Initial Thoughts

Perspectives & resources, what should ms. lin know in order to provide effective writing instruction.

  • Page 1: Understanding Difficulties with Written Expression
  • Page 2: Prerequisites for Written Expression

What could Ms. Lin do to help her students learn to write persuasive essays?

Page 3: elements of the writing process.

Students reading

Planning refers to the use of a deliberate and organized approach to tackling a writing task and includes a writer’s first thoughts or basic ideas about the topic. Students who struggle with writing generally do not plan ahead; rather, they compose their text as they write. During the planning process, students should ask themselves who their readers will be and what the essay’s purpose is. Planning ahead helps students to form more complete thoughts and to produce more cohesive essays.


In the initial writing stage, students will produce a rough draft incorporating the ideas that were generated during the planning stage and subsequently arranged in the organization stage. This initial writing phase requires students to coordinate ongoing cognitive demands, such as:

Editing and Revising

Instruct students to write their drafts on colored paper to help them remember that this is not a final product.

Though the editing and revising stages are usually thought of as one step, they are, in fact, two interlinked steps. It is important for students to distinguish between the editing and revising steps in the writing process. For example, students need to learn that writing is a process that requires them to apply editing marks as they revise their essays. The revising stage, however, may also require changes in content or organization.

During the editing stages of the writing process, students will:

Other than teacher-editing, there are two ways editing can occur: self-editing and peer-editing.


The bulletin board below displays example statements that students can be taught to use when they edit a peer’s paper.

bulletin board

Adapted from S. Graham (personal communication, September 20, 2006)


A bulletin board holds two papers. One is a transcript entitled “Peer Editor.” The other is a transcript entitled “Writer.”

Peer Editor :

As was discussed above, it is important for students to distinguish between the editing and revising stages. Revising allows the writer to consider the content, quality, and clarity of his or her composition. When students revise their work, they should look at the editing suggestions made by their teachers and peers, and that they themselves arrived at during self-editing, to determine how the edits and comments can help to improve their papers. For example, they might:


The Writing Process

The writing process is something that no two people do the same way. There is no "right way" or "wrong way" to write. It can be a very messy and fluid process, and the following is only a representation of commonly used steps. Remember you can come to the Writing Center for assistance at any stage in this process. 

Steps of the Writing Process

the writing process planning

Step 1: Prewriting

Think and Decide

Step 2: Research (if needed) 

Step 3: Drafting

Step 4: Revising

Make it Better

Step 5: Editing and Proofreading

Make it Correct

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The Writing Process | 5 Steps with Examples & Tips

Published on April 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 7, 2022.

The writing process steps

Good academic writing requires effective planning, drafting, and revision.

The writing process looks different for everyone, but there are five basic steps that will help you structure your time when writing any kind of text.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

See an example

the writing process planning

Table of contents

Step 1: prewriting, step 2: planning and outlining, step 3: writing a first draft, step 4: redrafting and revising, step 5: editing and proofreading, frequently asked questions about the writing process.

Before you start writing, you need to decide exactly what you’ll write about and do the necessary research.

Coming up with a topic

If you have to come up with your own topic for an assignment, think of what you’ve covered in class— is there a particular area that intrigued, interested, or even confused you? Topics that left you with additional questions are perfect, as these are questions you can explore in your writing.

The scope depends on what type of text you’re writing—for example, an essay or a research paper will be less in-depth than a dissertation topic . Don’t pick anything too ambitious to cover within the word count, or too limited for you to find much to say.

Narrow down your idea to a specific argument or question. For example, an appropriate topic for an essay might be narrowed down like this:

Doing the research

Once you know your topic, it’s time to search for relevant sources and gather the information you need. This process varies according to your field of study and the scope of the assignment. It might involve:

From a writing perspective, the important thing is to take plenty of notes while you do the research. Keep track of the titles, authors, publication dates, and relevant quotations from your sources; the data you gathered; and your initial analysis or interpretation of the questions you’re addressing.

Especially in academic writing , it’s important to use a logical structure to convey information effectively. It’s far better to plan this out in advance than to try to work out your structure once you’ve already begun writing.

Creating an essay outline is a useful way to plan out your structure before you start writing. This should help you work out the main ideas you want to focus on and how you’ll organize them. The outline doesn’t have to be final—it’s okay if your structure changes throughout the writing process.

Use bullet points or numbering to make your structure clear at a glance. Even for a short text that won’t use headings, it’s useful to summarize what you’ll discuss in each paragraph.

