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Pre-Writing: Three Methods

When you’ve got a big essay to finish by the end of the week, there’s nothing worse than putting it off until the night before, by which time you’re probably tired and overwhelmed. If you wait until the last minute, chances are you’ll most likely do poorly on the grade. And then where will you be?

Instead of putting it off, you should get started early with some pre-writing work. Pre-writing is exactly what the name entails: you’re preparing to write the essay by doing some writing beforehand. And no, it’s not a waste of writing to write some things down that might not make it into the essay. Instead, think of it as you’re priming your brain to get the heavy lifting down later in the week. Really, you should spend maybe an hour or two before you actually write the essay to get some pre-writing done.

The first way you can pre-write is to brainstorm a list of all the ideas and concepts and phrases you can think of in relation to your essay prompt. Set up a timer and being writing down everything that comes to mind. Make one big list. Don’t worry about being messy. You’ll clean it up later. All you’re doing for now is getting down ideas. Later you can go through and focus on what’s most interesting to you from the list.

Another method you can use is idea-mapping. This is a less crazy form of pre-writing, as it requires you to already have a decent ideas as to what you’ll be writing about. In the middle of your paper, writ down the main idea. Then draw some lines away from it and inside bubbles at the end of that idea, write down ideas that help describe that main idea. Work out from there. The advantage of idea-mapping is that you can visualize how each concept works as a whole to create the overall meaning.

A final idea that you can consider when pre-writing is something called freewriting. Turn off your computer screen or cover it with a sheet of paper. Start your time and write nonstop for five to ten minutes, writing down whatever comes into your head. Whatever you do, don’t read it until the next day. Then you can begin to edit it or see if you find any interesting ideas somewhere that you can use as a foundation for your paper’s thesis.

These are only a handful of pre-writing methods, but each of them works in its own way. Feel free to experiment with them or adapt them to your own pre-writing habits.

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