There is a process to everything we do. When carpenters are ready to frame a house, they’ve already gone through important preparations. When a cook is in the kitchen, she’s already done her homework. Writing is the same as everything else.
Even though great writers might seem to skip a few steps or rearrange the order of steps when they are writing their masterpieces, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t done the preparations. Great writers are just so used to the steps that they’ve probably done a few of them in their heads.
When a writer begins to write a book without an outline, the organization of his book is in his head. I often do that when I know what I’m writing and I just want to get to it. Especially in this day and age where I have a computer and a word processor, the writing process is made so much easier.
Prewriting is the first step in any writing where the writer is trying to come up with ideas for what to write about. A good writer who is already familiar with the writing process might sit down in front of the computer and just start writing. I think of ideas all the time and when I’m ready to write, I’m ready to just roll with it.
But if you need to come up with ideas, there are plenty of ways. Do a little freewriting I wrote about in an earlier piece. Stimulate your brain with news or music. Look through your journals and pull something out that you’re interested in doing.
There is a great strategy that you can use: R.A.F.T. It stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. If you think through these things, you’ll likely have your thoughts together by the time you’re finished. What is the role of your writing or what are you trying to accomplish with it? Audience is who are going to be reading it? Format is whether your writing is going to be an article, an essay, a book or whatever. Finally, you get to the Topic of your writing and you are ready to roll.
Of course, this is where the writing actually happens. But, a good writer might simply get started and work all the way through. Other writers might need to write an outline to organize their writing first. That’s actually not a bad idea.
Getting your thoughts organized helps actually save time. If you know exactly where you are going to go next with your thoughts, you can get there already. Sometimes after I’ve already started and I’ve had all my thoughts organized in my head, I can forget where I’m supposed to go with it. It takes a few minutes or even longer to get back on track. If I had an outline, I would know instantly.
When you are writing, it’s fine to make corrections. I do it all the time. But, there is an actual step in the process where you correct your grammar and spelling errors. I like to correct myself as I’m going so that there are fewer errors later to correct. But, you can simply write and then correct it all later.
There are two steps in the writing process where you make changes. Revision is when you look at your writing and try to make it better. It has nothing to do with spelling and grammar. Although, you might catch a few errors in this step.
Revising takes place after you’ve put your writing up for a few days or even weeks. It’s directly proportionate to the size of the document. If you’ve written an article, you can put it up for a few days and then come back to it. If you’ve written a novel, you should probably put it up for a few weeks at the very least.
When you look through it, read it out loud and rearrange any parts that were awkward to read. Then, look for parts of your writing that need to be more informative. Look for places where you can add descriptors and bring your writing more to life. Then, move on to the next step.
Editing is the step where you correct your grammar mistakes. A computer word processor attempts to make this step easier. When you see red lines under words, you know they are spelled wrong. But, it’s limited. There are words that exist that aren’t in your word processor’s dictionary. Simply go to the Merriam and Webster online dictionary to get ideas of how to spell.
Also, homonyms are technically spelling errors. Homonyms are words that are pronounced the same, but have different meanings. Like the three words they’re, there and their, these are three different words that people get confused from time to time. They won’t come up as spelling errors. So, you have to pay attention to little details like this.
Grammar errors are a little more difficult to find. The green lines in a word processor attempt to help you see your own grammar errors. But, this is limited as well. In fact, sometimes it’s just wrong. It might tell you that you have a fragment when you have a noun and a verb in the sentence. A word processor is also not good at picking out such things as misplaced modifiers, misplaced words that change the entire meaning of a sentence.
“I served hamburgers to the men on paper plates.”
Where the men on paper plates?
I served the men hamburgers on paper plates.”
Now, it makes sense.
The final step is actually getting your work out there. If your project was an assignment, this part is easy. Just give it to your teacher or your boss. If your project was something you came up with yourself, publishing can get a little more difficult. Find the magazine that wants your article or the publisher that wants your book. Finding an agent to help is actually advisable. Sometimes finding an agent is just as difficult as finding a publisher. But once you have one, your days of finding a publisher that fits your work and presenting your material are over. That’s what the agent is supposed to be doing.
The writing process isn’t very difficult and a good writer can move through the steps smoothly without a second thought. Out of habit, we just get better and better. The steps come naturally just like cooking is to a cook. But, a novice should get familiar with the steps and follow through with each one until writing becomes second nature.