Writing is a process that involves at least four distinct steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. It is known as a recursive process. While you are revising, you might have to return to the prewriting step to develop and expand your ideas.
Prewriting is nothing more than getting ready to write. No person would leave on vacation without plans as to where to go. No person would start to build a house without plans as to what it will look like. No person would start to cook a meal without an idea of what would be served. Similarly, no person should attempt to write without a plan for what is to be written.
Prewriting is the time to get the brain focused. Since each person is unique, there can be no single method for focusing the brain. Each writer must find what works best (this does not mean what is done easiest.)
Prewriting can include:
- Listing: Just plain making lists of things which are related to the topic.
- Free writing: Just start writing on topic and don't stop (or even pause) until a predetermined period of time has passed.
- Clustering: Start with a central idea and relate words, phrases, or ideas to it. Use this to find a direction for thoughts.
- Percolating: Thinking about your topic. Deeply examining, with the mind, what needs to be said.
- Reading/Researching: Find information about the subject.
- Discussing: Talk to other people, with varying levels of knowledge on the topic, about the piece.
- Other exercises which help to focus our thoughts..
This is actually writing the first draft of the piece. Keep in mind that this is just a first attempt. It is not completed. Consider: The first time you traveled to some far away spot you were able to get there, but the traveling was difficult. You may have gotten lost, or at least confused. The second time you went was probably much better. You were less likely to get lost and the trip was more productive. Each time you went was better than the times before. The same is true of writing.
Think of writing as a trip. Each time you write a draft you are a more knowledgeable person than you were previously and, thus, better prepared to write. Therefore, don't be afraid to cast off an early draft as it was written by a less knowledgeable person than you are at a later writing.
Many students believe that revision is about correcting grammar, spelling and mechanics. While these things are important, revision is primarily concerned with making the ideas clearer. Revision might call for the writer to eliminate sentences, paragraphs or even pages in order to make a piece clearer. Revision might call for a writer to add sentences, paragraphs or even pages.
Some have said that a writer is not really writing until she is revising. This is a reasonable statement. The draft is just an attempt, but revision is the effort to make sense of the writing.
If a final draft strongly resembles the first draft, enough attention has probably not been paid to revision.
Many would say, rightly, that proofing is a facet of revising. Indeed, it is. However, special attention should be given to the need for both items - neither excluding the other. Proofing is the act of making certain that the spelling is correct, the grammar is accurate, and the mechanics is proper.
This is a matter of personal pride. Any writer who has a level of self worth will want his piece to be written with the language demonstrating control.
Publishing goes beyond getting a piece in a magazine or newspaper. Publishing means getting a piece into the hands of any reader. Getting a friend or teacher or parent to read a piece is publishing. By knowing that others will read a piece a writer will work harder to make certain the piece reaches its highest possible potential.