The pre-writing stage consists of all the work that is done before actual text production takes place. At this stage you identify what you will write about as well as how you will write about it. This means that before you start writing, you need to know what demands are placed on your writing.
When embarking on a writing task, there are three questions you need to ask as a writer:
- who do you write for?
- what do you want to say?
- what kind of text are you going to write?
Once you have an idea of the task at hand, you can start preparing for your writing. Although the exact nature of what you do in this pre-writing stage depends on your academic field and on the type of text you are writing, the following often form part of pre-writing activities:
- reading of background material
- experiments and other kinds of data collection
- analysis of the material that is under investigation
- idea-generating exercises or discussions with peers
Importance of the pre-writing stage
What you do at the pre-writing stage will affect your writing and how your text develops. In an early article on process-oriented writing, Rohman (1965) described pre-writing as "the stage of discovery in the writing process when a person assimilates his 'subject' to himself" (p. 106). This is worth considering: it is during this early stage of your project that your approach to the project develops. If you are writing about complex subject matter, you need to understand the topic and decide how to approach your essay topic in order to be able to write about it.
How to tackle the pre-writing stage
Pre-writing activities often involve reading, experimenting, and data collection, as well as the formulation of a thesis (that is, the claim you will make in your text). These activities differ depending on what type of text you will write and in what discipline you write.
Read about ways of approaching the pre-writing stage on the following pages:
- Identifying your audience
- Using invention techniques
- Developing reading strategies
- Taking notes
- Identifying language resources
- Choosing a writing tool
You also need to make sure that you know what kind of text is required, as well as what kind of feedback (if any) you can expect to receive during your writing process: