The Writing Process
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The Writing Process. Part One: Planning and Shaping Clustering, Outlining. Writing as Process. Writing is a process—not an “event”

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The Writing Process

Part One: Planning and Shaping

Clustering, Outlining

Writing as process
Writing as Process

  • Writing is a process—not an “event”

    • So, professional writers don’t just sit down and write. Instead, they engage in a series of activities that starts the moment they begin thinking about a subject and ends with proofreading the final draft.

  • Good writing is rewriting, again and yet again.

    • Professional writing is filled with additions, deletions, rewordings, and rearrangements.

  • Writing is an ongoing process of considering alternatives and making choices

Planning level ii organizing your ideas
Planning, Level II: Organizing your Ideas

  • After generating ideas via several “free” methods, like brainstorming, it is important to begin differentiating between main points and supporting details.

  • Level two planning strategies like idea mapping and outlining can help you do this!

Idea mapping
Idea Mapping

  • Idea maps are useful because they let you see everything about a topic at once. Idea maps help you make connections!

  • Steps to writing an idea map:

    • Put the subject of your essay, reduced to a few words, in the center of a sheet of paper, and draw a circle around it.

      • If I wanted to write an essay on the film The Lord of the Rings, my idea map would initially look like…

Idea mapping1

The Lord of the Rings


Idea Mapping

  • Now think about what could be said about the topic. You don't want details at this point, but the categories of things that could be said.

    • The Lord of the Rings is a film that is presented as a fantasy (i.e. unreal settings, wizards, hobbits, elves, etc.) but is also an adaptation of a series of books by J.R.R Tolkien.

    • People often discuss the film in philosophical terms, as representing the ongoing battle between good and evil.

    • People often tend to see it as a religious allegory. I will choose these four as my initial categories.

Idea mapping2
Idea Mapping

The resulting idea map is Figure 2.

Idea mapping3
Idea Mapping

  • The next stages repeat the previous one. Choose each category that surrounds the central topic and generate new topics that relate to it.

    • If I think about Lord of the Rings as a “fantasy film," then secondary topics might be the characters in the film, the landscapes in the film (setting), how the fantasical elements are created (special effects), and what the film shares with other fantasy films (genre).

Idea mapping4




The Lord of the Rings







Idea Mapping

The result would be Figure 3.




Elrond &








The Lord of the Rings






This process should continue until the topics are no longer general. Our idea map needs another four rounds of idea mapping before it can be used as a basis for an essay. That is, Figure 4 names the characters, but another round that describes the attributes of the characters is necessary. After that, another round would branch off to discuss how they fit into the story.

Can’t be

“pinned down”

Evil is everywhere

Acts are

done by orcs

Inhabits Mordor

No physical


Despair: how can you

destroy what

you can’t see?



Seeks to

destroy men



of evil


The Lord of the Rings

Figure 5

Let’s finish the process out with the one of the “wizards”


  • Formal outline: a formal outline is a detailed account of the paper

    • Formal outlines are helpful for advance planners, those who want to prepare the paper before writing it.

    • Formal outlines work well for projects that call for extensive organization.

    • You can also use a formal outline after writing a paper to test the coherence and how understandable your paper is.

  • Working outline: a working outline functions more as an initial sketch of the direction the writer plans on taking in their essay.

    • Working outlines are ideal for deep revisers. Because they only provide a framework for the paper, they are more flexible.

      Note: One method is not better than another.

Developing an outline
Developing an Outline

  • An outline is:

    • A logical, general description

    • A summary

    • An organizational pattern

    • A visual and conceptual design of your writing

  • An outline reflects logical thinking and clear classification.

Purpose of outlining
Purpose of Outlining

  • General:

    • Aids in the process of writing

  • Specific:

    • Helps you organize your ideas

    • Presents your material in a way that makes the most sense to your reader

    • Shows the relationships among ideas in your writing

    • Shows the difference between major ideas and supporting details

Process of outlining
Process of Outlining

  • Before you begin:

    • Determine the purpose of your paper.

    • Determine the audience you are writing for.

    • Develop the thesis of your paper.

  • Then:

    • Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper.

    • Organize: Group related ideas together.

    • Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific.

    • Label: Create main and sub headings.

Rules of outlining arrangement
Rules of Outlining: Arrangement

  • An outline is divided into points and subpoints. Subpoints always go under the main points of which they are a part and which they support. For example:

    I. Kinds of apples

    A. Jonathan

    B. Granny Smith

    C. Macintosh

  • Subordination

    • The divisions in any series should be of equal importance. That is, the heads numbered I, II, III, IV, etc., should be the main ideas of a paper; divisions lettered with capitals should be more specific details that support the main ideas.


  • Points that are similar should be coordinated-that is, given an equal and parallel (same, matching) ranking. The following example is not coordinated:

    I. The armed services

    A. The Army

    B. The Navy

    C. The Marines

    II. The Air Force

  • The four divisions are equal, so they are all organized with capital letters:

    I. The armed services

    A. The Army

    B. The Navy

    C. The Marines

    D. The Air Force

Single subpoint
Single Subpoint

  • Do not use single subpoints in an outline. When you divide anything, you always have at least two parts. Thus, if you have an A., you should have a B.; a 1. should be followed by a 2. If you think that you have only one subtopic, include it in the topic above.

    For example, instead of writing:

    I. Large, sparsely populated states are hard for salesmen to cover. (Main Idea)

    A. Montana is one of these states. (subpoint)


    I. Large, sparsely populated states like Montana are hard for salesmen to cover.

Numbering and indentation
Numbering and Indentation

I. Main Point

A. subpoint 1

B. subpoint 2

1. specific example

2. specific example

II. Main Point II