lunes, 5 de diciembre de 2011

Writing workshop 09: Organization


We have ideas, we have thoughts and we have strong feelings. We need to arrange all this in order and not to be chaotic.

We must avoid weak beginnings: the composition lacks an introduction, lacks a paragraph that introduces the topic and justifies why we are writing about that specific topic. Many times we start writing in the middle.
We must always remember to put ourselves in the readers’ position and give them all the information they need to understand our ideas. We must always put the readers in the picture and give them enough information to understand what we are saying, and explain why some names or situations are relevant to the topic.

More frequently, the composition has no real ending because we do not know how to finish it, so we just finish writing.
A good ending relates to the whole of the composition. The last paragraph is usually a conclusion of the main points we have dealt with before. A good ending ‘wraps up’ the subject, and the reader must feel that the last paragraph is effectively the end.
Therefore, we must avoid introducing new ideas in the last paragraph and avoid continuing with the idea we have discussed in the last paragraph.
Remember that one way to get a good ending is to think how to end before we start writing, and always keep the best to the last.

Alternatively, here’s another technique to finish your compositions:
-Start a new paragraph.
-Write In conclusion, To conclude, To sum up or In short.
-Repeat the main ideas you have said before, but in a much shorter way and always being careful to change the words you used before.

We must avoid rambling when writing: Rambling implies that we don’t know where we are going, we have no direction, no reason for writing. Rambling is like running free, without control, moving from subject to subject randomly. Rambling results in linear writing, where one sentence suggests the next sentence, which suggests the next sentence, and so on.
We do not want rambling in our compositions.

We must be careful with digressions when we write, and the best way to do so is carefully plan what we are going to write through notes and write draft after draft until we are happy with the content.

Confused writing
Confused writing, on the other hand, has many things to say but does not group the points and deals with them one by one in good order. Confused writing keeps coming back to different aspects of the same point again and again, like a disorganized spider.
When we talk we usually go back to what we were saying five minutes before, or we suddenly remember something we had forgotten to mention or there’s something we must say now before we forget it. This is not on when writing. Composition means ordering and organizing the disorganized thoughts of our mind.
There are some signs that announce that our writing is disorganized:
-Information in brackets.
-No paragraphs.
-Some expressions like As I said before (repetition), By the way (sudden thought), Anyway (returning to a previous point).

There are some strategies we can implement to prevent confusion:
-You have something you want to say and know what it is. You have an end in mind.
-The thinking must be done during the planning or during the first draft.
-Never start writing straightaway.
-Get all ideas and illustrations, examples and evidence before writing.
-Use your notes to group points together, throw away what you don’t want and decide the best order for the points.
-Start writing your first draft.

Time division
When preparing for an English exam, sooner or later you will have to write compositions in exam conditions. If so, remember not to use a dictionary and divide the time as suggested:
Thinking time: 5 minutes
First draft: 15 minutes
Second and final draft: 10 minutes
Final check: 5 minutes

This blog post is a summary of chapters 9 and 10 of Feedback, Cambridge Universtity Press, an intermediate writing course.