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28 Organize A frequent cause of blocking is the confusion that ensues when you try to hold the entire pattern in your head at one time. —Mack and Skjei You have insights into your material, you’ve developed some of your ideas, and you have at least a working focus around which all of your ideas cohere. Why not just jump into a draft? Without a sense of the organization of the whole, you’re likely to start with the most obvious point you want to make, write a page or two, and then . . . get stuck, because you didn’t provide yourself with a next step. One of the principal aims of this book is to help you avoid getting into that position—stuck, frustrated, and spinning your wheels. So if you can hold off on drafting for just a little longer, your overall writing time will, I think, be shorter, and the drafting process will go more smoothly. Learning HOW to organize material should serve you well no matter what you write. But individual discourse communities have specific preferences on such issues as the order of materials, where the thesis or key point goes and if the piece even needs a thesis. One of the mistakes writing courses have Organize    235 traditionally made is to implicitly teach students that the “right” organization is that of the personal essay, which is in fact a genre unusual outside the humanities. A student writing about business or biology using personal essays as a model is not likely to do well. So some transfer can be negative, harmful to your writing in a new situation. The possibility of negative transfer is yet another reason to learn as much as you can about audience, purpose, and genre when you’re in a new writing situation. Purposes of Organizing I doubt I have to convince you that the organization of a piece of writing is important. Yet many writers never think consciously about organizing; they just assume that the order in which ideas come out of their heads will be a good order for readers. Unfortunately, that isn’t generally the case. (See Write reader-based prose ➥158.) To organize an entire project, the writer steps back from it and tries to see the whole and its parts. Because this valuable step can be difficult if the writer is caught up in the details or the flow of the story, many of the moves in this chapter help ease the writer into this distanced position. If you think with a pencil, now’s the time to sharpen it: a doodle could turn into an outline or sketch. And as you play around with rearranging the big chunks of your paper, always be alert for surprises and discoveries. If you move paragraph ten right after paragraph two, what kind of transition will that require? What new thoughts spring from connecting those two once-distant ideas? If you use software to keep track of your notes, does the way it organizes your material tell you anything? Many writers shy away from organizing because of bad experiences with outlining, the simplest and most commonly used organizing technique. Teachers and professors often require outlines too early in the writing process, or they require too formal an outline, or students feel that they must follow the outline too rigidly. In almost all cases, an outline should be an aid to the writer, not an impediment or an end product. It’s up to you to figure out what kind of detail you need in an outline or if a non-conventional outline would work for you. Be guided by one central goal: any kind of outline or organizational aid should lay out future steps for you, so that you’re never stuck, wondering “Where do I go next?” Organizing moves can help you figure out an organizing principle for your writing. Will you present all the benefits, then all the costs, then your conclusion ? Will you list events in chronological order? Will you reveal your evidence most important to least important, or the reverse? Group, label, and order ➥162 and Try standard organizing patterns ➥166 should help you make a decision about your organizing principle. 236    MOves Organizing Moves Unlike some of the other processes we’ve looked at, organizing doesn’t happen automatically as you write. In most cases it takes a conscious effort, a stepping back from the details to see the big picture, and a good enough...


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