Union Institute and University

Make A Writing Plan

Any good piece of writing begins with the understanding that effective writing takes time.

But not all of that time is spent sitting at the keyboard. Time for rest and reflection between the steps of the process is also important. An all-nighter the day before an assignment is due is far less productive than the same amount of time spread across several writing sessions.

Use the writing process guidelines on this web page to plan the steps of each assignment. Commit in advance to working time and deadlines for each step and put them in your calendar. Ironically, busy people with work, home, and school commitments are a lot better at this kind of strategizing then people with fewer obligations and more flexibility in their schedules.

Stick to your schedule

Other people are the best tool for helping you stick to your schedule. A great way to set deadlines is to create a writing group (even if that “group” is just you and one other person from your class). Agree on times to exchange the products of each phase of your process. These review times will become deadlines with a little peer pressure, and this kind of deadline will help you as much as the feedback from the other group members.

A writing group can meet in person, but it can also work just as well at a distances. Use email, facebook, or instant messaging to exchange drafts and ideas, and then discuss them.

Know your peak writing times

Are you a morning person? Do ideas really flow during the first few hours of the day, but things slow down toward lunch time? Or have you had your best successes late at night when it’s quiet with no distractions? Schedule difficult tasks like composing for your most efficient writing times.

Is this you?

Do you believe that you “do your best work under pressure”? Do you rely on the adrenaline rush of a rapidly approaching assignment deadline to get started?

While this might be effective in the sense that it gets you to complete your assignments, it’s a form of procrastination disguised as a strategy.

Learn more about the psychology of procrastination from this useful handout from the University of North Carolina.