Thinking about writing – I

One doesn’t just sit down and write.  One has to think about what one is going to write, organise those ideas and then get them down on paper or into an electronic document. What’s involved in the writing process?

Last week, I suggested that you live dangerously and write on the edge.  I linked you to an online app that gives writers a blank page and which also stops writers when they’ve reached the alotted number of words.  This time it was 250 words and the only requirement for each piece of writing was that it had to have a beginning (introduction), middle and ending (conclusion).

Let’s briefly look at the prompts I shared on the English with Fiona Facebook page:

This year has seen much of the world in lockdown.  It seemed logical that this would be our first prompt.  There are no rules about the content.  You don’t even have to write about lockdown associated with the novel corona virus or covid-19.

What is a calendar, and what does it mean to you?  Time dragging or time flying by? Or does the word conjure up memories of times gone by? There are no rules about the content.  This is your writing based on the prompt.

Purse is a word with many meanings.  Perhaps you want to write about the first thing that jumps into your head.  You could even write a short story that incorporates the word.  It’s entirely up to you.  Remember, there are no rules about the content.  This is your writing based on the prompt.

Last year…
This phrase opens the door to a lot of things: your own memories, fantasy and fiction. You might even wish to indulge in a piece of reflective writing.  Remember, there are no rules about the content.  This is your writing based on the prompt.

What does the word “living” make you think about? There are no rules about the content.  This is your writing based on the prompt.

This activity was a free write, and the theme running through all my tips was that there were no rules about content.

Not sharing in public

Nobody was brave enough to share their writing in public.  I understand that.  I still remember my first blog post.  Hitting the “publish” button was the scariest thing I’d ever done.  I also remember the first time my writing went into print.  In a national weekly newspaper.  That was thrilling and also terrifying;  especially as it was an opinion piece that I had published in my newsletter – only intended for clients.

Even though writing has been integral to virtually every job I’ve done since I left university, and I love doing it, “putting it out there” is still something about which I think twice.

Not for my eyes only

So, every time I write something that’s not for my eyes only, and before I share it, these are the questions that always run through my head:

    • How many mistakes have I missed?
    • Will someone actually read this?
    • Is it perfect?
    • Can I make it better?

In case you’re wondering, I do miss mistakes.  If you’re reading this, that answers at least one of the questions, right?

Perfectly imperfect

Often the piece is not perfect and could be better.  I have learned that if I spend too long making something perfect, it will never see the light of day.  I have also learned from the years of imperfection.  These lessons have helped me to improve my writing and aspects of my writing which we can talk about another time.

You’re not alone:  writing is a process

Why have I shared my experience and what I go through every time I write?

Because one doesn’t just sit down and write.  One has to think about what one is going to write, organise those ideas and then get them down on paper or into an electronic document.

That’s where I start – pencil and paper.  Then it’s on to the computer and then it’s organising the ideas and writing and revising.

I’ve summarised the recursive writing process for you in this very short video.

Doing it again, Sam?

Thank you to the folk who got in touch, and who me to run this excercise again.  I will, happily.  Please use the contact form below, or send me a direct message via the English with Fiona Facebook page.

What’s next?

Next time, I’ll start looking at the different stages in the writing process in more detail.  If there’s something specific you’d like me to address, please contact me using the form below.

Until next time, be well and be safe

PS:  If you need English writing or wish to improve your English, find out more about English with Fiona, here.

Contact Fiona 


Living dangerously: writing on the edge – I

Have you ever just wanted to write but don’t know what to write about?

Are embarrassed to share your writing because you don’t think it’s written right?

Do you think that nobody will read your writing?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, here’s an opportunity – especially if you’re still in lockdown and looking for something to do:

To get the creative juices flowing, every day, for the next five days, starting today (18 May 2020), I will share a writing prompt on the English with Fiona Facebook page.

Does this rock your socks?

For each prompt, you must write at least 200 but not more than 250 words of prose:

Make sure that your writing has

    • A beginning, middle and an ending
    • A few paragraphs

Writing on the Edge

You may choose to use The Most Dangerous Writing App, which does two things:

    1. Gives you a blank page on which to start writing
    2. Lets you write without having to count words – it will stop you when you’ve reached 250.

For this five session exercise, I’ve made it easy:  we’re not using the timer, but rather the number of words.

Here is the link and a screen shot below to show you what to do:

In summary:  Click edit on the grey square, and change “time” to “words” and then select “250 words” and then click the “start writing” button.

The app will open to blank page and will automatically stop you at 250 words.

Of course, if you’d prefer to write with pen and paper, do that.  I often do.

Before you start, you may want to read this.

