5 Useful Prewriting Strategies
  • 5-minute read
  • 20th September 2021

5 Useful Prewriting Strategies

Prewriting refers to the process of coming up with and organising ideas for a piece of writing. But how should you approach prewriting? In this post, we explain five helpful strategies you can use to prepare for a writing project.

1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming might be the simplest prewriting technique around! It involves noting down every idea you have – good or bad – until you find one that inspires you.

The key here is to avoid being self-critical! All you need to do at this stage is jot down everything you think of related to your goals or the subject of your writing, no matter how basic or poorly articulated those ideas might seem at first.

Once you have a long list of words and phrases, you can start sorting through them, picking the most interesting or relevant ones to explore further. You can also try combining different ideas to come up with something new.

2. Freewriting

Freewriting, like brainstorming, encourages you to let ideas flow. But rather than just noting words and phrases, you’ll be writing in complete sentences and paragraphs.

This might involve starting with a single thought and pushing it as far as it will go during your freewriting session. Or it might involve coming up with lots of different ideas and jumping between them. The key, in either case, is to not stop writing.

Make a spelling mistake? Just leave it. Come up with an idea that immediately seems terrible? Just move on and keep writing. Come up with an idea that seems really promising? Excellent! But don’t stop! You can review anything you write once you’re done, but for now, you should focus on generating new ideas.

The best way to freewrite, then, is usually to set a time limit, then sit down and type for the whole time. Once your time is up, you can go back over what you’ve written, pick out the best ideas, and start planning how to write them up.

3. Looping

Looping is a version of freewriting that works as follows:

  1. Pick a topic and freewrite for a set time (e.g. 10 to 15 minutes).
  2. Review what you have written and write a summary sentence.
  3. Use the summary sentence as a prompt for another freewriting session.
  4. Repeat the loop until you feel happy with the ideas you’ve come up with.

The goal is to pinpoint and expand on your best idea during each loop. And once you’ve fully refined your basic concept, you can start the writing process proper.

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4. Concept Mapping

Concept mapping, also known as clustering, mind mapping, or idea mapping, is a strategy that allows you to visually explore the relationships between ideas.

To create a concept map, you can:

  1. Identify your main topic or an idea you want to explore.
  2. Write down your main topic or idea in a bubble at the centre of a page.
  3. Think of words or ideas related to your main topic, then note these down in bubbles that branch off from your main concept (e.g. if your main concept were ‘proofreading’, you might have branches that connect to bubbles containing the words ‘clarity’, ‘concision’, ‘spelling’, ‘grammar’, and so on).
  4. Do the same with these secondary branches, looking for connected concepts and branching them off into smaller bubbles surrounding the main ones.

You can also draw lines connecting the secondary and tertiary bubbles. This will let you visualise the different ways in which your main topic could develop, or different connections between various concepts, helping you to plan your writing project.

A blank example concept map, featuring a brain in the middle and various bubbles branching off around it.
A blank example concept map.

5. Outlining

Finally, outlining is a prewriting strategy that is useful for organising the ideas you’ve generated. This will help you plan the structure of your writing project.

To create an outline for a piece of writing, you can:

  1. Think about the overall point or argument you want to make, then break that down into a handful of key ideas that you will need to communicate.
  2. Make a bulleted or numbered list of these key points and arrange them in a logical order. For example, for an essay, you might start with an introduction that defines your topic, set out a series of points or pieces of evidence that support your argument, then end on a conclusion.
  3. For each main point, write a sentence summarising what you will say.
  4. If necessary, break each main section down into a series of subsections or subpoints, each with a short summary sentence of their own.

Doing this will give you a clear structure to work with when you start writing. It is therefore especially helpful when planning longer writing projects, but it can be useful whenever you need to be sure a document has an easy-to-follow structure.

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As you can see, there are a variety of prewriting strategies available to you. Their effectiveness can vary depending on the type of writer that you are, so it’s important to try a few to find what works best for you!

We hope these tips help you feel more confident with beginning the writing process. And once you have something drafted, we have expert editors on hand 24/7 to help you with proofreading.

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