The Five Steps

by Michael Barsanti

 

Below I have outlined five steps, or stages, that I go through when writing anything carefully. The assignments in this class have been designed to teach these five steps. There's nothing magical about them, and I expect that in time you will find that your own writing method differs-but it's a useful start.

Step Description Emphasis Assignment
Gather Take notes and make observations about the subject at hand. In our case, you will most often be underlining and annotating stories. See "How to Read" handout. It's important that you don't decide on an "angle" or an argument too soon. Let yourself gather facts for a while without knowing what for. Reading Assignments, Class discussion.
Play Take the facts and observations you've gathered and put them together in different ways. Use writing of awful drafts to figure out what you do and don't want to say. See Freewriting handouts. Let yourself write aimlessly and badly in these "drafts" that you are going to discard. Make your mind digest the things you've observed, and see if you can find patterns in them. Response
Draft Tighten up the ideas you get from the "Play" stage into a coherent, paragraphed "piece" with a discernible (if imperfect) argument. See Freewriting handouts. Let yourself write aimlessly and badly in these "drafts" that you are going to discard. Make your mind digest the things you've observed, and see if you can find patterns in them. Revised Response
Review After completing the Revised Response, wait a day or two and "Reverse Outline." Revise and rewrite as necessary to get the thing to work. Make sure each paragraph has a coherent idea, and that those ideas work together to produce an argument or thesis. Marked-up Draft
Polish Get the piece into final draft form. Introduction and conclusion, title, punctuation and other mechanics. Rewrite as necessary. Portfolio Essay