Writing 1 - Getting Started

Can’t think how to start? Putting it off? Why do we find writing so difficult?

Because we’re thinking about the final version when we’re only at the very beginning of ‘the writing process’.

Remember that no-one sees your early scribbles, plans, first, or second (or maybe even third) drafts, so forget trying to ‘get it right’ first time.

Student sitting at a window with a laptop

1. Answer the question

Don’t just write down everything you know on a subject.

Make sure that you are doing what the question instructs you to do. Read the assessment brief and marking criteria very carefully.


2. Think before you start

Try splitting a page into two columns headed: ‘What do you already know?’ and ‘What don’t you know?’.

Note down any gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled (before heading to the library) Is it a report or an essay?

What is your line of ‘argument’/what are you trying to convince the reader of? What do you need to go and find out? Do you need to find more evidence?

student writing on a whiteboard

3. Get words and thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or PC)

Get words and thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or PC).

Train your brain to write without thinking about ‘writing’. Write completely ‘off the top of your head’ as quickly as possible for at least 10 minutes without worrying about punctuation, or style (free, or ‘rapid’ writing). Do not spend time thinking about ‘the correct word’.

Write anything – tell yourself: Do not edit until editing stage! There will be many opportunities to change your writing along the way.


4. Alternatively, try a Mind Map

See Tony Buzan’s ‘The mind map book’ and other books in the library.
Group of students working in study room with laptops

5. Tell someone else what you are trying to say in your writing

If you don’t have someone, imagine who you would tell and then imagine telling them out loud.

Listen to (or record) how you explained it to them. Write that down.


6. ‘Free-write’ again then ask a friend to read and give you feedback on meaning and clarity

Is your meaning as clear as when you explained it to them in step 5?

What would make it work better?

Is something important missing that would help?

Student looking at document

7. Try drafting a ‘Contents’ page’ of your essay.

This can form a plan or framework to write to.

Check everything is in a logical order.

If you are sure it’s right, now try ‘writing’ any paragraphs you feel confident about.