An outline for a literary analysis essay might look something like this:

Once you have a clear idea of your structure, it’s time to produce a full first draft.

This process can be quite non-linear. For example, it’s reasonable to begin writing with the main body of the text, saving the introduction for later once you have a clearer idea of the text you’re introducing.

To give structure to your writing, use your outline as a framework. Make sure that each paragraph has a clear central focus that relates to your overall argument.

Hover over the parts of the example, from a literary analysis essay on Mansfield Park , to see how a paragraph is constructed.

The character of Mrs. Norris provides another example of the performance of morals in Mansfield Park . Early in the novel, she is described in scathing terms as one who knows “how to dictate liberality to others: but her love of money was equal to her love of directing” (p. 7). This hypocrisy does not interfere with her self-conceit as “the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world” (p. 7). Mrs. Norris is strongly concerned with appearing charitable, but unwilling to make any personal sacrifices to accomplish this. Instead, she stage-manages the charitable actions of others, never acknowledging that her schemes do not put her own time or money on the line. In this way, Austen again shows us a character whose morally upright behavior is fundamentally a performance—for whom the goal of doing good is less important than the goal of seeming good.

When you move onto a different topic, start a new paragraph. Use appropriate transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas.

The goal at this stage is to get a draft completed, not to make everything perfect as you go along. Once you have a full draft in front of you, you’ll have a clearer idea of where improvement is needed.

Give yourself a first draft deadline that leaves you a reasonable length of time to revise, edit, and proofread before the final deadline. For a longer text like a dissertation, you and your supervisor might agree on deadlines for individual chapters.

Now it’s time to look critically at your first draft and find potential areas for improvement. Redrafting means substantially adding or removing content, while revising involves making changes to structure and reformulating arguments.

Evaluating the first draft

It can be difficult to look objectively at your own writing. Your perspective might be positively or negatively biased—especially if you try to assess your work shortly after finishing it.

It’s best to leave your work alone for at least a day or two after completing the first draft. Come back after a break to evaluate it with fresh eyes; you’ll spot things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

When evaluating your writing at this stage, you’re mainly looking for larger issues such as changes to your arguments or structure. Starting with bigger concerns saves you time—there’s no point perfecting the grammar of something you end up cutting out anyway.

Right now, you’re looking for:

For example, in our paper on Mansfield Park , we might realize the argument would be stronger with more direct consideration of the protagonist Fanny Price, and decide to try to find space for this in paragraph IV.

For some assignments, you’ll receive feedback on your first draft from a supervisor or peer. Be sure to pay close attention to what they tell you, as their advice will usually give you a clearer sense of which aspects of your text need improvement.

Redrafting and revising

Once you’ve decided where changes are needed, make the big changes first, as these are likely to have knock-on effects on the rest. Depending on what your text needs, this step might involve:

You can go back and forth between writing, redrafting and revising several times until you have a final draft that you’re happy with.

Think about what changes you can realistically accomplish in the time you have. If you are running low on time, you don’t want to leave your text in a messy state halfway through redrafting, so make sure to prioritize the most important changes.

Editing focuses on local concerns like clarity and sentence structure. Proofreading involves reading the text closely to remove typos and ensure stylistic consistency.

Editing for grammar and clarity

When editing, you want to ensure your text is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. You’re looking out for:

In your initial draft, it’s common to end up with a lot of sentences that are poorly formulated. Look critically at where your meaning could be conveyed in a more effective way or in fewer words, and watch out for common sentence structure mistakes like run-on sentences and sentence fragments:

Proofreading for small mistakes and typos

When proofreading, first look out for typos in your text:

Use your word processor’s built-in spell check, but don’t expect to find 100% of issues in this way. Read through your text line by line, watching out for problem areas highlighted by the software but also for any other issues it might have missed.

For example, in the following phrase we notice several errors:

Proofreading for stylistic consistency

There are several issues in academic writing where you can choose between multiple different standards. For example:

Unless you’re given specific guidance on these issues, it’s your choice which standards you follow. The important thing is to consistently follow one standard for each issue. For example, don’t use a mixture of American and British spellings in your paper.

Additionally, you will probably be provided with specific guidelines for issues related to format (how your text is presented on the page) and citations (how you acknowledge your sources). Always follow these instructions carefully.

Revising, proofreading, and editing are different stages of the writing process .

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

If you’ve gone over the word limit set for your assignment, shorten your sentences and cut repetition and redundancy during the editing process. If you use a lot of long quotes , consider shortening them to just the essentials.

