Ivory Tower Writing #2: The writing process

This post covers the basics of the writing process, from pre-writing, writing, and post-writing.

Like most art forms, writing is a process. Like, a really long process and not to mention agonizing. If this deters you, then perhaps you want to reconsider your life choices. Then again, you need the degree so bad, either to make your parents happy or to get that job you want but will never get.

Generally speaking, writing can be divided into three parts: pre-writing, writing, and post-writing. While the context of each phase may differ depending on what you’re working on, the idea is roughly the same.

Pre-writing

First is the pre-writing part. This is usually one of the hardest parts to get through because you’ll be dealing with procrastination and a lot of brainwork. However, this part is also very important because if you never get through this part, well, your paper will never get done.

Here are some things that you do in this part:

  1. What are you writing? Articles intended for publication in a journal require journal standards; commentaries for newspapers are more colloquial.
  2. What are you going to write about? Decide on your topic and subsequently, your research question. If you want to know how to do this, just keep following the series and eventually you’ll get there.
  3. How are you going to write your ideas? This is where you decide on the structure of the paper, what arguments to include, and how you intend on making your stand. You may also want to consider your target audience (see the first point).

After that’s over, you’ll emerge with a rough idea of what your paper will look like. That’s your outline. You can make changes to it later, but for now, think of it as a map to keep you on track.

Writing

Now that that’s over with, you’re probably ready to get into the writing part. There’s not much to say about this part, mostly because this part is heavily subject to your own preferences. Just write and write based on your outline. I’ll discuss writing tips in a future post.

Post-writing

After you’re done writing a lot of words, you now have your first draft. But your work isn’t done yet. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Truer words have never been spoken. Hence, we now enter the post-writing part, which despite its name, actually involves more writing.

Now take a look at your first draft. Read it a couple of times and you start to notice that Hemingway was right—it is indeed, shit. There’s probably a lot of typos, grammatical errors, and some things may not even make sense even though they sounded so good the first time. Don’t worry; this is what academics call “revision”, and it’s a completely normal process (though very agonizing) that every academic writer has to go through regardless of their rank.

Here are some things you can do in this part:

  • Check for typos and grammatical mistakes. You may also want to make sure of technical details, such as font, spacing, and layout.
  • Go through the content and logical flow of arguments. This one’s a bit tricky, so it’s usually helpful to have a second pair of eyes on your paper. More on this in a later post.
  • Don’t forget to write your name on it, unless you’re submitting it for peer review. More on this later.

So that’s basically the general process of writing a paper. At this point, don’t sweat the smaller details yet; we’ll do that in later posts.

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