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Usually the best and most effective way to write is to build up enough schema and momentum to produce a clean, well-edited, final copy that is ready for publication. I usually try to think on a beginning, middle, and end before I begin writing. When I can pinpoint the overall "shape" of my essay, I proceed to write as the ideas come and often they tend to come in order.
Technology has made it very simple for us to not have to always check on spelling mistakes but the more you write, the less prone you are to make a big mistake in grammar or spelling.
Hence, I would just say "write and keep writing" as this is the only way to "get it right".
I tend to write better under time pressure, not that I have many deadlines to meet any more. I also tend to write more effectively at night, when there are fewer noises and distractions.
As for drafting, I tend to write entire drafts without editing at all, and only then do I go back through what I have written and reorganize and change portions. I don't let accidental typos or grammar interfere with the writing before I have completed a thought or section, as I believe getting it on paper (or on screen) in its purest form is the first priority, and in this way I do not lose my train of thought while I pause to fix commas.
I also tend to write during the time I read a book or article - that is, I read others' work, then pause when something strikes me and write it down before I forget. My novels and non-fiction books are littered in the margins with comments and reactions. The writing itself, the completed thought in written form, is always my first priority.
I find that writing continuously for a lengthy period of time is beneficial, and then I often revisit and revise. A fresh mind and a mental breather seems to reinvigorate the creative spirit, and I often find plenty of opportunities for development.
I've played the wait-until-the-last-minute technique all too often, and it usually results in dire consequences; hence, the one B+ grade in a master's class while the rest are A's!
It may sound strange on the surface, but I have a tendency to do both. That clicking clock on the wall is sometimes a great motivator and forces me to create "something" within a certain deadline. But I find that with the additional reflection that time allows my work becomes better, stronger, and more personally satisfying as I make changes.
One of the methods that I use is to create an "artificial" deadline for a first draft--something that forces me to have ideas on paper long before I have reach the real deadline. This then allows me additional time to reflect upon my work and seek input and response from others on how to improve it.
I am very much like copelmat in #5. I find that actually, even though I start the writing process probably last minute, what I do is I think through it very carefully in my head (whether I am aware of it or not) and so when I come to actually sit down and write the thing I am much more organised than I think. It works for me, though I do occasionally get rather stressed about it!
I would by no means recommend my way of writing, but I always write my papers at the last minute. However, I only write in this way because this method happens to suit my writing thought process as well as my sleeping patterns. I have never liked writing multiple drafts over a long period of time before submitting that last paper. When I write something, I sit and write until I have made it exactly how I want it to be, so extra drafts serve only to waste my time and force me to intentionally leave things out or unedited so that I will have something to change on my next draft.
While I might wait until the night before to begin a paper, I have never turned in shoddy work because I will still take as much time as I need to properly format, research, and self-edit everything. I am also a night owl who does not need much sleep, and as a result I feel my most motivated and creative in the evening and have the capacity to trade sleep for writing and thinking time. I am aware this is basically the method professors always tell you not to adopt, and I absolutely agree if the student is a person who cannot handle the pressure of a " night before" situation, is not willing or able to put in the time to create a strong and well-written paper despite the time restraints, or needs those outlines and extra drafts in order to work out all the kinks in the writing. In short, if people work in such a way that their process would be disrupted by procrastinating, they should not procrastinate, but a person who procrastinates will not- contrary to popular opinion- automatically set a person up for failure. I rarely get lower than an A and have never received lower than a B on any of my papers.
The best advice I ever received about writing was in a beginning English class in college. The teacher assigned the students to write something like one hundred words per day in a journal or diary form and to turn these in once a week, mainly to show that they had been keeping up with the assignment. They could write about any subject or subjects they chose. There didn't have to be any thesis or any consistency; they just had to write a small quota of words each and every day. Over the years I have tried to continue to do that-- although I have had lapses. I must have written at least a million words--possibly two million. I haven't kept most of them. Writing has become fairly easy for me by now, although I would like to keep improving. Writing will become a habit if you do it regularly, producing a small quota every day. (If you are even a mediocre typist, you can write a hundred words in two minutes.) It will even become a necessity. By that time you will be a real writer. And you will find out a lot of things about yourself. It is helpful to read what you have written. You can see what sounds bad and what sounds good. You can rewrite some of the things that sound bad and make them sound better to your own ears. You can learn to deal with all the minor problems of writing such as punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest American writers. He said that he tried to write just "one true sentence" and then follow it with another true sentence. I have heard that he only wrote a few hundred words a day.
The way I write now is to turn out a first draft fairly quickly and then go back and read it to see if it makes sense and if it reads smoothly, so that a reader would not stumble over an awkward expression. I also want to make sure I didn't make any obvious mistakes. If necessary I write a third draft. Somebody once said that good writing is rewriting. But you don't need to worry about the first draft being perfect. James Thurber, an excellent writer, said: "Don't get it right, get it written." In other words, get something down on paper. You are not carving the letters in stone. They can always be changed. With time you will find that fewer changes are needed. But i don't think there's any way of becoming good at anything unless you do a lot of it.
The best book on writing I have ever found was the now-famous The Elements of Style of Strunk and White. E. B. White, who revised and expanded the original book by Wilfred Strunk, was one of the best American writers. He is now mainly remembered for his children's books Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little.
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