Writing is a process. All college students have to write essays; in fact, all future college students should get used to the idea of writing essay after essay. No need to worry. There are students, like myself, who have conquered their writing fears. Iíve found steps to guide me along the writing process, and have used them to develop successful papers, regardless of the subject. But enough fluff. Letís get started!
The Starting Point
A writerís atmosphere determines how productive the project will be, and it can be full of distractions or pure meditation. Problems occur while writing because the writer wasnít able to pay attention, and consequently couldnít focus properly. Often, a writer freezes up and gets Ďwriterís block.í A writer can prevent surrounding oneself with disturbances while writing, and there are remedies to heal the aching wounds of interrupted writers.
The disruptive settings a writer should avoid may appear overwhelming. Everyday, we think about day-to-day events. Subconsciously, we canít escape thinking about errands, deadlines, and time constraints. While writing, these tasks add an unnecessary burden onto a writerís true objectives. A distracted writer will surely produce less than unsatisfactory results compared to a writer that can fully concentrate. Letís say, for example, tonight I decide to sit down and write. But wait, my car insurance is due in three days, and I havenít even wrote a check out yet. I suppose the bill could be paid late. Oh wait, I also need to make a payment on the car before next Tuesday. My solution: write for an hour, go over my bills, and proceed to continue writing later, so I can complete my first draft before bed. Sound familiar? Distractions get the best of everybody.
Other writing distractions include improper sitting techniques, unnecessary noises, and time constraints. Slouching, reclining, laying down, and standing are common ways a person improperly situates oneís body to write. A writer sacrifices concentration for comfort. An extremely relaxed personís thoughts can drift into a dream-like manner, resulting in jumbled sentences endlessly across the page. Also, noise from music, TV, and peopleís voices interrupt the writing process. Noises that occur outside of oneís own mind can break concentration. These noises shut down the mindís receptors for learning new materials, and can agitate a writer, up to the point of despair.
Deadlines and due dates give incentives which lead to less than ideal results. A writer who finishes in a rush will cuts corners and breaks rule, and produce results short of full potential. Time is valuable for a writer. Quality work is created as more time is given to complete a project. Ultimately, as writerís become pre-occupied, they create for themselves high levels of anxiety and stress, all of which can be corrected.
The most satisfactory writing comes through proactive solutions that eliminate distractions. The most intimidating writing assignments can be tacked with a neutral mind, full concentration, and an ability to space out large tasks into smaller tasks. A neutral mind is calm and focused, and this state of mind enables the writer to produce top-notch quality work with precise clarity. The calming effects of neutrality, often through meditation, relieve existing anxieties and direct positive energies with sharp precision; in other words, a writerís negative thoughts are transmitted into positive actions by directing all negative energies into a constructive outlet for writing effectively. Just stick with it. A fully concentrated writer is less likely to allow oneís mind to wander. Staying focused on the task at hand demonstrates the dedication needed to produce effective results without becoming sidetracked. Once a writer can hone in on a project, it becomes much harder to become distracted with pesky, irrelevant tasks, and much easier to create a great piece of writing.
So why wait until the last minute? Create a scheduled agenda and
complete a large project through smaller tasks. This list can be
broken into multiple duties that allow the writer to accomplish bit by
bit to achieve the ultimate goal. If there are two weeks to complete
a project, break the piece into small objectives each day, so by the ending
date, a writer will be have successfully completed an English project
using maximum time management. Completion of an excellent English
project is rewarding, but before a project can be completed, itís only
fair to explain how the essay developed into such a wonderful masterpiece.
Letís begin with prewriting.
Help! I donít know what to write! Prewriting is a road map to help guide the writer where to go next. There isnít one magical prewriting tool because writing is different for everyone, but one can engage actively by placing a writing instrument onto a sheet of paper. Valuable prewriting tools (in no particular order) to help generate ideas are: talking, note taking, freewriting, brainstorming, journal writing, and reading. Talking is the quickest way to relieve writer's anxiety. Regardless if you have a topic or not, expressing your intentions to another person helps relieve built up anxiety, and in more cases than not, generates new topic ideas. These ideas may be the spark to an exciting piece. How rewarding would it be to walk up to a complete stranger and mention how you are considering the creation of an English essay on dogs. Unknowingly, this stranger was the first person to ever breed Labrador Retrievers with Jack Russell Terriers. Not to mention he raced the ĎJackrieversí at the 1996 Doggie Derby World Cup and won third place. Bingo, now you have a topic to write about.