If you need to remove a lot of words, you may have to cut certain passages. Remember that everything in the text should be there to support your argument; look for any information that’s not essential to your point and remove it.

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Resources for Writers: The Writing Process

Writing is a process that involves at least four distinct steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing. It is known as a recursive process. While you are revising, you might have to return to the prewriting step to develop and expand your ideas.

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Writing & Communication : Planning Your Writing

Planning Your Writing (Module 1 of 3)

Planning is the first stage in writing. Your plan is the foundation that your writing is built on. Planning your writing involves first understanding the assignment, then brainstorming ideas, and finally, organizing your thoughts in a structured form.

Planning your essay: 2 sub-modules

Additional resources.

Note: This material is meant as a general guide, if your professor's instructions differ from the information we've provided, always follow your professor's instructions. Also note, icons on this site are used through a Noun Project Pro license. Please be sure to provide proper attribution if you reuse them.

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Writing Process: Planning, Organizing, Writing and Reviewing

Suggested pre-reading.

Sections of This Topic Include

Writing for Readability

Formatting your writing.

Reviewing Your Writing

Also consider

Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Business Writing

In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Business Writing. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Planning and Organizing Your Writing

When people struggle to write, it is often because they did not start by planning and organizing their writing. For example, you need to consider:

Consider this table:

(Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant)

Type of correspondence

Letters (external)

Memos, reports (internal)


Reader analysis

Task, relationship, and image



Relationship issues

Organized for the reader

Methods of development


(Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities Consultant)

Make your writing visually appealing, well organized, and simple to take in and remember. Even though you write for a captive reader, do not assume that he or she will be fascinated with what you have to say.

Use headings and subheadings

Help speed recognition of what the page contains. Use headings to communicate a sense of order and conciseness. Make your communication look planned, coherent, and forthright. Order is important. Start with a statement of your purpose for writing. Add the when, who, how, and where details that you have organized into some rational order. Say what you think about the above, and end with a summary. Put endless tables of data in an appendix.

Don’t tax your reader’s power to take in information

Straight text looks formidable. The reader braces himself or herself for an ordeal–for heavy going. Because we humans have relatively limited capacities for information processing, you should present your information in bite-sized chunks, which your reader may then quickly note and take in. Keep paragraphs short–seven lines of type at the most. The shorter, the more irresistible your paragraphs are.

Look for opportunities to use numbered or bulleted lists. Numbers designate order or hierarchy. If your word-processing program does not create bullets, you can create them by filling in lower-case o’s with a felt pen. Remember to make all the items in your lists grammatically parallel and to add no punctuation because the list is its own punctuation.

Use white space as a foil

White space is not random nothingness. It is a tool; use it! White space is functional when it works to lift your ideas off the page and into your reader’s mind. Be concerned with the use of margins and the consistency of spacing between lines and paragraphs. A 60-character line or less will help your reader track correctly through your text. And keep white space white (clean). Eliminate visual nuisances such as fancy borders or prominent logos.

Use a style sheet

For consistency, design template files with your preferred page layouts for letters, reports, and memos. Save these settings in separate files and lock them. Some word processors have a styles feature to facilitate paragraph formatting. Style sheets save you time because you make the small but important decisions involved in formatting your written communications just once. Style sheets also help you create a consistent, professional image.

Add visual appeal

Add personality and drama to your correspondence by incorporating hand-written notations, graphic illustrations, and charts. Graphics attract. Use graphics to break up the page and to lead the reader’s eye right to where you want it — perhaps to the second and third pages of a long memo.

Checklists, sidebars, summaries, tables, graphs, hand-written notations, and cartoons will add to the visual appeal of the page. (Exception: Place series of tables and graphs in an appendix.)

Use restraint

Sparingly employ italics, boldface, underlining, upper-case type, asterisks, and changes of font or type size. Too much variety creates an impression of complexity or messiness. Eliminate noise, such as unnecessary periods at the end of items in a list and parentheses after the numbers in a list.

Highlight important text

As mentioned in the previous section, formatting is a powerful way to ensure readability for your readers, especially in today’s rapid pace when many readers prefer to skim rather than to read.

Getting Started With Writing

Often, the hardest part of writing is getting started. Consider this variety of different suggestions.

Set a timer for 510 minutes, and write for the entire time. Aim to write anything that is even slightly related to your topic. It’s OK to set down your thoughts and feelings about approaching this writing task.

