Learning how to write is not without its barriers. In essence, it is the final product of several other complicated thought and learning processes. Each writer, at any given time, may need to acquire any given set of language arts skills to perfect the piece on which they are currently working. Some writers are able to navigate this process fluently, while others need help along the way.

Each writer has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Some writers have an excellent thought process, but need to strongly pay attention to grammar and mechanics. Other writers will have the basic mechanics down, but their work isn’t full of many details. Their paragraphs tend to be short and to the point. Then you have writers who, clearly have a complete understanding of what they are discussing and relay that information in a grammatically correct and efficient way. This third type of writer is what all writers aspire to be.

The amount of time this journey takes varies depending on each writer. Regardless of how long -or short- the journey to growing as a writer takes, there are some basic concepts to focus on while working to improve your skills.

Determine The Purpose of Your Piece

Why are you writing?

Are you trying to gain support for a cause? Are you pouring your heart to someone special? Are you offering a congratulations, well wishes or luck? Perhaps your writing is assigned and you do not feel excited about it.

Whatever the reason make sure you are certain your purpose for writing and STICK TO IT. Anything you include in your writing has to some way support your purpose. If you make a parallel to another work or situation that relates to your purpose, you must be clear about this. If you insert a quote about your situation you must elaborate on the relevance and importance of the selected quote to your topic.

Your job as the writer is to keep the reader focused on the point you are trying to make.

Write More Than One Draft

This is easily one of the most freely given pieces of writing advice to ever exist, interestingly it is one of the most ignored. Especially by students. “What is the point?” the students think. “But it just takes mooooore tiiimmmee” they complain.

Well, believe it or not, there is a valid point to writing more than one draft. By writing something, giving your brain a rest, then going back to it, you are giving your mind time to digest what was written. You are giving yourself the opportunity to think about your topic more deeply, ask insightful questions and then read/research more in order to answer those questions.

By taking the time to work on a piece of writing over several writing sessions, your work will be more informed, interesting and provide more value for the reader. If you are unsure of how to plan out writing sessions, you may use the below schedule as a guide:

  • Session One (or possibly more) – Pre-writing. Take this time to explore ideas through either freewriting or webbing what you already know about a topic. If the topic is completely new to you, reading about it and take notes. Then write free-write or web about what you have learned. Note: the pre-writing may take several sessions if you are learning about it from scratch.
  • Session Two – Determine Thesis Statement and Outline – Review your notes. What conclusion can you come to about your topic. Do you want to advocate for or against the topic? Make a definitive statement about the topic. This is your thesis statement. You will now base your entire outline around proving your statement to be true. Again, go through your notes. What evidence helps to prove your thesis statement to be true? Find two to three or more (depending on what your assignment calls for) pieces of evidence. Each of these will be the focus of one paragraph.
  • Session Three – Draft. Now you must fill your Introduction, Body and Conclusion paragraphs with your own voice smoothly walking the reader through the facts you are presenting to prove your point.
  • Session Four– Revise. Many young and new writers struggle with this step, as it gets confused with editing grammar. The whole point of this step is – does this piece make sense? How is the structure, word choice, order of evidence, etc.? Is it effective and efficient? Will the reader understand me?
  • Session Five- Edit. Now we care about the grammar – punctuation, sentence structure, proper tense, etc.

Essentially, by following through with all of these sessions and writing multiple drafts you will become a better writer. So cut your self a break and do the extra work to produce not just a complete piece, but a thoroughly thought-out, deep and informed work.

Know About Your Topic

This is another piece of advice that seems obvious, but unfortunately sometimes go unheeded. This is the internet age. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation out there. And yes, many times that disinformation is believed without a second thought.

However, you are not the average internet user. You are an upstanding human being who wants to produce credible and informed writing. Being such a sophisticated writer, you know that should you publish something that isn’t 100% factual, other sophisticated internet users will call you out. You do not want that.

Please note, this is not the same as someone disagreeing with your post. You could write and publish something that is 100% factual and people will still disagree. That is okay. That is the result of putting your work out into the world.

However, the onus is on you to be sure you double and triple check your information and confirm with multiple sources, if possible, to ensure you are taking the proper steps to confirm you are writing accurate information.

There is a benefit to all this responsibility…you learn more, which is always fun! But, also you garner respect and build an audience off of your truthful writing.

Select Your Words with Intention

The woman was infuriated when she saw the mess the children left.

The woman was upset when she saw the mess the children left.

Both sentences are simple and indicate a woman feeling some level of distress. The difference between the sentences is the degree of distress felt by the woman, and is indicated with the change of one simple word. That is how delicate word choice can be.

This mini-lesson also serves as a reminder that learning new vocabulary is paramount to building your writing skills. The more words you know, the more tools you have to communicate efficiently. You can find tips to expand your vocabulary in this article.

One final note on word choice, sometimes less is more. The more words you use the more deciphering your reader has to do, which can muddy comprehension. Say what you mean and say it simply.

Keep Your Thoughts Organized

If you are relaying a chronological event, things that’s happened first, should go in the beginning of the story. Events that happen in the middle of the story should go in the middle of your paper and the same with the end of the story/paper.

If you are comparing and contrasting two items, be sure you are following the same format throughout the written work. You can either address all the similarities and differences in their own sections or set your paper up to focus on each individual characteristic being compared then relay how each of your subjects stack up.

There are many different formats each having their own benefits for use. What is important is that once you choose a format, stick with it by ensuring your information is organized accordingly throughout the piece.

Just Start

There is no getting around it. The first step is to just start.

Starting is the hardest part.

Working through the insecurities and self-imposed barriers of the mind can make writing difficult. Starting a sentence can be daunting. The great thing is, for the first writing step- pre-writing, none of these thoughts or barriers apply. Just get your thoughts on paper. Complete sentences, clauses, just words. It doesn’t matter. Just get words on the paper or document. Then, just pretend like you are talking to a friend, but your friend happens to be your notebook or computer. There is a reason writers have the stereotype of being eccentric.

Final Takeaways

There is no need to stress whether or not you are using the correct word, or if a sentence is in the correct paragraph in your pre-writing or first draft. Pencils are outfitted with erasers and word processing tools have a “delete” function. Imperfections can easily be moved or deleted during the revision process. Just Start.

If you are completely new to writing, this list may be overwhelming. Just choose one area of writing to work on at a time for each project. For example, if you don’t know how to structure your writing or use proper grammar, for your first project, just focus on the structure of the writing and don’t worry about the grammar. Work on one skill at a time and eventually it will all come together.

Your thoughts are important. You should honor them by initially committing them to paper/blog, and then learning how to craft that message to share with the world.

Relevant Links:

Summer 2022 – Writing Portfolio Course for grades 5 -7

3 Steps to Combat Writing Hesitancy in Middle Graders

Why You Should Expand Your Vocabulary

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