Writing under Pressure: The Quick Writing Process

Writing under Pressure: The Quick Writing Process

Writing under Pressure: The Quick Writing Process

Writing under Pressure: The Quick Writing Process


Most writing is done under pressure. An executive has to produce a three-page position paper by tomorrow at nine. A department head suddenly has to write a one-page action memo by noon. A graduate student has a twenty-page research paper due in a week. Or a sophomore has to answer four essay questions for a three-hour exam. Indeed, most students and professionals write under pressure--limited time, limited space, a supervisor or instructor to please--yet few approach the task systematically. In Writing Under Pressure, Sanford Kaye provides a system--the Quick Writing Process (QWP)--that focuses on real-world writing tasks and shows how to produce the clearest, most honest, most powerful work possible under the constraints of time and space. A writing instructor with twenty-five year's experience teaching students and professionals in business and government, Kaye shows writers how to budget time--how much time to allot to planning, generating material, drafting and polishing to get the meaning they are after--and how to use this time efficiently. In addition, he discusses particular writing situations in which Qwp can be applied to make the most of what the writer knows. For instance, he shows how to take exams, revealing how instructors select questions and evaluate essays. He also considers writing in business and government, featuring an insightful analysis of a memo by Colonel Oliver North that highlights one of the most important issues writers in business and government face: whether to write the truth as they see it or simply what their boss wants to hear. Kaye shows how to break through the stiffling organizational codes and write memos and position papers that count. ___Most guides to writing ignore the constraints of time and space. In Writing Under Pressure, Sanford Kaye tackles these problems head on, making this volume an essential reference for students, businessmen, and government officials--for anyone faced with a difficult writing assignment that has to be done now.


This is an unconventional book. Most of the thousands of books about writing fall into a few categories. The larger group consists of handbooks which provide variations on an idealized version of the "mechanics" of writing. A smaller group consists of texts that present a personal pedagogy with strong, practical recommendations. A few eminently useful books offer a consistent point of view on matters of style or diction.

This book assumes that anyone can write well under pressure, and sets out to make that possible. The first half combines theory and practice: a case study of a writing assignment with a close deadline that demonstrates what I call the Quick Writing Process--QWP--in an organic way. The writer's work of preparing, planning, and generating material is governed by a timetable to ensure good writing without the familiar last minute scrambling and rearranging that throws essays out of balance and confuses the reader. In the producing stage, QWP employs two levels of editing: a rough first cut for coherence and consistency, and then a second reading for unity.

The second half of the book, applying this system, enriches the general theory by illustrating specific practices. The chapter on examwriting provides the most direct application, and presents a good example of how to plan and then produce good writing under pressure for a reader who holds power (such as a grade or promotion) over you. The chapters on research writing develop the system for discovering and presenting meaning. The chapters on organizational writing take the system into the environment, analyzing some of the subtle pressures against writing well that we all face in our daily work. These applications, with the final chapter, illustrate how you can adapt your own, thorough version of QWP to any writing assignment.

The idea that anyone can write well is not a popular notion. There is so much mythology and mystery surrounding the writing process and product that writing a book for everyone who needs or wants to write requires a good deal of support, encouragement, and constructive crit-

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