Prewriting is the process of coming up with ideas. It consists of brainstorming, questioning, freewriting, and outlining. You can use any of these techniques at any point of the writing process, but I will explain them in the order that seems to make the most sense to me.
Brainstorming is the process of coming up with as many ideas as possible. When brainstorming, allow yourself the freedom to write bad ideas as well as good. The point is to get your ideas out of your head and down on paper.
There are two types of brainstorming: listing and clustering.
When listing, you just jot your ideas down in the order that they come to you.
For example, if I were responding to the prompt: Should wild animals be protected? I might brainstorm a list like this:
Animals in overcoats Hunters and hunting Bad weather
Animals with umbrellas Habitat loss Predators
Animal protection agencies Bears Mountain lions
When clustering, you group your ideas together in a meaningful way.
Bad weather: Animal protection agencies: Predators:
Umbrellas Hunters Bears
Overcoats Habitat loss Mountain lions
Questioning is different from brainstorming because you are giving yourself specific rules for the ideas that you are trying to generate. While you can and should ask questions at all points of the writing process, directly after brainstorming is a particularly useful time to ask them.
Using the prompt about protecting wild animals, you could ask:
Do I think animals should be protected?
Do I have enough ideas to write about?
Do animals with umbrellas and overcoats matter to my topic?
What do animal protection agencies do? How do I feel about them?
Should I write about prey animals as well as predators?
Free writing is the process of putting your ideas about your topic onto paper in the form of sentences. Allow to write them in any order. Do not worry if they are good ideas or not at this point in the process.
Going back to the topic about protecting wild animals, the prewriting process could look like this:
Why do we need dog catchers? Too many people allow their dogs to run free in my neighborhood. There are a lot of woods where I live. Do the dogs kill a lot of wild animals? What kind of animals need help? Are hunters doing a lot of damage to the animals that live near me? I sure do have a lot of dear that eat the plants in my garden. I bet if we had more bears the deer wouldn’t eat all of my cantaloupes. Doesn’t cantaloupe sound like antelope? I wish we had antelope in this part of the world. Wouldn’t it be funny if you were walking through a park on a rainy day and all the squirrels are wearing raincoats and holding umbrellas and one of them comes over and bums a smoke off of you?
A scratch outline is the place where you start to get your ideas in the order. You are not quite ready to make your first draft yet, so your ideas do not have to be full sentences yet.
Protecting Wild Animals
I think wild animals should be protected.
Animal protection agencies can help.
Say something about squirrels in overcoats.
Hunters can kill too many animals.
Predators can kill too many animals.
Study how many animals there are.
Find how many animals are needed.
Animal protection agencies are helpful.
We should protect wild animals.
The formal outline is where you start turning your rough ideas into full sentences. A formal outline usually has a title, atopic sentence, a listing of the main points, any support for the main points you may have, and a conclusion sentence. It is fine not to know everything you are going to write about at this point in the process, but the more full sentences you write the easier your first draft will be.
Title: Protecting Wild Animals
Topic sentence: Wild animals need help to protect themselves from habitat loss, over hunting, and overpopulation of predators, and animal protection agencies are a good place to start.
First main point: First, animal protection agencies can help by studying the rate of habitat loss.
Support sentences: Less land equals less animals
Hunting might help
Second main point: Second, animal protection agencies can determine which animals should be hunted and how many should be hunted in any given year.
Support sentences: Find a good population of deer.
Predators might kill deer.
Third main point: Third, animal protection agencies can study the population size of predators and how many of what prey items they need to survive.
Support sentences: Balanced echo-system
(place holder until I find another support sentence)
Conclusion: In conclusion, animal protection agencies are one of the many ways we can help the keep wild animals alive in this everchanging world.
The rough draft of your paper is where you take all of the prewriting you have generated and form it into a paper. The rough draft doesn’t have to be pretty, but it should be written out in complete sentences.
For example, here is how a rough draft responding to the prompt about protecting wild animals might look:
Squirrels in overcoats and Animal Protection Agencies
Wild animals need help to protect themselves from habitat loss, over hunting, and overpopulation of predators; animal protection agencies are a good step toward protecting wild spaces and the animals in them. Imagine walking through the woods on a rainy day and every squirrel there is wearing an overcoat and holding an umbrella. How did the squirrels get these things? The animal protection agencies handed them out. Well, maybe squirrels don’t wear overcoats, and animal protection agencies don’t hand them out to wild animals. However, animal protection agencies do good things for wild animals. First, they can help wild animals by studying the rate of habitat loss. When they know how fast the habitat is declining, they can take steps to help protect the animals there. When the size of the habitat decreases, the healthy size of an animal population should decrease as well. Second, animal protection agencies can determine which animals should be hunted and how many should be hunted in any given year. If they were to wee that the local population of deer was growing out of control, they could increase the limit of deer a hunter could harvest each year until the trend changed. Third, animal protection agencies can study the population size of predators and how many of what prey items they need to survive. If animal protection agencies simply raised the limit of hunting tags without studying the population of animals that prey on deer, the population could drop much faster than anticipated. Therefore, these agencies need to keep track of predator populations as well. These agencies are important, but they can make mistakes if we don’t keep them funded properly. Please remember, animal protection agencies are dearly needed the keep populations of wild animals alive and healthy in this everchanging world.