Friday, May 30, 2014

Thinking about the Process

Timelapse Writing of a Research Paper

Last time I wrote, I blogged about being in process. You should know three things about the writing process if you don't already:

1. The writing process occurs in stages. 

Those stages include all the things you do in preparation to write, all the things you do as you write the lines/sentences, and all the things you do after you've written to tidy up and polish the work.

Earlier Stages                               Middle-ish Stages               Later Stages
Prewriting                                      Drafting                                 Revising/moving sections
Free writing                                   Filling out the outline               Proofreading
Outlining                                       Integrating evidence                Editing
Researching topic/audience            Peer review                            Fact-checking
Peer review                                                                                 Peer review

2. The writing process is not linear, which is to say that it doesn't happen one separate activity at a time. 

It's more cyclical, more messy.

For example, sometimes while I'm attempting to fill out my rough outline, I realize I need to do more research, so I return to that stage. Or, sometimes as I'm integrating evidence, I'll realize that my argument is just not working and needs to be tweaked, so I turn to free writing, prewriting, or outlining again to help me re-organize or re-think my argument.

3. Everyone's process is different. 

Every single writer's process is different. From the tasks that they find most helpful and rely on, to the environment and media they prefer to write in, to the order that they perform the tasks in, to their back-up plan if the regular process does not work--

every. writer's. writing. process. is. different.

Here's what good writers do: every good writer thinks about his/her writing process and makes an effort to figure out what works best. Good writers experiment with different writing activities.

Good writers aren't always the people with the natural talent for writing--more often, they are the people who think about their habits, who are conscious about what works and what doesn't.

Looking back at that last blog entry, I notice that my particular writing process is heavy up front. I spend most of my composing time gathering information and cycling between outlining and researching, as well as prewriting my thesis and topic sentences. I have to do these tasks together to do them efficiently. (This is me thinking about my writing habits.)

Happy writing,

Friday, May 23, 2014

In Process

Hi, all,

Are you working on any summer writing projects? I've got several going, and two of them are essays for a collection about teaching with children's literature. One is focused on teaching with Anna Sewell's 1877 Black Beauty and the other on teaching with Keiron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al.'s 2013-2014 reboot of the Young Avengers.

As I work on these projects, I'm reminded how very important a conscious and reflective writing process is. Without it, I'd be doomed to a terror and shame spiral--it's very easy to get caught up in the pressure and ever-expanding challenges of every major writing task. These essays are not really that long (2500-4000) words, but it's not really the length that determines the amount of fear. Instead, it's the challenge of purpose and audience.

Why am I writing, really?

What is it about this topic that is compelling?

For whom am I writing?

What does the audience know about my topic?

I've gathered all my familiar aids. My favorite way of taking notes, music to get me pumped up about writing after I've taken a break and lost momentum, friends to talk to about my ideas, all that stuff.

Something I learned about recently (from a student who came in for a Writing Center appointment this Spring!) is the information that MS Word stores about how many revisions/edits you've done and how many hours you've worked on a document. Check this out:

I'm only in the note-taking,outlining, and prewriting stage and already I'm on my 95th revision! Neat.

Happy writing,