Writers from all over the globe will likely agree that writing time is precious. The big question, of course, is how to use that time wisely? How to make sure that you’re as efficient and creative as possible during your allotted hours? Every writing project has its own particular needs, but structuring writing time to maximize productivity saves you time while helping with finding your “flow.” Start with the big picture, then work your way down to the details; this is a great way to stay on point and make the most of those precious minutes.
Follow this step-by-step system to get the most out of your writing process.
- Step One: Clarifying Your Topic
It may seem obvious, but knowing what you’re writing about is essential for a productive process. Is your subject clear? Do you require a thesis off the top? Do you need to refine or adjust your first idea to provide a more active, engaging launching pad for the piece? Being sure your topic is sharp and compelling will save you time later.
Building an outline for your piece can be useful even at this early stage. It helps bring your main idea into focus while identifying any weaknesses or gaps in your thinking. This step will also determine whether your current topic is strong enough to carry you through to a conclusion.
- Step Two: Collecting Your Ideas.
Whether the project you are working on requires extensive research, or you’re just jotting down your thoughts, gather as many of these building blocks as you can before you start to write. This will help shape and focus your thinking, and it will increase your efficiency.
Online resources are plentiful and easily accessed, but consider researching your facts the old-fashioned way, too: at a library. Where web searches can be cluttered, requiring painstaking sifting to find what you need, libraries are more organized. A library helps you get precisely what you need, with real live experts working to help you. They’re also terrific places to do your actual writing!
Don’t be afraid to gather more research material than you think you need. Once you put pen to paper, having a deep pool of resources gives you room to grow your piece in surprising ways – it will also help you drop any ideas that aren’t panning out the way you’d hoped. Fill your arsenal with as many relevant concepts, facts, and arguments as you can before moving on to the next step.
- Step Three: Organizing Your Thoughts. If you haven’t already created your outline, now is the time. With your topic, theme or thesis as your starting place, take yourself step-by-step to your conclusion. If it’s a narrative, what’s the structure? How does the story unfold? If it’s a research paper, how could you best cover your topic? What are the salient pieces of information, and what’s the most unambiguous order in which to present them? If it’s an argument, how does it need to develop? Decide how you plan to argue your thesis, and how you’ll respond to potential counterarguments.
Lay out the specific markers that will guide the direction of your piece, determining where the information you’ve collected fits in. Expand your outline by connecting your ideas and research to the appropriate points, and then assess their strengths. Is there any critical research you haven’t made room for in your outline? Do you require ideas or facts that you haven’t yet gathered? Make you have a robust and detailed outline before proceeding with your work.
- Step Four: Writing! This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. This is where all the groundwork you’ve laid will pay off at this point. You have a clear map to follow, with solid research to back up your ideas. The focused thinking you’ve done earlier equips you with the mental clarity you’ll need to find all the right words.
At this point, set up your writing environment in whichever way works best for you. Do you prefer to work in quiet, or with background music? Are you more focused at home or the library? Will you need coffee or water? Consider whether you’ll require access to the internet for research or reference purposes. For some, a co-working environment provides inspiration and energy. Create an individualized work environment that is comfortable and conducive to focus. Have all of your preparatory work handy, so that you can access it and cross-reference if you need to. Make sure you have pens and paper available if you like to make notes and edits the old-fashioned way. Then, get to it!
Don’t be discouraged if you struggle through those first few pages; developing your ideas and arguments in a clear, compelling way isn’t easy. However, the work done during the first three steps means that your energy will now be used in the best way possible – writing the piece that you want to write. You’ve reduced the likelihood of false starts, missing parts, and wasted drafts by preparing well. You have fertile ground in which to grow your best writing.
Stick to your outline as best you can, but don’t be afraid to adjust as you go. In doing the actual writing, you’ll no doubt make discoveries that you couldn’t have predicted. However, even here, your thorough preparation will make it possible for you to add to, subtract from and modify your piece without becoming lost. Trust your homework and keep your guiding topic in mind. Once you’ve completed a draft, you’re ready for step five.
- Step Five: Editing and Proofing. There are online tools that can help immensely at this point. Hopefully, spelling and grammar features have been alerting you to errors as you write. Some people find this helpful; others find it distracting, as it can interrupt their flow. Remember that you can turn off these features if you prefer to wait until you’ve finished a draft before checking its technical accuracy. Regardless, proofing spelling and grammar is only a small part of the editing process. Before you buff that piece to a high shine, you need to be sure that it’s solidly built.
Try to read your draft as though seeing it for the first time. Is it clear? Does it say what you intended it to? Do the arguments and images connect comprehensively? Is it convincing? Consider whether any points or ideas are underdeveloped. Look out for overly long sections that can unbalance the flow of the overall piece. Evaluate whether your writing takes the reader where you want to go.
Once you’re happy with the structure and flow of your work, then use those technical tools to be sure you deliver the most polished and powerful piece possible.
As you spend more time writing, you’ll undoubtedly discover what works best for you. In the meantime, use this basic structure to help maximize your time, and begin the of finding your flow! For any questions about your next writing project, call 1 (800) 573-0840 to speak to an expert at Masters Essay. Servicing a range of academic needs throughout Canada, we’re ready to help you put your best foot forward at school, or in the competitive international job market.