How Do Writers Write?

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You don't need special talent to become a good writer.

How Do Writers Write? People to whom writing doesn’t come easily may assume that good writers have special gifts, that for them writing comes naturally and without much effort. Like most myths, this one has a grain of truth in it, but only a grain. The best writers are likely to be gifted as well as diligent, but most writers who write frequently and well have no magic talent. They write well because they are disciplined, because they work hard at their craft, and because they have developed a set of practices that enable them to turn out good work consistently.

It may be useful to look at the ways many professional writers those people who make a living from writing go about it.

Here’s what our research shows:

Professional writers

• Don’t’ wait for inspiration. They start writing whether they feel like it or not.

• Work on a schedule, in a regular place, using the same tools.

• Have trouble setting started occasionally, but they expect such delays and don’t panic.

• Gather material constantly. They file clippings, observe what’s going in around them, and take notes.

• Work best under deadline; if necessary, they even set their own deadlines.

• Seldom know exactly what they will write; they expect to discover new ideas and insights as they work.

• Plan before they write, but they keep plans flexible, subject to change as they work.

• Work with an audience in mind.

• Work slowly; many say they consider four to six double – spaced pages a good day’s work.

• Expect to do two or three drafts of anything they write.

• Often procrastinate, but they usually know how long they can put off writing and still avoid disaster.

Different ways of writing:

Many things affect how writers work, but one important variable is the kind of writing they’re doing. Here we’ll consider two kinds of writing.

Explanatory Writing

Exploratory Writing

Writing That Explains and Explores

Explanatory writing is writing that conveys information.

Exploratory writing is writing that deals with ideas.

The Stages of Writing :

People who write professionally go through several predictable stages: Preparation and planning, drafting, incubation, revision and editing. We discuss the early stages in this chapter and deal with revision and editing in later chapters. An outline of the stages would look something like this:

Preparation and planning : Identify your topic. Then read and do research; find examples; take notes; brainstorm or consult with others to generate ideas. Finally, consider ways to organize your material, and rough out an outline.

Drafting : Write a first draft, even if it’s mostly exploratory.

Incubating : Take time out and let your ideas percolate in your subconscious for a while.

Revising : Read your draft carefully, consider changes, get feed back, and rewrite, perhaps more than once.

Editing and Proofreading : Edit for style, word choice, and grammar. Proofread and run a spell checker to catch typos.

Such a list makes the writing process look clear cut and straightforward, but in practice, the process is often messy, inexact, and unpredictable as writers move back and forth between stages, preplanning and revising as they go. Nevertheless, most writers write in a similar sequence of stages, and it can be useful work systematically through each stage.

For Practice :

Working with a group of three or four other writers, choose one of the following topics and brainstorm for an explanatory paper:

• Home schooling
• Singles clubs
• Credit cards for students

Ask the common journalistic question to generate material:

Who? what people participate?
What? What is involved in the activity?
Why? Why do people participate?
When? When does this activity take place?
Where? Where does this activity occur?
How? How is the activity carried out?

Working in a group with three or four others, choose one of the listed topics and brainstorm to generate a store of material that could be useful for drafting an exploratory piece. Draw on personal experience, television documentaries or talk shows, magazine articles or books, insights you’ve gotten from one of your courses. Ask a recorder from the group to take notes.

• Television and other media have recently given increased attention extreme sports.

• Critics claim that broad access to the Internet has fostered intellectual isolation, as users seek out like – minded individuals and participate chat groups to reinforce each others' biases.

• In 2001 over half the first-year students in schools of law and medicine were women. How might this statistic impact those professions?

• By 2005, the United States will need 2 Million additional teachers in the public schools. What steps might state and national governments take to address this problem?

Write a summary of about 100 words _ or create a detailed outline – giving the main ideas you would focus on in a short piece on one of these topics:

• Finding a part – time job that is a good fit for you
• The best discount stores for students
• Choosing your laptop
• Meeting people through classified ads
• The pros and cons of belonging to several chat groups

For Writing :

1. For your college paper or the web site of an organization in which you’re active, write a short explanatory piece – no more than 300 words – about one of the following events;

• A barbecue to celebrate the opening of a citywide a day care center for children of teachers in the local public schools

• Homecoming weekend on your college campus, which will feature tours of new buildings on campus and showcase the college jazz band and the new swimming complex : a major purpose of the weekend this year is to attract alumni in the hope of getting them to donate to newly established scholarship fund for low – income student

• Organizational meting of a forum for beginning writers in which they can exchange short stories and plays and critique each others' work

2. For a weekly alternative newspaper in your community, one that features essays on local cultural, political or social concerns, write a short exploratory piece – no more than 500 words – about one of the following issues:

• A proposal before the city council to impose an 11: 00 p.m. weeknight curfew on youngsters fewer than eighteen in a two-block area near your college where local bands play during the summer

• A petition from an animal rights group to establish a no - kill policy at the city – financed animal shelter that accepts homeless cats and dogs and puts them up for adoption : At present, because of its limited facilities, the shelter has to destroy any animal that has been there more than ten days : An alternative new policy would need to specify what is to be done with these animals

• The proposed demolition of an art nouveau movie theater that has been the venue for foreign films, art films, and film festivals in your community since the 1950s : Representatives of the chain that has bought the theater say they will keep it open if they can find a way to keep it profitable.

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