There are no miracles in writing only hard work – Isaac Bashevis Singer,
1978 Nobel Prize in literature (paraphrased)
Writing is a process and the process is a struggle. Here are some tips and tricks to help you succeed.
How to Get Started
- Select a topic that will keep your interest. You have to stay motivated writing about your topic. If you get bored, well….
- Narrow your topic.
- Narrow it again.
- And, narrow it again..really! A sufficiently narrow topic will help you stay focused and maintain control over your narrative.
- Find your thesis – What point do you want to make? Get your most important point down first. As any good journalist will tell you, “Don’t bury the lead.” Then, organize your supporting facts, evidence, examples, and embellishments.
- Know your audience. What can you assume your audience knows about your topic? What does your audience know about you? Be direct about your assumptions and personal bias, as in “I assume you want to write more and I assume you hate writing just as much as I do.” Then, move forward with your topic.
- What is your GOAL and what LEVEL of writing will it take to accomplish your goal?
- Level 1: Fact-Gathering – a recitation of facts, clearly organized
- Level 2: Informational – clarifying the facts, identifying patterns
- Level 3: Analytical & Critical – critiquing the facts, and reducing, reflecting, and reorganizing them for comparison/contrast
- Level 4: Creative & Theoretical – developing something new, embarking on a process of discovery
Organize the Details
- Outline = Optimal Organizational Strategy. There is no way around it, you have to organize your thoughts and outlines help!
- Chronological organization – series of events or steps as they occur over time
- Spatial organization – details ordered logically and follow an obvious pattern (inside to out; top to bottom…)
- General to specific – Main idea followed by specific supporting details
- Specific to general – Details arranged in to a larger pattern, which lead to a final conclusion or main idea
- Coherence – Foremost, be consistent.
- Formality – How are you going to address your audience? First person, second person…
- Cliches – It’s time to face the music, cliches are meaningless.
- Jargon – How technical do you need to get? Again, know your audience.
- More Concrete, Less Abstract – Use descriptive language that appeals to your reader’s five senses. Avoid abstract language as it is less well understood than you expect.
From a rough to final draft
- Time – Give yourself time to write and give yourself more time to revise.
- Reduce self-imposed stress to generate a complete product in one session by setting aside a little time to write each day.
- Revising – Read it out loud. Each paragraph should convey meaning on its own.
- Does each sentence support the main point of the paragraph and does each paragraph support the main thesis?
- Avoid repetition of content and repetition of word use.
- Feedback – never pass up a chance to get feedback. Put your ego aside and ask a critical friend how you can improve your paper. Give your reviewer permission to be critical.
- Editing – You are your worse enemy. Solicit help! Your desire to finish makes you a bad editor.