Often when people have to write something on a piece of paper or a computer screen, they freeze. My students often thought that every word they wrote had to be perfect. NOT SO! They simply didn’t understand what it takes to write well.
Writing is a process that has five steps. Good writers—and writers who want to be good—don’t skip any of them.
Step 1: Prewriting
Prewriting takes different forms for different people. This is when you get your idea and figure out where you want to go with it. Do you want to write a poem or a novel? When William Faulkner wrote The Sound and Fury, he got his idea from seeing a little girl up in a tree. He wondered why she was up there and what she was watching so intently. He wrote a book about what he imagined was going on.
Some people outline, some capture their ideas using different kinds of charts. Other people just sit down and begin writing and let the story go where it will. It doesn’t matter. You goal in the prewriting stage is to think of an interesting idea and develop it in some way so you know what you’re going to write in the drafting stage.
Step 2: Drafting
You have your idea and you know pretty much what you want to do with it. You sit down with that blank sheet of paper and begin writing. Don’t pay attention to spelling or grammar or anything else that will slow you down and cause you to lose your train of thought. Get in the “zone” and let the words spill out. If you did a good job prewriting, they will.
Unfortunately, most beginning writers think they’re finished when they have a rough draft. It is certainly something to be proud of, but it won’t get you an A grade or get you published.
Now the work begins.
Step 3: Revising
Read over your rough draft and look for inconsistencies. Did you explain everything? Do the words and sentences make sense? Does the beginning or the ending need more work? Is it logical? Did you use the right word every time?
Step 4: Editing
Editing adds the polish—hence the name of my website, Prose and Polish. This is when you, your mother, your friends, or perhaps even a professional editor goes over your manuscript looking for grammar errors, misspelled words, and anything else that pops up that might keep the reader from enjoying your work.
Step 5: Publishing
Publishing basically means sharing your work with others in some form. For children, it might mean displaying their work on the walls of a classroom. It might mean sharing what you’ve written with good friends. It also means, of course, self-publishing or being published by a professional publishing house in the hope of reaching millions of readers and making millions of dollars.
Did you notice that “Step 2: Drafting” is the least important part of the writing process? Unfortunately, this is pretty much what all non-writers and most beginning writers think writing is. Writing is a lot of work. It’s the hardest thinking you’ll ever do.