Organizing Your Writing

A fellow writing teacher who knows I write outside of work once asked me if I actually follow the prewrite-draft-revise-edit-publish cycle in my own writing.

“Of course, I do.” I thought it was an odd question, and then I stopped to think about the first part of that.

In prewriting, you can do several things. You can map out your topic. You can write out an outline. You can write ideas for the paper on index cards and then sort them into an order that makes sense to you. In each case, you are trying to organize your thoughts before you put them down on paper.

I’ll admit it, in both my fiction and nonfiction writing, I definitely have pieces where, with only the topic in my head, I’ve sat down and written an entire piece. Amazingly, the piece usually doesn’t need a complete rearranging during the revision process, but I chalk that up to the fact that I tend to overorganize by nature.

Sometimes, though, I do organize. Sometimes, I just have a bunch of sticky notes or notes in EverNote that I sort as I write. Sometimes, I have a bare skeleton outline, or a very thorough outline. Recently, I actually laid out the Dead Bunny book in index cards to sort out some sequencing issues before I start pulling that one together.

So, yes, I do sometimes follow the cycle to the letter. Other days, it’s all in my head.

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