A Beginner’s Guide for Aspiring Writers
Writing has always been a timeless endeavor. It dates back to the very first stages of mankind, although certainly it has come a long way today compared to how our ancestors did it.
Back then, writing consisted more of pictures and symbols. Today, writing is more complex. We have become smarter in the way we compose our thoughts on paper. Or on computer screens, for that matter.
Writing is a necessary skill in traversing the world of today. You might have taken on the task of writing for personal reasons, such as writing a poem or writing a short review for a movie you enjoyed. Or you’re more of a professional and you write for a living.
Whatever reason you may have, it is important that you write well so you can be understood.
Here are some quick tips tackling the basics of writing.
The word can be daunting to a lot of writers, whether they be beginners or long-time professionals. The idea of coming up with an inspiration for writing might be a lot more difficult than the process of writing itself.
If you find yourself staring at a blank page for a long time already and the words just refuse to come out, do not fret. You’ve been thwarted by writer’s block, and it’s actually quite normal.
Different writers have their own ways of dealing with writer’s block. The key is to find inspiration in the simplest things, which may necessarily not have anything to do with writing, like working out or meeting a friend in your favorite restaurant. In fact, staying away from your keyboard may even benefit you in the long run since it gives you breathing room from the pressures of writing.
Other writers persevere and choose to tackle writer’s block head on by still writing, even if it means having to write something so bad.
Just remember to never stay idle for long periods of time. Look for something to do that will keep your brain active, and you’ll find that the words will flow naturally on your next writing session
- 20 Things That Can Help You Find Inspiration for Writing
- Facing the Blank Page: Celebrated Writers on How to Overcome Creative Block
Brainstorming and Organizing
Now that you’ve finally found something to write about, it’s time to iron out the details and organize them into a coherent outline. To start typing and ramble on is one thing, to compose something that’s actually readable and makes sense is another.
This is where brainstorming steps in.
First, picture your topic as a whole with several branches coming down from it. The branches will be your subtopics or talking points. When brainstorming, list down words or phrases that are hugely related to your talking points.
Don’t worry about coming up with something pretty because brainstorming is supposed to be messy.
Once you’ve listed down your thoughts, you can then proceed with rearranging them in a manner of importance and relevance to each other. Some ideas can be combined to form something more concrete, while others might need to be placed somewhere else in the outline.
Take note that you must have your main topic or thesis statement in mind at all times, the organization will just help you transition from one talking point to another. Even if your transitions are flawless, it would be for naught if your subjects are irrelevant to the thesis statement.
- Techniques of Brainstorming by the Writing Center of UNC.
- I have a lot to say, but how can I organize my thoughts?
- Writing a Paper: Organizing Your Thoughts
If you want people to believe what you’ve written, your content must be based on facts. This can only be done through hours of research and investigation.
Of course, you wouldn’t spend hours browsing the internet for reliable sources if all you need to do is write a haiku. Creative writing would still require some amount of research one way or another, but it is a must if you’re doing academic or professional writing.
You always have to consider your thesis statement when doing research. This will help you identify which sources support your claims for each paragraph. If you have too many sources that tackle different perspectives of your topic, you can easily delve away from your thesis statement.
Once you’ve gathered a sufficient amount of sources for your piece, arrange them according to your outline so you can easily refer back to them when you’re already in the process of writing your piece. Another best practice is to create your bibliography as you collect data. Remember to be mindful of citation styles, like MLA, APA, and Chicago style.
Developing and Ordering Paragraphs
You’re now in the process of writing your piece, but you feel like your paragraphs are all over the place.
Similar to what has already been mentioned in the previous topics, idea organization within a paragraph should be considered as well. Decide on the controlling idea of each paragraph, and focus on that alone.
Start your paragraph with a topic sentence; this is what your paragraph is going to be all about. The body should then contain evidence that supports your topic sentence; you can state data, give examples, and cite other research. Provide an explanation on any given data so your readers won’t have a hard time grasping for its relevance to your topic sentence. Do not complicate things by adding sentences that delve away from your controlling idea.
The last part of your paragraph can be a quick summary that refers back to your topic sentence, or you can opt for a transitional sentence that will introduce your next talking point.
Sometimes, you will find that some paragraphs don’t fit under a specific talking point at all. Feel free to remove and place them somewhere else that is more appropriate.
Grammar, Spelling, and Vocabulary Improvement
Good grammar and vocabulary will all come in time as you write more and more. If you’re a beginner writer, don’t feel frustrated if you’re having difficulty finding the right words, or composing the perfect sentence that expresses the true essence of what you want to convey in your writing.
Make use of a dictionary and a thesaurus. Even the most brilliant writers use them all the time, so don’t be ashamed to whip out your old copy of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.
Another tip is to read a lot. Published novels and dissertations have been edited by professionals, so reading such materials will greatly improve your grammar, vocabulary, and ultimately your writing.
With regards to spelling, word-processing programs and applications today always have auto-correct features, so there’s not much problem in that department. However, it is still important to take note of proper spelling, especially if you’re writing by hand.
Feedback and Revisions
Once you’ve finished writing your piece, it’s time to take a step back and examine your output as a whole. Finishing writing your piece is half of the struggle, now you have to review and revise it as necessary.
Before you start revising, it would be best that you stand up for a while and move away from your computer. This will give you some time to relax and keep your mind fresh for the revision process that is to come.
When you’re ready, read through the entirety of what you’ve written first, then decide if you have been faithful to your thesis statement. Were you able to prove it? Did you provide enough data?
You must also check the balance of your subtopics. For example, if you spent too many words explaining one idea that is less important compared to other ideas, a revision is needed to make it shorter.
Fact-checking is another essential part of the revision process. It wouldn’t hurt to double-check your sources, as well as all the claims you have written to see if they’re accurate.
There are instances where you will discover that you’ve actually disproved your thesis statement instead of supporting it. You don’t have to necessarily edit the parts of your paper in these cases, but you should consider changing your thesis statement overall.
If you’re writing a story and you had a hard time describing a scene you’re completely alien to, consult a professional and ask for their feedback. For example, consult a nurse friend if you want to fact-check some of the medical procedures you’ve included in your story.
Revising is the act of editing the general content of what you’ve written, to see if an idea fits or not. Proofreading, on the other hand, deals with improving the blemishes of your written piece.
This is the time where you double-check your grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. It would be a shame to lose the meaning of a perfectly good sentence just because you misplaced a comma.
You can take advantage of proof-reading applications online, but it is always preferred to seek help from the trained eyes of a professional editor. They would also be able to provide you with some feedback, which you can use the next time you sit down to write.
Any material you use as a reference for your written work needs to be acknowledged so you don’t get accused of plagiarism.
More importantly, it helps build your image as a professional writer since your readers and other colleagues will see how serious you are in accomplishing your written task.
In academic writing, acknowledging a source is done in two places: within the body of the written material and within a specific list called a bibliography.
Remember the citation styles that were mentioned earlier? This is where they will be utilized accordingly. There are different citation styles required for different types of written material, so be sure to do your research first before using any of them.