Create your future. Shape your world.
Ready to write? These tried and true methods can help you get started, gain momentum, and keep it flowing.
Sure, you can write just about anywhere, any time. Nevertheless, many writers find they write best in one special place that minimizes interruptions and that they can return to every time they need to get in writing mode. Hint: For most writers, that writing place would not be bed.
Tip: You're welcome to use the Writing Center area in the Sandbox any time during library hours — we provide comfy chairs and always have a thesaurus and a grammar handbook handy.
If you can train yourself to draft directly from the keyboard in a word processor, you'll have more time and flexibility to revise. If you prefer to handwrite your rough drafts, write every other line and leave wide margins so that you have room for rewriting and inserting sentences.
Tip: Practice keyboard shortcuts for common edits such as copy (Ctrl + C) and paste (Ctrl + V) until they become second nature, and you'll find you revise more quickly, even if you aren't the fastest typist.
Don't feel you have to begin with your introduction and proceed until you come to the perfect conclusion. Begin with the part of the essay where you feel most confident about what you want to say. Follow through with whatever stream of ideas keeps your writing flowing, even if it doesn't quite match your outline or the direction you had in mind to start with. Later you can go back and decide in what order to logically present your ideas and which parts to delete altogether.
Tip: Write your introduction last, after you see what you've written and where the essay is really going.
Strange advice from writing experts — but it's true. You use different parts of your brain when you're drafting and creating sentences out of thin air from the parts you use when you're revising and recasting sentences. Accept that some of your sentences are going to come out a bit awkward or even as sheer drivel, but jot them down anyway and keep going. Tell yourself you'll come back to that bit later.( And then do, definitely, rewrite when you have your editor's visor on.)
Tip: If you're drafting on a computer, sometimes it helps to turn off the monitor and just type so you can't see the squiggly lines your word processor is putting under your typos until you're ready to revise.
Sometimes when you hit a wall, that's a good time to stand up, stretch, take a stroll, and come back to the draft with a clear, fresh perspective. Depending on how much time you've allowed yourself to write the draft, you may even want to sleep on it before returning to your draft.
Myth: You only need to write one rough draft, then the next draft is your final draft.
Most professional writers lose track of how many drafts they go through before they consider a piece final. When you've written your first rough draft, reward yourself for making a great start with something that feels writerly: a large cup of your favorite tea or coffee, sending an email boasting of your progress to a dear friend who hasn't even started, or skimming your favorite literary blog. But don't rest from your labors just yet.
Pick a paragraph, any paragraph, read it aloud to yourself to see where you stumble or what doesn't sound quite as crystal clear as it seemed at first, and rewrite it in a fresh document onscreen or on paper. Clearly label this rewrite Draft 2 — not Final Draft, as that will only set yourself up for unreasonably high expectations as you're trying to rewrite. Now you've made a start on your first revision. Opening Draft 2 to keep revising a paragraph or two at a time is much less intimidating than trying to type a perfect Final Draft in one sitting. Expect that you will likely go through a few more drafts before you decide you've reached the Final Draft. Remember that you can take any draft at any stage of revision to the Writing Center for a consultation.
"When I start a project, the first thing I do is write down, in longhand, everything I know about the subject, every thought I've ever had on it. This may be twelve or fourteen pages. Then I read it through, for quite a few days. . . . then I try to find out what are the salient points that I must make. And then it begins to take shape." ~Maya Angelou