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Sunday, January 09, 2011


Writing Tips to Tighten Your Process

Photo credit: mlpdesign /
My daughter, who is in fourth grade, was assigned a paper in December around the same time I received a lengthy assignment. At one point, the two of us were traipsing to the library together to check out books.
Her deadline has approached faster than mine; her assignment is definitely shorter than mine. But reviewing outlining and research techniques with her has helped me to identify areas to improve for her work process, as well as mine.
Here are some brief suggestions that might help you with your writing process:

1. Do some preliminary research and reading before taking pen to paper. Too frequently I saw my daughter start a search and follow one path without considering there might be some forks in the road. In determining what elements to include in her outline and report, I found myself suggesting that she delve a little deeper to confirm her pathway. With my assignment, I stopped myself once or twice to make sure I was being as inclusive as I could be.

2. Take time to consider deadlines--including those who need to sign off on your work. She and I have our deadlines. Working during the holidays paid off for her and she turned in a draft of her paper earlier this week. This has given her time to revise over this weekend with a deadline of Monday. Meanwhile, I had to do the bulk of my work before the holidays in order to send my outline for approval from my client. Planning your work can also help in ensuring that you don't get into a crunch and cut corners in order to get done faster.

3. Keep track of research. Too young for footnoting, while I was reviewing her paper I found myself asking: where did she find that information? Fortunately, she had either noted the website, had used a book for background research or had printed a copy of the web page she used. My daughter's teacher encourages project folders, which also help to contain the work in one place. (Now if her mom could imitate that!) Early on, I would have recommended index cards for research, but having never done a spectacular job of using or keeping track of index cards, it was hard to make that argument.

4. Find a chunk of time to work--undisturbed. This proved difficult during my kids' vacation, but when there were pockets of quiet time, I pulled out my notes and research. For my daughter, a sister-in-law suggested setting a timer for 15 minutes helped to focus the work and focus those of us around her. Working in the smaller increments for some can be a freeing concept and worked well for my daughter. That is something I plan to try to get from outline to final product.

5. Don't be afraid to research more, even if you have already started drafting or writing. When using an outline based on early research, you have a guide. However, when you start writing, keep in mind that your information may not cover all that you need to answer. Delve deeper, if necessary. Having more information can bring depth to a subject and can only reward your final product. Not getting beneath the subject and leaving question marks may frustrate your reader.

BONUS TIP: Save, save, save. Fortunately, no mishaps during the writing of my daughter's paper. Frequent saving is important to remember, especially if using blocks of time to write. My rule, besides saving when you get up from the computer, is to save when you pause to take time to think about what's coming up next. Interestingly, that has not been a lesson she had been taught in her computer classes at school.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in Wilmington, N.C., scheduling her next chunk of writing time, preferably on a conveniently located deserted island with free WiFi!

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Blogger Sheila Siler said...

Good tips. Thanks for sharing.

3:41 AM  

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