Freewriting
    • How to freewrite
    • What to do with your freewriting afterwards

Interpreting assignments and essay questions
Structure and planning
Writing the first draft