Each writer has his/her own preferences when drafting a document. Whether a person is writing a story, a poem, a journal entry, a letter, or a creative non-fiction piece, the writing approach is idiosyncratic, meaning that it is distinctive to the person who is writing.
Some are think-write writers. They need to think and think and think some more until they can write their first draft. When they write their first draft, they need a large block of time to get it down on paper. Their first drafts feel like a finished product to the writer because they’ve done most of their prewriting and revising in the thinking process. However, these writers need to remember that the first draft is just that—a first draft. Revision is necessary. See Figure 1.1 for a list of the advantages and disadvantages of being an extreme think-write writer.
Figure 1.1: Advantages and Disadvantages for Think-write Writers
- Once they’ve start writing, they finish the draft easily.
- The first draft can feel like a polished final draft to the writer.
- They usually finish drafts on time or earlier than the deadline.
- They need time to think; they can’t write under command or time pressure.
- Starting the opening paragraph can be difficult because they are still thinking.
- Revising their work is difficult because from their perspective a lot of the revision decisions were made in the thinking process.
Other writers are write-write writers. They write, cut, copy, and reorganize their work as well as throw away and start again—sometimes multiple times. They are constantly prewriting, planning, and revising as they go. They sometimes struggle with finishing a final draft, and they have even been known to delete some of their best work. These writers need to remember to save all drafts, so that the best work is never lost. See Figure 1.2 for a list of advantages and disadvantages of being an extreme write-write writer.
Figure 1.2: Advantages and Disadvantages for the Write-write Writers
- They are willing to try multiple ideas to see what will work best.
- They can easily leave sentence and grammar errors to be edited later in the revision stage.
- They embrace revision as it is part of their drafting process.
- They have a hard time knowing when a draft is finished, and they sometimes over revise.
- They are often writing under pressure–a deadline.
- They are often referred to as the messy writers, and the revision of their work takes a long time.
Most writers are somewhere between these two extreme types of drafters, and that’s the best place to be. See Figure 1.3 which illustrates these two types of drafters. If you are an extreme think-write writer, cultivate some of the traits of the write-write writer, and if you are an extreme write-write writer, try some of the traits of the think-write writer. Attempting both styles of writing will help writers avoid writer’s block.
Figure 1.3: Types of Drafters
The Writing Process
Every piece of writing goes through a process of stages: prewriting (also sometimes called planning), drafting, cooling, revising, and publishing. These steps do not always follow one another in succession. Instead, they are recursive, meaning a step can occur again at any point in the process. For instance, while revising an historically-based short story, a writer may discover he/she needs to do additional research about the time period that the story is set, which takes the writer back to the prewriting stage. See Figure 1.4.
Figure 1.4: The Writing Process
Prewriting writing begins with what draws the writer to write. The writer may be inspired by nature, people, animals, life events, etc.
Some writers keep a writing journal, a record of lists and notes, maybe even drawings or photographs, that initially caught their attention. Writers generally are strong observers who record what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell because it may become part of a story, a poem, a non-fiction essay, a play, etc. Writers may carry a small notebook with them throughout the day and set it on the nightstand next to their bed at night. Then, it is readily available when an idea–an inspiration–grabs their attention.
Writers make several decisions in the prewriting stage as well. They will answer questions like the following:
- What is the topic?
- Who are the readers?
- What genre (type of writing) works best as the vehicle of communication?
- What point of view (perspective) will this piece be told from?
- What kind of research needs to be completed before drafting begins?
Drafting involves writing the first draft of a document. Some writers write their first draft with a pen and a notebook. Other writers write directly on a laptop or computer. The choice depends on the preference of the writer.
A short piece of writing can be drafted in one sitting. The goal is to get everything down on paper before it is lost. If a piece cannot be drafted in one sitting because it is too long, writers generally stop at a place where they know what they will write next. This prevents writer’s block, the inability to write the next day.
When drafting, writers are encouraged to not pay attention to spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. Revising while writing causes writers to lose the original flow of the idea. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. can be addressed in the final revision.
Cooling means setting aside the document, at least 24-48 hours before revising begins for short pieces of work. This allows writers to have a break from the content and a new perspective when entering the revision stage. To do this, writers need to be organized and time managers. The first draft must be done early enough to set it aside for the recommended cooling time.
Authors of books have even longer cooling periods. It may be weeks, months, and sometimes even years, depending on the writer’s preference and the deadline for the publication of the book.
Revising literally means “to see again” not just once but multiple times. Revision has two types of processes:
- To look at the larger problems such as content and organization
- To look at the smaller problems such as sentence structure, word choice, and formatting
Part of revising may include asking others to read drafts and make revision recommendations. Ultimately, it’s always up to the writer whether those revision recommendations will be implemented into the final draft.
Publishing involves submitting final manuscripts to editors of print and online journals and magazines, newspapers, or publishing companies.
Although it’s great to see one’s name in print, not all writers write for publication. Some write their stories, poems, letters, diaries, etc. for the next generations – their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They write to record their personal history.