The Writing Process

Each year I’ve been in school I feel I’ve become a faster (and better) writer, so my plan for today was to write a comparative book review. I’d finished reading both books and I had plenty of notes I’d taken while reading those books.

I’ve never been one for fancy outlines, brainstorming, or free writing. My usual writing process depends on the type of assignment, but if it’s a short paper then I do the assigned reading and take notes on it. If it’s a long paper, I do research and take notes on it. Then I go over my notes and look for main themes and use that to write my introduction and thesis. Once I have my thesis, I know where I’m going with my paper and the rest follows. For me, a thesis has always been way more helpful than an elaborate outline. Sometimes once I have my thesis I’ll go back and create a very basic outline, but that’s it.

My writing process for this book review, however, got a lot more elaborate than normal. I think this happened for a couple of reasons. First, the differences between the authors are sometimes subtle. Wanting to make sure I don’t get them mixed up, I decided to create a chart of each thing they examined so that I could view their respective takes on it side-by-side. I thought once I did that I would be ready to write my thesis.

I was wrong.

The second reason why my writing process became more elaborate is because my professor included a long list of questions to answer within the paper. Granted, most of the questions are the sorts of things one would address in any comparative book review, but because she specifically asked them, I want to make sure I specifically answer them. So I decided that instead of starting my paper and trying to answer these questions while also trying to fit them into my narrative, I would answer them first, before even beginning the paper. I answered them one-by-one and wound up with 1300 words. The good news is that most of those 1300 words can go directly into the paper. This exercise also helped me to organize in my mind the strengths and weaknesses of each book as well as their differences. Though I still have to write my thesis, doing so should be easier now that I’ve clarified these things in my mind. I will be able to craft a thesis around my answers to these questions, rather than trying to fit my answers into some other narrative.

I had hoped to write the entire paper today and turn it in Tuesday. It’s not due until the week before Thanksgiving, but with my big historiographical essay draft due next week, I wanted to get this one out of the way sooner rather than later. Well, barring some huge flash of inspiration tomorrow, this paper will not be turned in Tuesday. However, tonight’s prewriting exercises mean the paper will be better than it would have otherwise. If I can at least get an introduction and thesis written tomorrow, that will be a major accomplishment and the rest shouldn’t be too difficult to write. I can then focus on the historiographical essay for the next week and then come back to this book review with the hardest part already done.

So now that I’ve elaborated on my writing process, what’s yours? Since writing is kind of what I do, I enjoy finding out how other people approach it.

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2 Responses to The Writing Process

  1. MP says:

    I start with my thesis/theme/main idea.

    I make notes like crazy, writing everything
    down I can think of or find as I research. I like note cards.

    Then I outline. Then I write, following the outline and pulling out a notecard for each part as I go. I add stuff not on the outline, of course, because as I write I think of new things.

    I like to use an outline because it makes starting a big project not seem so daunting. I can work on pieces and not feel overwhelmed.

  2. Katie says:

    I’ve noticed my strategy depends on the assignment as well. Still, I always take notes, leave a lot of bookmarks in the book, and spend a lot of time mulling over the material before actually writing.

    I don’t like to write my paper until I know where it’s going, but I start by writing my intro first. I’ve always been told to start with the body paragraphs, but I feel that the intro is where I practice the general idea of what will be in those body paragraphs. Then I often end up rewriting the intro when I’ve finished the body paragraphs and the conclusion.

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