The Writing Process

When people speak of “the writing process,” we tend to consider one, single writing process. The truth is, though, that there are as many different writing processes as there are occasions to write and people doing the writing. That is, your writing process will probably be different from anyone you know, and even your writing process will change at least a little bit from writing occasion to writing occasion. Here are a couple more concepts to keep in mind as you consider which writing process works for you, when to adjust your writing process based on purpose and audience, and how to make those changes.

  • Most, if not all, writing processes are recursive. That is, it’s not a nice, neat process in which step one leads into step two which leads into step three, etc. Rather, it’s a messy jumble of steps. For example, you might find yourself brainstorming and drafting new ideas to attend to an audience need that you identify in the “revising” stage.
  • Most, if not all, of the stages merge almost seamlessly into other stages, often without much thought or notice. To add to the mess created by the recursive nature of the entire process, sometimes we wander from stage to stage without even realizing we are doing so. For example, we might be glancing through Wikipedia in an attempt to think through ideas when we find ourselves “drafting” a sentence or two in our heads, often a preliminary thesis or topic sentence for a new idea. It’s best to just let this merging of stages happen and record those sentences in some manner for use later.

Regardless, over time, teachers and researchers of writing have identified a bunch of stages. You will see these stages described differently in different textbooks and by different teachers. The important thing to note, though, isn’t so much the sequence of the stages or the label we apply to each stage; rather, see which elements of the writing process apply best to the writing your need to complete for a specific writing occasion, purpose and audience and consider which elements you would like to improve upon.