Inspiration is needed before writing any kind of paper, report, or article. Getting inspiration, or an idea, for a topic can come from a wide variety of sources: Television shows, or movies, books, or newspapers, personal experiences, or those of someone else's, special interests, and many others. I generally prefer to write about experiences I have gone through. Writing about something I know or have experienced gives me insight to the depth of my subject and can add a personal touch to the paper. I also ask myself what would interest the audience my paper is being written for. For example, a three year old is not going to want to read about or even understand something written about biology, and an adult may not be interested in Big Bird or Elmo. Keeping the audience mind is important, but it is equally important not to limit the possibilities of a topic. As adults may not be interested in a story about Big Bird and Elmo, they might be interested in reading about why the characters are important for kids to have as role models and how kids can learn from such characters.
Prewriting is a technique used to get the writing process going. There are many ways to start writing. Free writing is a technique used to get the creative thinking started. Take a few, timed minutes and begin to write whatever comes to mind and don't stop writing until the time is up. I find this technique helpful not only to start the creativity, but to help decide if my topic is going to give me enough material needed for my paper. If I find myself stumbling to come up with ideas about my topic while free writing, I might want to consider a different topic. Clustering is when a group of ideas or related subjects on a topic are grouped together to form a type of webbed map of the different areas that can be chosen for a paper. I never cared for this technique, simply because it ends up being messy and confusing to me. Although, I have talked to people who it really works for them. Visualization is a great way to see my paper in my mind before I write it out and picture the order I want the information in.
To get my prewriting into an actual paper or story format, I need a rough draft. The rough draft will give me a working copy of my paper to make revisions on later. There are two important rules that should be followed when doing a rough draft in order to make it easier when it comes time to revise and edit: number all pages to keep them in order and make sure to double space to give room to make changes as needed. During the rough draft process, I will be able to decide on the order and what subjects I want to incorporate with my topic.
The final draft is still in the working process. When writing the final draft, I go through my rough draft and decide if any parts or ideas need to be eliminated. I need to also make sure that all ideas work together to form my paper. Since this is still a draft, I am allowed to still make mistakes in this step. I find a comfortable, quiet spot in my oversized, plush chair. Other people may find it more progressive in an office type chair in front of their computer or elsewhere. I curl up with my laptop and start to type and I don't stop to revise or edit, that step comes later. Glancing at my rough draft to make sure I am still on the same path, I am also making sure my paper is making sense and will be clear to my audience.
Once done with the final draft, the revision step needs to be completed. Revising isn't necessarily for the grammar or punctuation, but for the overall view and ideas of the paper. In this step, I will be able to decided on any changes I may want to make in order for my paper to be more clear and interesting to the reader. It also helps to read the paper from a different point of view. Does it make sense? Does it flow together? Is there enough material to capture the audience? These are questions to keep in mind while revising a paper.
I remember in my junior high school English class, my teacher taught me four steps to follow for revising; Add any information needed, rearrange the material in a manner that is easily followed, remove any unneeded bits of information, and finally to replace words or phrases which will make it more clear and powerful to the reader. Those four steps have stuck in my mind and I have found them useful in the many types of writing I have done over the years. Reading the paper out loud can be very beneficial to make sure the paper flows together without stumbling.
Using descriptive words can give the reader a sense of being part of the story. Vivid descriptions should be used throughout the paper to sort of paint a mental picture of the story. A thesaurus is a great tool to use for finding replacement words and make the statement more detailed.
The introduction should grasp the readers' attention and keep them in suspense to the rest of the story to make them want to continue to read the paper. The conclusion should close the story and tie into the beginning in order to make the story memorable for the reader . The same tense should be used throughout the story, whether it's past or present and in third person or first person.
Another form of revising that is most often used in the classroom setting is peer editing. Peer editing is when a small group of people read their paper out loud twice. The first time is to give the others an idea of the overall story. The second reading is for the others to write down any likes, dislikes, or questions they have while the paper is being read. Once done reading the story the second time, each person discusses their comments. The author then can take those comments into consideration when doing the final copy of the story. I have mixed feelings on this process only because I have not had the opportunity to be in a group that was serious about the process. In order for peer editing to be beneficial one must be open minded and able to take criticism as a positive tool in order to become a better and more powerful writer.
Editing is when the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are corrected. This is also when the sentence structure and word usage needs to be edited if needed. Make sure each sentence has a subject and predicate. Use commas and periods where appropriate but be careful not to overuse punctuation. Have someone else go through the story as others may be able to catch something that might have been overlooked. Read each sentence by itself to make sure it makes sense on its own. I once heard, but haven't personally tried yet, to read the paper backwards sentence by sentence because it's not so tempting to read ahead and gives a chance to concentrate on that one sentence at a time.
Finally it's time for the final copy. Usually this will need to be typed in Times New Roman font, size 12, for most papers. Depending on what the paper is for and what the specifications are, the line spacing will normally be either single or double spaced. Pay close attention to the revisions and edits done in the earlier techniques so the same mistakes won't be repeated. A title page will need to be done for most papers. The title page will consist of the title, author name, date, and if the paper is for school, it will also include class and teacher name. Each page, except the title page, should be numbered. Once these steps are completed, the paper will be ready for its audience to enjoy.
Writing is a way to put thoughts and memories down on paper to cherish forever. It's not something to be feared, but something to be enjoyed. Even though the techniques and steps discussed can seem overwhelming, each is fairly simple. Start writing something familiar and keep it short, gradually build on it, and the techniques will come naturally. I believe the most important thing in writing is to let the creativity and imagination flow, and the success of writing will follow.