So, What Are You Really Trying to Say?
You know when you get started with a piece of writing? You have a vision of what the final product will look like. It’s smooth, it’s convincing, it is intelligent, and it makes a difference.
Then you start working on the actual piece. You do a little brainstorming, but in your excitement, you only brainstorm a bit before moving into that first draft.
You are writing and after a paragraph or two, the worst possible outcome has happened. You have lost that initial vision of the piece, and now you’re looking at a paragraph or two of mushy writing that isn’t even making sense to you.
So, now you start to worry. What will you do? How will you fill the pages with writing that will meet the purpose of the task?
You take another look at what you’ve written. It’s a babbling brook of a mess with clumpy ideas scattered into mangled clumps of randomness.
So now you have two problems:
1) not enough content or content that isn't very interesting and
2) wandering content that doesn’t make enough sense to engage and inspire the reader.
So, what to do?
First, stop what you’re doing and go back to step one-brainstorming. For a typical 5-paragraph essay, I recommend that writers brainstorm a list of at least 20 items; the more the merrier. Why? Writers generally find it easier to edit out having too many ideas than to create additional ideas in the middle of the writing process.
Now that you have enough content to produce a piece of writing, organize it properly. Different styles of writing sometimes call for different organizational models, but the general rule is always true: introduction, body, conclusion. This works for both individual paragraphs and for the whole piece.
Onto the second problem.
The solution is to get organized. Anytime you move to an earlier point in the writing process (brainstorming, outlining/organizing, drafting, editing and revising, final drafting), then you need to redo that step and the following steps.
Now, with this newly-brainstormed list of content, it needs to be organized. Most writers develop personal preferences for their organizational system over time, but if you are starting out, use the outline. It is simple, logical, and workable.
So, anytime you start writing and find that the content is coming up short, go back to the beginning and brainstorm. Once you have brainstormed, then organize that content.
Here is some more help:
Take a look at these videos on using strong content in your writing:
An Overview of Strong Content in Writing
What Strong Content Looks Like in Writing
Examples of Strong Content in Writing
Good luck with your writing!
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