Starting an essay can be challenging for everybody. When it comes to writing we all have the same problem: where to start? Even when you have clear ideas with lots of material on it you still struggle and have no idea on how to put them on a paper. It’s every writer’s dilemma and it’s perfectly normal. Believe it or not, there was a lot of planning behind this article too. It doesn’t matter if you’re a junior, a senior, or even an experienced writer you’ll still start with a blank computer screen. You may even know everything about drafting and editing, and we all know writing and editing go hand in hand, but your main issue right now is how to get to that first draft and what comes in between your blank page and a final paper that will contain your elaborate thoughts in a coherent and nicely articulated essay.
The answer? The best and most successful essays always start with some good planning and prewriting techniques. So keep reading if you are interested in finding out what is prewriting and what techniques are going to be best for you.
Prewriting definition itself is very simple. It is a term that describes all that work that you do before the actual paper writing. And if you think that it basically means to look up some ideas and write it down, you are definitely wrong because it is not completely true… Prewriting doesn’t necessarily include writing. As a matter of fact, it could be just focusing on something you’d like to write about.
Also, before we start, I would like to remind you that there are hundreds of different techniques out there and what might work for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. And only when you find what really works for you, will make your paper successful. Now that we have it clear, let’s explain some writing strategies and different prewriting techniques.
As I said before, there are many different writing techniques that will help you start pretty much everything that includes writing in it. My advice is to pick one and try it out, and if you are not sure about it then pick another and another and another. Once you’ve tried some of them, you will compare and see which one works best for you and suits your writing style.
Here are my personal favorites:
Brainstorming is my absolute favorite. It will help you figure out all the associations and ideas that come to your mind when thinking about a specific topic. Writing them down will make it easier to keep track of your thoughts. Since it’s just a preliminary step it doesn’t have to be formal. In fact, very often, brainstorming looks more like a list, rather than a logical piece of writing. When using this technique, allow yourself to simply follow your thoughts without connecting and articulating your ideas. By doing so, you might come up with an very interesting theme to discuss in your paper.
Freewriting definition is very similar to brainstorming, the main idea is to write down all your thoughts about a specific topic. Yet, if brainstorming will often look like a list of ideas, freewriting is usually shaped in a more formal way. However, it doesn’t mean you have to worry about grammar or punctuation, it simply requires to follow the flow of your thoughts without censuring your ideas. Take in consideration every single idea. Even if you think it’s inappropriate, give it a try, eventually you can always discard it and keep only the best ones.
3. Clustering and Mindmapping.
Just like brainstorming and freewriting, these two techniques allow you to take inventory of your thoughts. The main difference is that both, clustering and mindmapping, focus on a central word that usually represents an important theme or a motif. Using these techniques will help you visualize the ideas in your head, So, if you are an extremely visual person these techniques might be very useful. A lot of diagrams of clustering that you find online embodies the main word in a circle with all the associations connected by lines. Likewise, there are very extensive and elaborate examples of mindmapping you can find online. Remember to be creative, but not at the expense of your ideas.
I consider it the best and most useful approach to get started, especially if you have no idea of what you’re doing. The first step is to write down all the questions that seem to be fit with your argument. These questions should be clear and legitimate. The more questions you have the better your paper will be. Once you have your questions, you are forced to answer them. This technique will get out a lot of ideas and thoughts you have that will possibly be a perfect start for your paper. Besides, a lot of awesome essay topics start with a question so this technique will also allow you to have a perfect framework tor your assignment.
This technique is an on- going process. It completely differs from the ones mentioned above. While brainstorming, freewriting and others can wait until you get your assignment and mostly think about how and where to start, journaling is best throughout the whole writing process. The main idea behind this technique is to write down whatever affects you about the topic in that exact moment. So, instead of concentrating on your first impression about the topic you’ll have to write down what struck you the most about it. Even if, many initial ideas don’t lead to great writings, most of them might become the base of a successful essay.
This technique might be very helpful for some writers and extremely confining for some others. The best way to jump into outlining is to use one of the previous techniques before. Essay outline requires to be excellent at selecting different approaches, organizing your thoughts, have a good sense of your ideas, etc. For this reason, many writers find outlining difficult; if one writer can figure a good sense of the idea before he or she starts writing, another will come to it during the actual writing process. So, if you are one of those who know exactly what they want to write about, you should seriously consider outlining since it will help you organize your ideas about the argument in a logical way.
For outlining, you will mostly use some main points to organize and structure your paper. For instance:
- As always, star with the a powerful introduction and highlight your main ideas about the topic.
- Once you introduced your thesis, start creating different paragraphs: analyze and evidence various opinions in each paragraph and make sure that everything links together, not only your paragraphs but your overall content.
- At last, summarize everything you’ve said in your final conclusion showing the importance of your essay’s declaration.
Also, as you know this technique is not everyone’s favorite but you might still find it very useful even if you are one of those who are more productive if they go straight into the writing process. How? Just reverse it. Luckily, the invention of writing wasn’t made to be the same for everybody. You can still apply this technique once you have your final draft- this step will help you check and see if your statement is focusing on the main topic and make sure that everything flows logically from one idea to another.