And then –

    • Type up your writing, or
    • If you’re writing on the edge, copy and paste your writing into an electronic document and edit it until you’re happy with it; or
    • if you’re happy with the finished product, copy paste it as a post here and publish it (you will have to like the page to be able to post).

Then, there’s more:

What if you love what you’ve written, but you’re not sure that it’s ready to publish?

Would you like another pair of eyes to take a look at it?

I’ll do that!

Free online writing tutorial

Send me your writing and I’ll give you one online writing tutorial. For free.

What is an online writing tutorial?

An online writing tutorial is a lesson in writing – based on your own writing.

In the writing tutorial, I work in the document you send to me.  I will

    • point out grammar and other mistakes mistakes (taking creative license into consideration) and
    • give you pointers about how you can revise and improve the piece

Once you’ve you are happy with your writing, you are welcome to publish it here.

Four online writing tutorials for the price of five

If you find the first tutorial useful, and you’d like all five of your pieces of writing reviewed, I will happily do that at the discounted rate of ZAR 395 ($22 or £18).

You can check out my other online English tutoring services and rates here.

To get your free, trial online writing tutorial, you will need to send writing in either a Word or Google document via this email address.

Come and join English with Fiona where I will post the first prompt for writing on the edge.  It will be around 12h00 noon (UTC/GMT+2).

When to publish your writing on English with Fiona

You can share your writing whenever you please, but if you want an online writing tutorial, you must send it to me within 24 hours of the post.

Terms and conditions for this special offer

    • Tutorials availabe only for documents in MS Word, Google and RTF format.  PDF format is not accepted.
    • This special offer closes 24 hours after the last prompt is posted
    • The terms and conditions set out here also apply.

Can’t write it this week?

Don’t worry, we’ll do it agan.  Write to using the form below, or subscribe to the blog by clicking “Get more English with Fiona”.

I look forward to reading your writing!


PS:  Read my writings here.

Contact me to discuss your English learning needs

English with Fiona

I am returning to one of my first loves: the English language.

So, watch this space for some of the tools and techniques I’ve developed over the years.

But wait, there’s more

Click/tap here for more about English (and Stuff) with Fiona. 

Here you will find out more about the work I did over nearly thirty years in the post school sector in South Africa. 

Lastly, I also write and cook, so I have a personal blog. Here I am honing my own writing skills.  Because, as they say, practise makes perfect.  And occasionally, one gets to break the rules.   

Until next time,

Contact Fiona to discuss your English learning needs

About writing and speaking

When it comes to writing and speaking, people often think that they’re poles apart. 

In some ways they are.

In other ways, they’re quite similar.  We see these similarities in the answers to these questions:

Who am I…

…speaking to?

…writing for?

What will I be…

…speaking about?

…writing about?

Where will…

….I be speaking?

…my piece of writing be read or published?

Now, thinking about these questions, take a look at the photographs below:

Photographs: Unsplash

In these photographs, we see a few things: people in different places, in pairs, in groups, both formal and informal as well as public, professional and private.


Writing and speaking for different audiences and contexts

When we speak and write, we “talk” to a range of audiences. For example:

      • one person or one-to-one:
        • over a cup of coffee with a friend
        • with a co-worker or teacher
      • to a group:
        • a formal presentation at work or to colleagues at a conference or seminar
        • less formally, from the floor, as part of a discussion at a conference, seminar or workshop
        • outside work or study, at a family or religious gathering


Writing and speaking about different topics

The topics or subjects about which we write and speak are as diverse as the audiences:

      • At work, both our writing and our speaking will focus on the type of business, so it could range from technology to cosmetics, computers to cooking and anything in between.
      • At college, the topics will focus on our studies and the discipline

Here, the content for both writing and speaking will be very much the same, but the tone and formality of the language will vary. This depends on the answer to the “who” question, i.e. the audience and context.


The place where people will listen to you and/or read your writing

When we write something, we need to bear in mind where is the person or group the will read what we write. For example:

      • In business and in the workplace
        • emails to colleagues, superiors, subordinates and clients
        • reports
        • blogs
        • magazine articles
      • At school, college and university
        • projects
        • essays and papers
        • learned publications
      • At home or socially
        • posts on the social media
        • text messages

When we speak, we also have to consider where we’re talking:

      • In business and in the workplace
        • meetings
        • presentations
        • workshops
        • conferences
      • At school, college and university
        • tutorials
        • seminars
        • presentations
        • conferences
      • At home or socially
        • family gathering like a wedding or milestone birthday
        • church or other social club

So, it’s helpful to answer these questions be for you write and before you speak.

Next time, I’ll look at the writing process…

In the meantime, if you need English tutoring, get in touch using the form below.

Contact Fiona to discuss your English learning needs