The Writing Process
Writing is a process that can be divided into three stages: Pre-writing, drafting and the final revising stage which includes editing and proofreading. In the first stage you research your topic and make preparatory work before you enter the drafting stage. After you have written your text it is important that you take time to revise and correct it before submitting the final result.
Writing is often described as a linear process, moving from the first stage to the last stage in an orderly fashion. However, the writing process often requires moving back and forth between steps and is often more complex than the linear model represents. If you are working on a larger project you may have to break down the work into smaller parts to make it manageable; therefore you can be at different stages of the writing process in different parts of your project. You may also have to make changes in sections that you thought were finished as the contents are affected by what you write in other sections. Furthermore, new questions may arise along the way that will make it necessary to return to an earlier stage of the process, for example to do further research.
Prewriting is the step in which tools such as free writing, brainstorming, outlining, or clustering are used. In prewriting, no idea is too off topic or too strange. It is these sometimes dissociative ideas that can lead you to a paper topic that you never would have considered. Though the common perception is that there is nothing that hasn’t been written about before, if you allow yourself to think outside the box, you can find a way of looking at an old topic through new eyes.
It is also during prewriting that the writer needs to make a decision about audience. Asking questions like: “Who is going to read my paper?”, “What is the purpose of this paper?”, and “Why are they going to read my paper?” will help you set your audience. The simple answer to these questions is “My professor” and “Because they assigned it.” they are not the true answers. It could be that your paper needs to be geared towards elementary level students or participants in a seminar or peers at a conference. The language and tone for either of those audiences would be very different.
Drafting is the beginning of “writing” your paper. It is important to remember that in drafting you should already have a thesis idea to guide your writing. Without a thesis, your writing will be prone to drift, making it harder to frame after the fact. In drafting, the writer should use materials created in the prewriting stage and any notes taken in discovery and investigation to frame and build body paragraphs. Many writers will tackle their body paragraphs first instead of beginning with an introduction (especially if you are not sure of the exact direction of your paper). Beginning with body paragraphs will allow you to work through your ideas without feeling restricted by a specific thesis, but be prepared to delete paragraphs that don’t fit. Afterwards, create an opening paragraph (with an appropriate revised thesis) that reflects the body of your essay.
There are two different scopes of revision: global and local. Global revision involves looking for issues like cohesion and the overall progression of your paper. If your paper has paragraphs that do not flow into each other, but change topic abruptly only to return to a previous thought later, your paper has poor cohesion. If your topics change from paragraph to paragraph, it is necessary to either consider altering the order of your paragraph and/or revising your writing either by adding to existing paragraphs or creating new ones that explain your change in topic. A paper that includes smooth transitions is significantly easier to read and understand. It is preferable to keep all like thoughts together and to arrange your paragraphs in such a way that your argument builds, rather than laying everything out with equal weight. Though the blueprint for your paper is in the thesis, your main point, the end result of your argument should not come early in the paper, but at the end. Allow the early paragraphs serve as examples and information to build to your conclusions.
Local issues involve looking for clarity in sentences, ensuring coherence with your ideas. The greatest asset to avoiding and fixing local issues is to use varied sentence structure and to avoid using the same words repeatedly. Repeating the same sentence structure can make your paper feel mechanical and make an interesting topic feel boring.
The Writing Process & Metacognition
Reflect on Your Writing Processes
Historians and philosophers are fond of saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This observation is equally valid in regard to your development as a writer.
The final writing activity for many people involves submitting their work to clients, co-workers, or supervisors. For students, primary audiences tend to be instructors or other students.
Whether you’re writing for an instructor or a client, criticism can often be painful, so it is understandable that many of us try to avoid hearing or thinking much about our critics’ comments. Nevertheless, your growth as a writer is largely dependent on your ability to learn from past mistakes and to improve drafts in response to readers’ comments.
Reflect on the questions below to gain some insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a writer when it comes to managing writing projects–both individual projects and group projects.
- What assumptions about writing and research do you hold that intrude on regular writing?
- For example, do you assume that you first need to do the research and then the writing? Are you uncomfortable writing without having thoroughly completed the research?
- What social supports can you establish to promote regular writing?
- Have you developed a network of friends with whom you can exchange critical feedback?
- Do the people you live with respect your need for quiet time when developing projects?
- Do you know people who can provide you with encouragement when you are feeling discouraged about the worthiness or potential of an idea?
- For example, can you demystify the composing process, overcome negative thoughts, structure your time differently, engage in more (or less prewriting), separate editing from revising, and spend more time revising documents?
- The biggest editorial problem that readers have identified with my work…
- The problems that I want to work on are…
- Readers always tell me I should…
- What changes can you make in your environment that will help you achieve your writing goals? For example, can you find a way to minimize distractions, or is your writing environment too quiet for you? Do you need a better light or a software upgrade?
- For example, does a small voice within you whisper that your ideas lack originality or that the instructor or editor will dislike your manuscript? Do you tell yourself that you lack the time or ability necessary to get the work done?
Is There an Ideal Writing Process?
There is no one ideal writing process. People differ with regards to how they compose and create. Ultimately, you have to experiment with different composing strategies to really understand what does and does not work for you.
- Use a citation tool to simplify attribution processes
Use collaboration tools to streamline task identification and project coordination. Use tools such as Google Docs to coauthor texts, track efforts, set goals, and hold coauthors accountable.
Facilitate productive partnerships on writing projects, define roles, set schedules, self-assess, and be transparent and communicative about obstacles, expectations, and performance.
Work strategically with critical feedback. Learn from critiques made by instructors, bosses, peers and clients.
Give helpful criticism in work and school settings (as well as life in general).
- Let go of your critical self and embrace the creative process. Harness the generative power of writing
- Use design principles and design elements to communicate in ways that leverage the power of visual language.
- Check to ensure you’ve provided evidence for claims. and differentiated among different sorts of knowledge claims and research methods.
- Jumpstart projects by do a rhetorical analysis of the genres that you might employ
- Keep a list of reoccurring feedback so you can look for those errors when editing.
- What are the information Literacy Perspectives & Practices of your intended audience?
- Make sure you’re sufficiently open to strategic searching. Read enough to know the status of the scholarly conversation on the topic you’re investigating
- Writing can be incredibly challenging. It may require extensive textual research or empirical research. Or, it may involve working with distributed teams throughout the globe. To handle all of that adversity, you certainly need to work on your grit and self regulation. Listen to your self talk and make sure you’re being positive and growth minded.
- Throughout your efforts at composing, you want to check your organization at the global and local perspective. And you need to see if there’s a through line, a sense of flow. Check to see you’ve used the organizational framework your reader needs to follow your reasoning.
- Does the exigency you face, the call to write, require textual or empirical research?
- Have you given yourself some time off between drafts? Did you take the final draft through a structured revision exercise?
- Are you sure your rhetorical stance is responsive to the rhetorical situation? What about your tone, voice, or persona?
- Finally, take a moment to reflect on your style of writing. Is it appropriate for the occasion?
Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. (1980). Identifying the Organization of Writing Processes. In L. W. Gregg, & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive Processes in Writing: An Interdisciplinary Approach (pp. 3-30). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Leijten, Van Waes, L., Schriver, K., & Hayes, J. R. (2014). Writing in the workplace: Constructing documents using multiple digital sources. Journal of Writing Research, 5(3), 285–337. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2014.05.03.3
Murray, Donald M. (1980). Writing as process: How writing finds its own meaning. In Timothy R. Donovan & Ben McClelland (Eds.), Eight approaches to teaching composition (pp. 3–20). National Council of Teachers of English.