Serving students and faculty since 1971

Continuing our conversation with Writing Center tutors about their unique writing process, here is what Cecilia had to say about her process. We hope you find some helpful tips and advice!

What are your favorite pre-writing strategies? What works for you?

I’m a big fan of making lists of words, topics, and general ideas. I don’t do well with outlines right away because I probably don’t have much information to begin with. When I am working on academic work, I try to digest the assignment, and then begin making random notes that I think I can dig into. Most of the time, one note, turns into multiple lists. The stronger the list, or the more bullets in the list, tells me that I’m probably going to be expounding on that idea in my paper. However, if an assignment requires more critical thinking from me, I create an outline.

Are you a “start writing and see what happens” kind of writer, or a writer who doesn’t start writing unless they have a plan?

As much as I love a good plan in life, in writing, I just start. I’ve noticed that when I plan everything out, I inevitably end up avoiding the writing. So, I just start. It might not be pretty and I might have to change a lot of it later, but I get more momentum by simply writing.

Do you have any tricks that help you get your first draft onto the paper? What do you do if you get stuck?

The threat of time is always motivating for my first draft, or final draft for that matter. For me, I need the deadline to be very clear and that healthy dose of time restraint, pushes me to get the first draft done. When I get stuck in my draft, I take a break. It could be for the rest of the day, or it could be for a few minutes or hours. I find that some days, I need to step away in order to gain better perspective or to have a mental break for my brain. However, if I’m on a deadline and I get stuck, I power through by re-reading what I have. I might re-read it several times and then usually, I find where I’m stuck or why I’m stuck.

When you revise, what do you look at first? Do you have a pretty standard revision process, or does it depend on the individual paper?

When I revise I try to get a second opinion first. I think peer-review feedback is incredibly helpful to see my paper in a new way. Once I get some feedback, I look at the major areas of concern. Am I answering the prompt or assignment question/goal? Is the organization sound and clear? Then, I like to read the paper out loud so that I can catch pauses, wordiness, and grammatical errors. Every assignment is different, so some papers I may spend more time on big items, and other papers, I’m just going back over for smaller, local items like sentences, punctuation, and grammar.

Is there anything you find yourself always having to watch for when you edit? What’s your kryptonite? 

Yes. Redundancies and wordiness are my kryptonite. On the flip side of this, I particularly enjoy going back and omitting or rewriting words, paragraphs, or phrases. For me, this is a therapeutic process. I like to think of it as de-cluttering my writing instead of “concise” writing. If I turn it into a game, it’s quite fun!

Anything else about your writing process that you want to share with other writers? 

Absolutely. My writing process isn’t an exact science, and some writing projects are seamless for me to write and others can be very difficult. If I could give fellow writers any advice it would be to stay patient with yourself in your own process. Notice your bad habits and try to figure out how you can work with them. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. 🙂