Pre-writing Techniques

The Definition of Pre-writing
The Techniques of Pre-writing
  • Major Techniques
  1. Free Writing
  2. Brainstorming
  3. Clustering
  4. Journalistic Techniques
  • Other Helpful Techniques
  1. Asking Questions
  2. Being Mentally Prepared
External Links

The Definition of Pre-writing

Pre-writing is the first stage of the writing process, aimed to "discover and explore our initial ideas about a subject". (1) At the beginning of writing, it is usual to find yourself totally blank, without ideas about what to say. Techniques following, such as free writing, brainstorming, clustering and journalistic techniques, make it much easier to start a writing. Efforts of these are helpful to overcome the "writer's block".

The Techniques of Pre-writing

A. Major techniques


Free-writing involves writing down anything that comes into your mind, on or off the topic, on a blank paper within a time limit of 5 to 10 minutes non-stop. In the process, there is no need to focus on the grammar, the spelling or the punctuation. What matters is to generate a flow of thought. (2) When the non-stop writing ends, you should review what have been jotted down, crossing some off and marking some seem important and interesting. (3) In this way, relevant ideas are collected.

Free Writing

what to say about "get n lose"? Get means I v achieved sth. may be a goal, a praise... Wht I have lost? A friend? A game? An exam? The feeling of loose is really terrible. I dnt wanna be a loser. I wanna win. To get brings me happiness. I will be driven to wk harder and move forward. Bt sb will indulge themselves in the existing achievements n become complacent. Japan has lost a lot in the earthquake and stunami ... ppl die. building crashes dwn. Japan also get something. ppl r ever united to fight the disaster. The high standard of social order, self-disipline presented by the Japanese have impressed the wld a lot and win the nation a sound reputation...


Brainstorming is a strategy of listing all the terms related to the topic. No need to worry about whether those ideas are useful or not. You just jot down all the possibilities. (4) The more, the better. Then look back things you have listed and circle those that make a sense to the topic. With a team's efforts, it will be more effective. A group of brains can do the imagine work to the utmost and generate more wild ideas. "Often, brainstorming looks more like a list while freewriting may look more like a paragraph. With either strategy, your goal is to get as many ideas down on paper as you can."(5)


property market

soaring prices



traditional values


migrant workers

restrictions packages

accumulated wealth

limited investment channels

maintain and add the value



Clustering, or mind mapping is a "visual of outlining", putting the main topic in the center of paper and lining it with any new ideas associated.(6) You can also group sub-ideas around this new idea. This strategy allows you to collect ideas effectively and,particularly, understand the logic contained between ideas."You will be able to distinguish how the ideas fit together, especially where there is an abundance of ideas." (7)



4.Journalistic techniques

Journalistic techniques refer to asking yourself six questions,1How and 5Ws: How? What? Where? When? Which? Who? (8) With those questions, you can fully explore ideas about the topic you are about to write and put everything down in detail. In this process, you should not spare hard efforts on every question but make it as flexible as possible. In other words, some Ws (such as what or who) should be attached with importance, while others (such as where or who) can be ignored. This largely depends on your topic.


What has happened to Bin Laden?

Where and When was he killed?

Who killed him?

How did the US Army track that man down?

On hearing the death of Bin Laden, how did Americans respond?

How did they celebrate?

What was the response of civilians in Afghanistan?

What's the significance of the death?

How can we prevent the potential terror activities?

What should we do to eliminate the terrorism in the long run?

B. Other helpful techniques

1.Asking questions

1)What is the purpose of writing about this subject?

For writing, there are goals of various sorts, including to express a view, to oppose an existing vision, or to inform people some helpful information. With the purpose in mind, you will be fully aware where you are leading. This will drive you directly to the goal, not off the track. Moreover, this goal helps you to decide how to approach the topic, by means of argumentation, description or exemplification.

2)Who will be your target readers?

Considering your target readers is important in the writing process, including their age, education background, social status... All these largely decide what kind of language you will adopt, how much you should explain, even what subject you should explore to arouse their interest. Articles aimed at government officials and those at 5-year-old kindergarten kids differ dramatically in language, contents and ways of developing. So before writing, you should ask:"Who will be my target readers?" You can even conduct an interview with potential readers to see what they are concerned about, what they are expecting from this article, what their opinions on the selected subject are. This enables you to obtain different perspectives and to be more reader-oriented. (9)

2.Being mentally prepared

Before writing, it is helpful to take a deep breath to calm yourself down and get rid of writing anxiety. Staying in a quiet and comfortable place is important. The library can be a good choice. Besides, try to make sure all the distractions are eliminated, by turning off your mobile phone, MSN or QQ. You even can post a card claiming "No Disturb" on the door. For some people, it is effective to get wired into the mp3, building a melody wall to shut out the outside world. Thus you can totally get immersed into your writing career.








External Links

Pre-writing guide from Empire State College, State University of New York, which includes various pre-writing techniques, and extensive examples to illustrate how to use those skills effectively.

Tools for Developing Pre-writing Skills by Raymond J. Rodrigues. This article is published on The English Journal by National Council of Teachers of English.

Online practice for pre-writing techniques.

Online guide for identifying your audience