Organizing and Developing Your Ideas

Article excerpt

Many writers move from an idea to final paper by working through the stages of planning, drafting, and revising. Not all writers use the same sequence of stages, however, and not all writers use the same sequence for everything they write.

Planning. Planning is an essential element in preparing articles. Whether the plan is formulated in the mind or on paper, writers begin to focus on particular subjects and think about ways of exploring them. Writers typically vary their planning strategies with each project as they respond to its individual requirements and challenges.

Because the most effective writing develops from a writer's interest in or commitment to a subject, select a general subject that appeals to you as you begin to plan your article. When selecting a subject, do not limit your thinking. Instead, keep an open mind and consider various subjects before selecting one.

Once you select a general subject, take time to explore it, to develop a manageably narrow topic by focusing on one aspect, to consider your knowledge of and opinion about the topic, and to explore alternative ways to develop ideas related to the topic.

Planning strategies provide opportunities to think about a subject and explore ideas. When you have the freedom to select first, your own subject, and then, your narrowed topic, these strategies will help you to decide what to write about. Planning strategies can include freewriting, journal writing, journalists' questions, and brainstorming.

Freewriting is writing spontaneously for brief, sustained periods of 10 or 15 minutes. Freewriting can be unfocused if you are searching for a subject, or it can be focused if you know the subject but are deciding how to approach it.

Journal writing is recording your thoughts and observations regularly, for your own use, in a notebook kept for the purpose. Journal writing is more focused and systematic as you develop ideas on a specific topic or event.

Journalists' questions are a reliable set of questions - who, what, when, where, how, and why - that journalists use to explore their subjects and uncover specific, detailed information. By using these questions as prompts, you can pinpoint various aspects, finding pertinent and interesting connections, and information that you didn't know you knew.

Brainstorming is used to list everything that is related to your subject. Freely associated ideas expressed in words and phrases may be developed by an individual writer or by a group working together on one project.

Develop a brainstorming list by thinking briefly about your subject. Then write without pausing, using single words or short phrases, until you run out of ideas. Brainstorming should be done rapidly and spontaneously, so do not pause to evaluate, analyze, or arrange your ideas.

To use a brainstorming list, arrange items in groups unified by a common idea or theme. Do not let your original list limit your thinking while grouping ideas. Drop items that do not fit your groups, repeat items in several groups if appropriate, and add new items whenever you think of them.

Review the grouped ideas using the following tactics: classify by topics, identify examples, arrange chronologically, and compare or contrast.

Select a specific topic. Having explored your general topic and discovered the aspects of it that interest you most, work toward identifying a specific, narrowed topic. To begin, review your planning materials. Then use these questions to decide on the effective topic:

* Which seems most original?

* Which interests you most?

* About which are you most informed?

* Which is the most useful? Which can you cover best in the space allowed for your article?

Identify your role, your readers, and your purpose. Your role as a writer is to consider your perspective on your topic. If you are writing about a sport. …