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Rutherford High School RWC

The Process of . . . Invention

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"Where do I start?"
"What am I going to write?"
"How will I ever choose a topic?"
"I can't think of a thing!"
"This is going to be so boring."
The "Writing about Literature" pages will help you narrow down a topic when responding to a print text, but if you are writing for pleasure, we'll have to begin by deciding a few things.
1. Do you want to write poetry, essay, fiction, informal journal entries, letters, or something else?
2. What is the situation?

Once you have decided your purpose for writing, you must now consider the occasion and what type or kind of text will be appropriate. What is the occasion for your writing: a print situation or nonprint situation (speech, script to be performed, etc.)?

 Some techniques for getting started:

  1. Brainstorm (by yourself or with others)
  2. Freewrite
  3. Speed Write (for 5, 10, 30 minutes. Use a timer!)
  4. Draw a picture (draw what you want to write about)
  5. Use a graphic organizer
  6. Looping
  7. List
  8. Free Write (about your topic or about not knowing what to write)


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Selecting a Topic


Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
    -- Gene Fowler


You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
     -- Jack London


There is no rule on how to write.  Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
    -- Ernest Hemingway


Sometimes simply having a prompt can get you writing even if you don’t have an assignment. The practice of writing is invaluable to the production of professional writing. Writers must write, even when they are on vacation, or else they won’t have fine-tuned skills. I’ve heard the expression, “It’s not what you say but how you say it.” I do not find this to be entirely true. A weak topic runs the risk of an unsuccessful text. So how does one go about choosing a good topic?


  1. If you are simply reporting, for example, on a news event, where you do not need to provide your own opinion but strictly give facts, you simply need to find an angle. Consider your audience. What questions will they have? How can you find the answers?
  2. If you are analyzing or criticizing literature, you will need to find an angle as well. Are you comparing and contrasting two texts? Are you simply commenting on one novel and it’s elements? Most importantly, find an angle that has not been explored extensively. After all, if you are writing about it, make it something that has not already been written or questioned.



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  • Definition (Description)
  • Narration (Description)
  • Summary (Description)
  • Classification (Analysis)
  • Cause and Effect (Analysis)
  • Division (Analysis)
  • Process Analysis (Analysis)
  • Explanation (Explication)
  • Anthology (Synthesis)
  • Argument (Evaluation)
  • Comparison/Contrast (Evaluation)



What is description?

  • To recall or paraphrase information
  • Categorization, clarification, comparison, contrast, definition, discussion, elaboration, explanation, identification, illustration, interpretation, paraphrase, report, summarization.
  • Examples of description topics: a newspaper article reporting an incident, a book report giving a summary of the plotline. 


What is analysis?

  • Analyze, catalogue, categorize, classification, comparison, contrast, deduction, diagram, differentiate, dissect, division, group, identification, inventory, outline, point out, sequence.
  • Examples of analysis-type topics: giving examples from the text, identifying shifts in tone


What is explication?

  • An illumination, revelation, explanation, interpretation, or an unraveling or unpacking of meaning. (Not too different from analysis)
  • Examples of explication -type topics: A passage analysis, Dissection of a poem’s message and rhetoric


What is synthesis?

  • Bring pieces of information together and discover patterns; after explication and analysis, it’s the “So what?” explanation of the author’s choices.
  • Arrangement, collection, combination, compilation, connection, formulation, fusion, generation, integration.
  • Examples of synthesis-type topics: identifying similarities across several texts by the same author and providing an explanation; revealing how “what is said” is reinforced by “how it is said.”


What is evaluation?

  • Make judgments about the value of information and defend the judgment
  • Appraisal, assessment, comparison, contrast, conclusion, critique, debate, decision, defense, editorial, evaluation, interpretation, judgment, recommendation, verification.
  • Examples of evaluation-type topics: Book review, evaluating a writer.


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