It can be daunting to sit down and put together a long, several page document. Some may struggle with where to start, how to best portray their research, or how to expand their thoughts. Meanwhile others may start writing and realize they don’t know where or when to stop. It can be difficult and intimidating to understand what topics to prioritize or include. Whether working on a broad research project or just for fun, this post is meant to make writing more enjoyable and less traumatic. As an English major, former college fellow, and member of the LS2group technical editing team, I suggest beginning your project with freewriting, outlining, and asking critical questions.
If you simply do not know where to start, freewriting might help you discover an organic organization to your thoughts. My advice is to start writing and not worry about structure – organization can always come later. Start with the most interesting idea or the idea that comes naturally. I find my best work for a thesis statement and an introduction come after the first few sentences. In more complex writing, I might even write a few paragraphs before a precise thought emerges. After letting ideas flow, different sentences and paragraphs can be rearranged to attain the best narrative or argument.
Outlining is a technical practice that guides the writing process; it designates the thesis and main points of the project in a formalized order. Even if you began with freewriting, I suggest laying down the thesis, each paragraph’s topic sentence, and the supporting materials. Seeing an outline will provide guidance to your thoughts and allow you to ask critical questions to create a successful thesis and expand or tighten the supporting materials.
Once the main points have been collected and organized, start asking the critical questions. These will not only organize your thoughts, but will create stronger writing. Ask yourself what is the main purpose of the project? Is this project persuasive, argumentative, narrative, or strictly informational? Once you understand the purpose of your work, all other information in the project should be utilized to defend and support that purpose. While it might seem obvious, simply asking why can fix problems that impact many writers. Ask yourself the following questions: Why is this sentence important? Why does this information need to be included? Why does this need an explanation? Question whether each statement belongs in the writing. Asking these reflective questions will refine and professionalize the information, creating a more concise and credible project.
While there are many other tips to make writing less difficult, I hope these tips are helpful in your future writing endeavors. Happy writing!