Post-Prompt by Brett Nelson

Posted on February 9th, 2010 by

Starting a paper can often be a daunting task. Many students find that thinking of ideas is fairly straightforward, but transferring those ideas onto paper is more difficult. Here are some strategies that I use to get started on a paper:
-begin brainstorming as soon as you get a prompt. A professor of mine once said that prompts need time to “percolate” inside a student’s mind before effective writing can take place. If possible given time constraints, passive brainstorming for an extended period can help develop smaller ideas into full fleshed theses.
-think of your paper as it relates to class lectures and notes. When a professor is covering course material in class, particularly soon after assigning a paper, the professor usually highlights areas to explore for you. Use this information in planning your paper.
-diagram your ideas. While some might think of this stage as unnecessary, writing ideas down onto paper can never hurt. Whether you’re just beginning to form your ideas and want to remember them, or are writing a final outline, diagrams always make the writing stage proceed more smoothly.
-write in a place free from distractions. While everyone has an approach to writing that works for them, it is always easier to organize your thoughts when focused on your writing. Finding an environment without any distractions can make a huge difference in productivity. When I really need to focus, some of my personal favorites include the top floor of the library and empty classrooms in academic buildings.
-lastly, acknowledging that a first draft can be revised later on can allow a student to write without pressure. This is important to remember not only in reference to the whole draft, but also in forming individual sentences. First drafts should focus on content rather than eloquence. As long as you get your ideas into words, you’ve made progress.
Other strategies for prewriting, along with just about anything else you might want to know about writing, can be found in your copy of The Everyday Writer.


One Comment

  1. Becky Fremo says:

    Hey, thanks, Ryan! I’m glad to see we’re still up and blogging. Woo hoo!