I want to get started writing early, but how do I begin?

After reading through and understanding an assignment prompt, the next challenge you may face is how to begin the writing process. Maybe you have an idea of what you want to say, but do not know how to say it, or perhaps you are unsure of the concepts you want to discuss. Regardless of the challenge you face, there are many approaches that can help you begin crafting your thoughts.

  1. Brainstorming: This approach consists of an open discussion with another person where you work through and even challenge ideas. Discussion with a classmate or friend can help you breakdown the assignment and develop ideas that are foundational for your paper topic. Make sure to converse with someone who will ask good questions in order to expand your ideas, but also someone who will make you feel like getting started on the writing.
  2. Freewriting: Freewriting can be one of the best ways to begin your thought process. It’s hard to keep all the ideas for a paper straight in your head, but much easier to think through them when you write them down and stand back from them. We all also have a tendency to let our “internal editors” make us question our ideas before we’ve even given them a chance. Finally, when we write we think and that helps develop our ideas. For all of these reasons, writing quickly, and without worry about revising, is often a good first step in working on a paper. All you need to do is simply write down the ideas that come to mind and see how those concepts develop. Often, a writer will choose a length of time, such as ten minutes, and write continuously without lifting his/her pen. In doing this, you can begin to write ideas that come to mind and see how your ideas develop through your thought process.
  3. Other Prewriting Strategies: These strategies range from clustering to outlining and present a visual way to connect your ideas. Clustering means listing your ideas all over a piece of paper, sort of like freewriting, but just using important terms. You then can connect ideas by drawing one bubble around the main idea or concept and draw a line to other ideas, which you draw bubbles around as well. This can show you the supporting ideas for the bigger concepts or the connections between concepts. Similarly, outlines are beneficial in displaying a structure for your paper, but they are organized in a different way. Rather than using bubbles to distinguish your ideas, you use Roman Numerals, letters, and numbers to differentiate the supporting details and the bigger concepts. Whichever strategy you choose can enable you to be creative while developing your thoughts.

These approaches as well as other strategies are demonstrated here. While these can be beneficial to the overall development of your ideas, do not forget the benefits that simply come from asking your professor. If you have any confusion or misunderstanding about the prompt, your professor will be the best person to answer your questions and provide you feedback about your initial and ongoing ideas.

What can the Writing Center do to help?

Sometimes people forget that a Writing Center appointment can be very useful even before you’ve written a word on the page. Writing Center consultants can present an unbiased perspective for brainstorming by listening to your ideas, posing questions, and building on your thought processes. If you bring in any prewriting notes, the writing consultants can review your ideas to make sure that you follow the prompt guidelines correctly. Creating an appointment right after an assignment has been posted can provide you the advantage of working through your ideas and beginning your assignment in a sufficient amount of time.