Prewriting is a tool that will help you combat the feelings of panic and worry that can accompany a writing assignment, particularly if you do not know where to begin.

Prewriting Techniques


Directed Questioning

Directed Questioning is useful for those who already have a topic that interests them but they are not quite sure where to start. This method will help narrow your broad idea. For example, you know you want to talk about Walt Disney, but what exactly do you want to focus on?

These questions may help you find the answer:

  1. What is my purpose in writing about this topic?
    • If you were writing about Walt Disney, do you want to tell everyone about his career in animation? How about his childhood? Or his life during World War II? How about his political leanings? Maybe you just want to talk about Disney World instead.
  2. Who is my audience and why would they care about my topic?
    • What can you say about the topic that would be relevant and interesting to the people you are writing for? What will your audience take away from your paper?
    • Then ask yourself these questions:
    • Who, what, when, where, how, why?
    • Can I argue for or against the topic?
    • What ideas are associated with the topic?


Free-writing is what it sounds like; it is a strategy that is used to get everything out of your mind and on to the paper--- not prettily, either. You do not need to worry about punctuation, correct grammar usage, word choice, etc. What you should worry about for the ten to fifteen minute period is just writing anything that comes to your head. Sometimes, asking a friend to write down your ideas as you brainstorm out loud can be beneficial.

Free-writing can help if you have no idea what to begin writing about. Write down your thoughts about whatever comes to your mind and then choose an idea that you came up with. Next, maybe you will pick one of those ideas and free-write about the specifics of that idea.


Gather as much information as you can and talk to your audience. What would they find interesting? What do YOU think they would find interesting? What grabs and holds YOUR attention? Jot down everything that comes to mind. Don't be afraid of throwing stuff out later; just gather what you can to get ideas.

Next, tell your idea to someone in a few sentences to make sure it makes sense and maybe gather some ideas from them.

Make an outline of some sort to show the flow of ideas. Write the first draft from there.