October 13, 2004

Writing handbook 1

Setting and Mood
Try to remember the last time you felt good about writing a paper or completing a homework assignment. Where were you and what was the scenario?
Do you work best in the library? Hunched over in a private nook behind the stacks? At a big table with other human faces? Do you prefer coffee shops? The desk in your own room?
Do you need water? soda? a sandwich? When you’re hungry, it is impossible to work.

What goes on the paper first?
Make Lists. Jot down all the things that you think you will want to mention in the memo. For example, statistics, names of companies, names of other reports—anything that seems "essential" information.
Start to Brainstorm. What is the main point I am trying to make? What are the concerns that I am addressing? What are the solutions that I am proposing? What is the new information that I am conveying? Write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t worry about organization. Don’t worry about clarity, grammar, spelling, or anything else except the raw materials of ideas that are floating around in your head.
Freewriting. Just start to write. After reading the assignment for the second time, start to write out your initial responses and ideas.
After you have down some freewriting and brainstorming, you might want to refer back to the assignment. Make sure to read it carefully.

Getting Down to Business
The pre-writing process saves you from that awful predicament of staring at a blank piece of paper.
Now that you have some material in front of you, you might to go through it and circle what you think is valuable. Did you come up with any good insights? Are you getting any ideas about organization strategies?
The most important things to think about are the main arguments that you are going to make and the order that they are going to be in. After you figure out this initial blueprint and start to write, you can begin to think about things like diction, style, and mechanics.
Begin to write out a draft as soon as possible. The trick is to write before you think that you are ready to do so.


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