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Generating Ideas for Writing

(taken from Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School (Theory and Practice) by Ruth Culham)

To see a full definition of ideas go to the 6+1 page.

How do we generate ideas?  This is part of the pre-writing stage.

1. Find something that personally interests you.
2. Think how you can make the message clear and interesting to your audience (readers).
3. Stay focused.
4. Expand and clarify the idea with significant details.
5. Get rid of things that do not matter (deadwood).

Here are some suggestions for generating ideas:
  • spidergrams/mind maps
  • bullet points
  • columns/table
  • brainstorm character/event/place/theme
  • questions (see examples)
  • internet
  • using the text you are studying
  • build clusters on the wall
  • sensory links

Another way is to ask questions about the text you have just read:

  • what surprised me?
  • what annoyed me?
  • what did I learn?
  • what changes occurred?
  • what did I expect to happen that didn't?
  • what do I keep remembering?
  • what did I recognise?

(adapted from Donald M. Murray's questions in Shoptalk, 1990 pp 79-80)


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