Once a subject and audience are chosen for a writers work, the next step is the first draft. First drafts come only after the collection of enough information to write. In this article, Pre-Writing Setup to Spill on to the Page, we explored the idea of how to choose a subject and getting our words to flow onto the paper, by using journal writing. Once our words begin to flow freely onto the paper, no matter what they are, we have something to work with.
The next step is research for our chosen subject. It is important to know what is going into our work. Beginning writers, as well as seasoned professionals, must ask enough questions and gather enough information to fully understand the subject and the audience they have chosen. Journalists ask who, what, when, where, why and how? They develop every facet of the subject. This process allows the writer to explain it backwards and forwards. This has happened to you, even if you are not aware of it. The reason I know, you have something you have read up on and told your friends until they have ask you to stop talking about it. I can see you smiling now.
Are these the only questions to ask? Absolutely not! Any questions you the writer find important or want to know the answers to, often your readers want the same answers themselves.
Once a writer has gathered information and answers, it may be necessary to explore the connection between each one of them. The technique of clustering or mapping can draw connections between ideas and answers. Clustering or mapping looks similar to computer flow charting. Each idea is written down in the center of the page, and then everything which relates to that idea or answer is written down and lines are drawn to each one. It often looks like spokes on a wagon wheel. It makes connections and associations, visually branching from each idea.
I have used this technique with 3×5 cards, laid out on a table or pinned to a board. It is effective for character development, writing in a series, article writing and brainstorming for new ideas.
Another interesting technique to help focus writing is brainstorming. Brainstorming has been drilled into possibly every high school English student in our history, as an effective way to develop our writing skills. As a beginning writer, I did not know how to effectively utilize this technique. I began by playing a game of sorts, by beginning with one word, writing down everything I came up with, no matter what direction it took me in. In focusing my writing, I was able to easily write down numerous ideas and concepts on my original word.
This exercise leads me to free writing which focuses my writing from my expanded form of brainstorming. I can brainstorm all over, but pick one particular piece to focus on. It all goes back to narrowing subjects and focusing your writing for your audience.
This leads to another interesting technique, my favorite, free writing. Free writing is where the writer turns off the editing voice in their head, allowing all the information gathered to be written. This is where the spilling comes from. Stopping to edit, stifles your writing. Turning off the editor in your head, allows everything to come out. There are two forms of free writing. One involves putting anything on the paper; the other is focused free writing. By focusing free writing, beginning writers are able to get all of their thoughts down on paper, out of their heads and not worry about whether it is good enough for the mental editor. Key is to not stop writing. No matter what, do not listen to the mental editor. No limits are put on sentence structure, length or even subject boundary. When you finish you will have a focused first draft.
Once the first draft is on paper, the next step is editing. The first draft should include ever detail, fact, idea, and reference about the intended subject. In the next article, Editing for Beginners, we will discuss the daunting task of the editing process.
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