A portable notebook allows a writer to scribble ideas onto paper throughout the day. By scribbling ideas, random thoughts, and experimental sentences into a notepad, a writer can tinker with new ideas. By using the aid of oneís subconscious (when not actually thinking about writing) different light bulbs flash in oneís mind, and with the sudden urge to write the thought down can be a highly unique way of establishing outstanding writing ideas. My construction of this essay was unique. I thought to myself, how informative it would be to write an essay on how to design an essay. I wrote the idea down. Two days later a more specific purpose for my essay came to me: an experimental paper to guide students through essay writing. I juggled my new ideas with old ones. My conclusion was that although high schools give general ideas for college English, only through the eyes of a former college student would upcoming students truly understand the importance of needing proper guidance to get them through a CSUS English class. Presto, I had a purpose.
So here I am 213pm in the afternoon almost 2 hours before class starts and I havenít wrote a rough draft for class today like I was supposed to. Itís supposed to be on any topic I choose, which I havenít even started might I add until today and geez once again itís a race to the finish. No donít get me wrong I know what topic I want to do but like always I procrastinate because I really donít know where to begin. So this afternoon I decided to do some research in the library to figure out where I can take this rough draft. None the less here I am writing about stuff. This is going to be my major project for the semester because Iím going to write about how writing is a process. Blah, blah, blah. I hear it so much it sounds like my own voice. I feel like at the same time Iím learning a bunch of stuff about a bunch of stuff. So it hit me like a tone of bricks this afternoon that Iím taking an advanced English class, but its like Iím at step 9 and somehow I sneaked my way up past step 6 without anyone looking and here I am trying to figure out how Iím going to climb back down without anyone noticing and then creep back up without losing my balance. I wish I knew what I was writing right now. See itís like this I have been missing the nuts and bolts to writing an essay. My freshman English teacher taught the 5 paragraph essay, then my sophomore English teacher told me to forget the 5 paragraph Miss Thistlebottom essay, just write what I want. So Iím stuck in the middle. But Iíll figure it out.
I didnít mean to lose everyone in the previous paragraph, but hopefully
I lost a few people. What you just read was an act of freewriting.
Itís actually a simple process. No matter what, continue to write
or type without stopping. DonĎt give any breaks, pauses, or time
for corrections. Grammar isnít important because a person
is generating ideas through random thoughts. Through vague, unclear
sentences come concrete ideas that have much relevance for future development.
Throughout the fluff one can underline the important ideas. In the
freewriting paragraph I found usage in these lines:
I procrastinate because I really donít know where to begin.
How writing is a process.
I have been missing the nuts and bolts to writing.
Also, brainstorming is a very useful prewriting
technique because it clumps words and phrases together from vague to specific
purposes. Through brainstorming, lists of ideas are formed, which
can then be rearranged to form a flexible framework to organize thoughts.
These lists are formed through sporadic collections of words that, when
switched around, develop groups of words to help establish a solid thesis. If
I wanted to brainstorm on the topic of the moon I would create a list
such as the following.
With this list I organize the words to form the phrase: Aliens live in craters and the only time they are moon walking on the surface is when US spaceships have landed. Have fun and be open to new ideas.
Journal writing is the rarest form of prewriting. While in a relaxed atmosphere (again, a key element for pure concentration) a writer can reduce anxiety by releasing inner thoughts onto paper. Through self expression and true emotions, writerís can often explain themselves without feeling pressured. Searching through previous journal logs may be all it takes to find an exciting topic to write on. Explaining how a writer truly thinks and feels, he or she can unknowingly create crisp, clear writing topics. For example, this past summer I wrote in my journal how I wanted to become a better writer. I saw myself as struggling with developing clear arguments in my school assignments. After speaking with a counselor, she recommended I take an advanced English class. Five months later Iím writing a paper in my English class regarding the steps and techniques for writing quality English paper. Through researched readings Iím able to form a solid paper.
The last step of prewriting is reading, and this process helps better
support ideas. An informed reader better understands the topic of
discussion. Leisure reading often develops a better comprehension
regarding a topic because the writer has gone out of oneís way to gain
a clearer interpretation of the material. A reader that consumed
a vast amount of knowledge on a topic is better equipped to debate oneís
stance on an issue.
A writerís flow of prewriting ideas needs organization. The primary
step is to form main ideas into groups. These main ideas should
give a writer a basic, flexible roadmap to build on. Main ideas
are the skeleton of an essay, and without a solid framework, the entire
piece would fall apart. Iíll use a blank piece of paper and draw
circles around the main ideas; this clarifies my ideas as I fill the page
with supporting details. Additional support is needed to give weight
to any main idea. Under each main idea list as many relevant supporting
ideas to support the main thought. Flexibility is essential because
ideas can be erased, added, and moved. Supporting details are the
carcass of a piece because without the heavy meat an essay would be empty.
