10 Popular Prewriting Strategies (With Definition and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 28, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Throughout your education and career, you are likely to be responsible for writing a paper or report. Organization is critical when writing a paper, as it helps you present your views in an interesting, clear, and succinct manner. Learning more about prewriting strategies can help you organize your writing process and make it more effective. In this article, we explain what prewriting is, explore a list of 10 popular strategies for bringing organization and clarity to your writing, provide tips for optimizing the process, and highlight general writing skills to help you in your own writing process.

What is prewriting?

Prewriting is a preliminary activity that enables you to generate and organize ideas and develop a strategy for your work. This organizing and planning methodology can assist you in becoming a more successful and efficient writer. It's the first phase of the writing process, often completed before starting to draft your main work.

Related: 16 Popular Job Options for Writers

10 strategies for writing preparation

Writing preparation can be effective using either formal or informal processes, depending on what works best for you. Here are some of the most popular writing preparation techniques:

1. Talking

Simply discussing your ideas with someone, regardless of their level of expertise on the subject, can help you gain new insights and rethink ideas. Take note of any questions your listener asks that may help you in determining material you can provide for the reader. Reach out to coworkers, family, friends, or anyone involved in your area of interest.

2. Researching

Research is integral to your writing preparation strategy. Take notes while reading books and articles on the subject, noting the content and your own responses, ideas, and views. Your notes can become useful references in helping you arrange your ideas and prepare your paper.

3. Brainstorming

Brainstorming involves rapidly verbalizing or writing your ideas as you think of them. While you can brainstorm without writing your ideas down, doing so can help you keep better track of them through the writing process. This technique is usually a casual activity that helps authors in selecting a concept or topic for their work. Remember that the goal of this approach is to get all ideas out of your mind, regardless of their nature. Try to avoid pressuring yourself to connect, filter, develop, or defend your thoughts, and explore them as much as you can.

4. Listing

Make a list of as many thoughts or words associated with your subject as possible. This list-making method is especially beneficial when writing about larger subjects, as it enables you to visualize and construct subtopics. Refrain from revising as you go, and just note as many ideas as possible. Once you've compiled your list of potential ideas, identify similar terms to organize into broader groups with titles you can turn into phrases, topic sentences, or even a thesis statement. Listing and organizing helps you focus your subject while guiding the writing process with suggestions for future growth.

5. Clustering

Clustering, also known as mind mapping or idea mapping, is a visual writing preparation technique that focuses on the relationships between topics and ideas. For this method, follow these basic steps:

  • Write the main topic in the centre of a piece of paper, then underline or circle it.

  • Brainstorm ideas and write them down on the same piece of paper, surrounding the main topic.

  • Draw a line between each new idea, or subtopic, and the central topic to show their connection.

  • As you have thoughts or ideas related to your subtopics, write them down and draw lines to show the connections in the same way.

When completed, your mind map may resemble a web. Use it as a tool to trace links between concepts and regions containing the most useful information. Mind mapping lets you identify clusters of subtopics worth developing and utilizing as focal areas for your paper.

6. Freewriting

Freewriting is the practice of writing whatever thoughts occur to you without regard for syntax, spelling, or quality. The objective of freewriting is to write rapidly and intuitively, producing as many ideas as possible. Whatever your topic, it's important to write consistently for a sustained length of time, often between five and ten minutes. If you already have a theme in mind, it helps to keep your writing focused on that key point. After the allotted writing time, read what you've written, highlighting any significant ideas that help focus your topic.

7. Looping

Looping builds on repeated freewriting sessions, each about five to ten minutes, enabling you to generate new ideas and narrow your focus progressively. You begin each loop session with freewriting, then identifying a significant feature or concept to follow up on with more freewriting, using that significant detail as your focal point. With each freewriting session, you focus more on developing an intriguing concept, subject, or phrase. After four or five looping sessions, many writers find they can identify talking points, develop a draft of their thesis, or better understand what they want to write about.

8. Journalistic questioning

Journalists traditionally ask themselves these six basic questions with any writing assignment:

  • Who?

  • What?

  • Where?

  • When?

  • Why?

  • How?

These core questions help answer the most important information and inform your readers about a topic.

9. Outlining

Making an outline allows you to organize thoughts and notes you want to address in your paper. Many writers use bullet points to create structure when outlining. You can list sections under headings, such as the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, each with any main ideas, evidence, or analyses. Though some writers benefit from this strategy on its own, most writers have more success using outlining along with other writing preparation techniques to achieve a clear overall sense of their argument, theme, and approach.

10. Categorizing

When you're writing a paper that requires comparison, a useful strategy is to categorize topics. For instance, you may more easily identify major differences in the views of certain authors, books, or articles by creating a chart of categories. Another benefit of categorizing your writing is that it allows you to track your responses.

Tips for effective writing preparation

You can help ensure the quality of your writing preparation experience by following these tips:

  • Schedule your time: If possible, give yourself extra time before writing after using any writing preparation techniques. When you return the next day, you may have a different perspective or new ideas.

  • Simplify your main idea: Try to reduce the main idea you hope to communicate into one sentence. Use your sentence to come up with several variations, then choose the clearest and most concise option as your final working thesis statement.

  • Experiment with multiple techniques: Personalize your writing preparation techniques to fit your own preferences, personality, and needs. For example, some writers find it helpful to express ideas through drawing rather than words during the brainstorming process.

Important writing skills

Writing is a complex process that involves unique skills for planning, drafting, and editing. Some of the most important writing skills include:

Outlining

Outlining is the process of charting a piece of writing's structure and flow. To make sense to a reader, good writing follows a logical pattern. Your ability to order words and paragraphs persuasively affects how people view you and comprehend the purpose of your writing.

Related: The Top 11 Writer Skills for Resume (With Great Tips)

Editing

After you've completed the initial draft of your work, it's important to be able to revise and refine it. Writing typically benefits from some type of editing, including viewing your work from a different viewpoint and assessing its suitability for your purposes. Consider your word choice and tone while editing your writing, and eliminate any unnecessary phrases.

Reading comprehension

Good reading comprehension enhances your ability to assimilate ideas, respond to communications, and discover new information. Writers with developed reading comprehension can better apprehend tone and central concepts. Strong reading comprehension also enables you to edit your own work for accuracy and clarity with your reader's viewpoint in mind.

Related: Important Skills Every Good Writer Must Possess

Time management

When writing anything beyond a short letter or email, time management is critical. Managing your time takes practise to estimate the time required to complete the writing and editing process. Many authors over-edit their work, spending too much time fixing it without actually enhancing the quality of their writing. It's vital for a skilled writer to know when a piece of writing is complete.

Explore more articles