Preparation and Planning

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You can divide the preparation and planning stage of writing into two parts: a preliminary, stocking – the bank stage and a more direct, hands–on stage. The preliminary part includes drawing on all the information and ideas you have been storing up and thinking about for years and also gathering new information for your project.

The direct part is the focused, get to work stage.

You can work at stocking your idea bank in number of ways:

• Carry a notebook and jot down ideas, question and observations.

• For the project at hand, read major newspaper and some general – interest magazines, clip articles you find especially interesting.

• For the long term, keep a file of newspaper and magazine clipping about a variety of topics.

• Watch for announcements of lectures and public appearances by noted politicians, educators, and writers and other prominent individuals. Attend when you can.

• Ask questions. Draw people out about what they do and what they’re interested in.

• Surf the internet to find out about a topic that interest you. Type keywords into a search engine like Google or Hotbot and see where it takes you.

• Read book reviews regularly and keep a list of books that interest you start a library even if you don’t read everything immediately.

In other words, develop a personal radar that sweeps your environment constantly and picks up signals on a broad range of topics.

Getting Down To Work :

To get down to work, first identify your topic :

Brainstorm. Jot down all the ideas that occur to you about your writing topic.

Narrow your topic. Pick out one aspect of the topic to develop.

Free Write. Write quickly about the topic without sorting out points or worrying about organization.

Run A Computer Search. Check online library catalogs to see what books are available. Type keywords into search engine to find relevant web sites.

Talk to people about your topic. Ask questions

Next, bring your project into sharper focus :

• Tentatively identify your audience and purpose.
• Do more formal, in depth research.
• Make a list or scratch outline organizing main points.
• Choose a tentative title.
• Write a tentative thesis sentence.


We’ll be following the progress of one student’s writing project throughout this book. In this section we’re going to take a look at the preparatory stages Eleanor Hennessy worked through for her paper. Her assignment was to write a paper of about 5,000 words on the career of a woman artist from and earlier century. She chose to write about Artemisia Gentileschi.


Brainstorming. Women in 17th century Italy had almost no rights. Anything they produced belonged to fathers or husbands. Society was fanatic about women’s chastity. Any hint of sexual lapses could ruin a woman. Women assumed to be intellectually inferior by natural law. Most women painters came from families of painters. Sometimes their work attributed to a man. Gentileschi was an apprentice in her father’s shop. Knew Caravaggio. Defied convention by traveling to paint. G. Raped by her teacher when she was 17. Her reputation was ruined but she refused to hide. Some of her most famous paintings seem to illustrate her anger about that attack.

Narrowing the topic. Focus on Gentileschi’s remarkable achievement in overcoming the damaging fallout from a public rape trial to go on to become one of the best regarded painters of her era.

Free Writing. Qualities of talent and fortitude that enable Gentileschi to go against the grain of her society when constraints on women were so sever. Show how strength she gained from ordeal of her rape and trial was reflected in her paintings. Her success as a businesswoman in getting commissions for portraits. Connections at court prejudice against women painters in the art world. Specific obstacles like cost of paint and canvas, ban on working with nude models.

Running a Computer Search. Type in Gentileschi’s name to see what’s available. Look at web sites from fine arts and women’s studies. Check online library catalog for useful books or articles.

Talking to people about the topic. Mention Gentileschi to friends and ask for ideas. Talk to art historian friend. Tell family about research.


Tentatively identifying audience and purpose. Possible audience: Other student in art history course or women’s studies course. Tentative purpose; to describe how G. a talented painter, defied convention in her time and earned recognitions in her time and earned recognition.

Doing in depth research. Look at web sites on Gentileschi; choose most valuable material and print it out check out biography by Garrard. Look at chapter on G. in Greer’s Obstacle Race.


• Social environment 17th – C. Italy that repressed women
Women not educated
Obsession with women’s chastity

• World of art hostile to women
Assumed women weren’t creative
Difficult to get training

• G’s special background that helped her become and artist
Father was a painter
Lived in Rome
Grew up around artists

• Important events in G’s life that affected her career
Raped by teacher at 17
Humiliating public trial
Married another artist and moved to Florence.

• Anger at men a theme in many painting
Susanna and the elders
Judith slaying Holofernes

Tentative Title: Artemisia Gentileschi: Courageous woman painter in 17th century Italy.

Tentative thesis sentence : The 17th century painter. A.G. overcame bias in the art world and humiliating public rape trial to achieve recognition as a outstanding artist.

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