Only after ideas are properly organized can the writer can form a thesis
What are you arguing? The thesis statement states the specific point
a writer wants to make about a topic. An ideal thesis statement
is interesting, specific, researchable, and debatable. Typically,
the thesis statement is given at the end of the first paragraph, but a
writer can effectively use a thesis statement in the first sentence, or
even wait until the second paragraph. I once wrote a paper in an
American History class and used an exciting, clear opening sentence
and followed it with my thesis statement. It was very effective
for my purpose.
At this point, a writerís motivation to create a rough draft will be a godsend. Ask yourself, ďWhat is the most important thing I want to say here?Ē The rough draft takes the main and supportive ideas, and puts them onto paper. Paragraphs start with sentences that explain the main idea. Each following sentence adds support to the main ideas that flows smoothly. Supportive sentences should give details to the main idea of the paragraph:
This was an exert from my most recent essay. The main idea of the paragraph is that because these curtains didnít properly open, problems occurred. The supporting sentences give additional support to my main idea, such as the vivid description of beauty queens walking around in complete confusion because the curtains didnít open when expected to. Simple enough.
Finished with your first draft? One of the most common problems
writers have is not putting the rough draft away for a while, so that
when you return, you look at it from a fresh point of view. The
advantage to writing a rough draft, setting it down, and picking it back
up later, is enormous. A rough draft takes time, effort, and brainpower,
so to being able to set the project aside and return with full vigor allows
the writer to review the rough draft harshly. Through revision,
the writer can detect poor organization, unclear main ideas, and irrelevant
Revision finds weaknesses in organization and wording and corrects them. The process makes sure ideas and sentence structure are clearly defined in each paragraph. There should be a logical flow of ideas from one paragraph to the next, and the reader should be able to follow along without getting lost in foggy ideas and words used out of context. Slang terms, irrelevant sentences, and long, drawn out sentences that essentially say nothing (you know what Iím talking about) should be axed.
Itís recommended to have a second reader give an interpretation during the revision process. Another personís understanding of the context may suggest change, and thatís ok. Whatís not fine is having this person do the corrections for the writer. Take any feedback with a grain of salt, and use the ideas according to your own roadmap. In my Advanced Composition class at CSUS we would have peer review workshops to get feedback on our essays. Our professor would suggest an idea for changing an essay, but fully understood that not all feedback is ideal for what the writer intends on doing. And thatís ok.
Revision clarifies a papers effectiveness. The entire piece has to have a good sense of direction, or the paper canít be defended. The process of revision makes sure all the relevant information that gives support to the thesis is available, and that all the lard is cut out. Revise your paper properly, and you and your professor will be more excited to read the essay. And remember to cross your Tís and dot your Iís.
"Beware Miss Thistlebottom,Ē Mr. Hafelmister, my freshman English teacher, chanted all too frequently. Miss Thistelbottom was an imaginary teacher who followed every grammar rule known. The strict laws of syntax rolled off her tongue with acute precision. ďCompound sentences develop independent clauses, and be sure to use semi-colons between two separate thoughts,Ē Mr. H mimicked one afternoon. I cringed. Yet, my teacher had a valid point: donít allow the rules of grammar to block the creative patterns a writer has. Despite Miss Thistlebottomís bland philosophy, there are ways to help a writer edit more effectively.
Correct mechanics and grammar are essential in a well-polished essay. A few of the main editing items to check for are: spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar usage, errors in sentence structure, consistency in verb tense, abbreviations and numbers. But Iím not Miss Thistlebottom.
I like to edit in reverse order. A reader practically memorizes sentences by the time their paper needs editing, so reading the essay backwards, from the last sentence to the first, gives a writer a brand new outlook, and flaws are picked up clearly. Editing in reverse allows the mind to think in a different perspective; rather than looking for a flow of ideas, the mind is programmed to search for grammatical errors.
Another great editing tool is having a peer review. Tutors, teachers, and family members can pick up flaws that the writer may have missed. A second editor puts the essay into another persons perspective, and this allows for a more thorough critique. The last time I had a tutor review my essay, he found flaws in sentences that I considered perfect. What a wake up call. If a writer gives a paper enough time and consideration to edit, a top-notch paper will result.
The Final Glance
Almost done. Still, the paper needs a final review. The best way Iíve found to give a final check is to read the paper aloud. Reading oneís own essay aloud may sound goofy, but it really works. Sometimes a writer detects small errors that sounded good while reading it. So do yourself a favor and read the paper to yourself, to a group of people, or even have someone read the paper back to you. This final step letís a writer know that the paper was finished successfully, so afterwards the student can relax and enjoy the finer things in life, such as quantum physics. Just kidding.