Ask a colleague to listen while you talk about your writing project and the ideas you plan to convey to your reader. Then go to your computer and start writing.

Take a handful of 3″ x 5″ index cards and write your ideas on them, one per card. Arrange and rearrange your cards in an order that makes sense. Add ideas as they occur to you. Then tape the cards to a large sheet of paper and fill in the details around each idea. Very often, the ideas on the cards become headings or topic sentences for paragraphs.

Begin to write anywhere in the middle of the piece. Start with the most interesting [to you!] part. Your enthusiasm may carry you into completing your writing project. Write the beginning of the piece last or whenever you are ready to do so.

Put your reader in an empty chair and talk to your reader as if he or she were sitting across the desk from you. What is your reader most interested in learning from what you are writing? After your conversation, start writing.

Listen to baroque music. Mentally explore your topic. Reread your notes. Relax, and let your subconscious take over for a few minutes. Expect an A Ha! Write quickly.

Go for a walk and consider what you want to say to the reader. Return to your computer, and start writing.

Create a Mind Map. Write your way around it.

The following act ivies are often covered in the overall topic of editing.

This means to carefully review your writing to be sure that it conforms to the rules of proper spelling and grammar. Here are some useful articles:

Does It Meet the Goals of Your Writing?

Do you believe that your writing will achieve the goals that you specified when you first planned and organized your writing? One of the best ways to verify that is to have a few members of your intended audience to review the draft of your writing and then ask them to mention the key points that they took from the reading. Ask them how your writing might be modified to make your points even clearer.

Here’s a useful article about reviewing / editing your writing

For the Category of Communications (Business Writing):

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

the writing process planning

Do You Need a Business Bank Account?

A bank account is more than just a place to store money. When used effectively, it can become a money management tool to help you track your cash flow, analyze your performance, and even reduce your expenses. But the question remains, should you open a business bank account once you already have a personal one? …

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How To Check the Status of Your Employee Retention Credit

After filing your employee retention credit, you’ll want that money to arrive as fast as possible. While you wait, you’ll undoubtedly be left wondering when that refund check will come. This article explains how to check the status of your employee retention credit and offers tips to avoid any delays along the way. Use Bottomline …

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What is the Deadline for the Employee Retention Credit?

Many companies experienced lost revenue to the COVID-19 pandemic but chose to keep employees on the payroll. To compensate small and medium-sized businesses, the government offered employee retention credit to help them stay afloat. Did you miss the window to receive your reimbursement? Read on to find out. Use Bottomline Concepts for streamlined and speedy …

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The COVID-19 pandemic was a major thorn in the side of many businesses, and many are still trying to recover. To compensate, the government offers employee retention credit accessible through payroll tax amendments. Read on to find out if your business is eligible for the refund and how to file your employee retention credit yourself. …

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5 Best Executive Resume Writing Services in 2023

Executive resume writing businesses pride themselves on ensuring maximum customer satisfaction. A well written resume should increase the volume of interested calls from hiring managers. This equates to more interviews and ultimately improves the possibility of landing desired roles.  Most businesses provide more than one service. They’ll have specialist writer(s) who will create an engaging …

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The 7 Best ERC Companies and Agencies for 2023

The COVID pandemic hurt a lot of small and medium-sized businesses. To compensate, the government offers employee retention credit to inject funds into companies meeting specific requirements. Is your business missing out on some much-needed funds? Read on to learn about how employee retention credit works and the best ERC companies and agencies that offer …

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How to Open a Business Bank Account Online in 5 Steps

No matter what line of business you’re in, maximizing your profit remains a priority. For this reason, you’ll want to ensure that you open a business bank account that cuts your costs while helping you grow your savings. Now that online banking is mainstream, opening your business account is easier than ever before. How to …

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No Washington-based small business is complete without a bank account to manage your finances. With so many options, choosing the perfect one for your organization isn’t easy. We’ve picked out the seven best banks for small businesses in Washington so you can make an educated decision and get back to what you do best. Best …

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Privacy Overview


Academic Writing: Planning Your Writing

Planning your writing 

Before you begin the writing process, it is a good idea to make sure you understand your task and have a good idea about how you will manage your time as you work through your assignment.

Planning is useful because it can help you organise your thoughts and prioritise the way you present information. By planning your writing:

Also known as mind maps, this method involves getting all of the main ideas down on a page with key words and phrases around your central question.  This method is flexible and creative- you don't have to worry about putting your ideas in order, it's more important to get all of your ideas out first.  For more information, have a look at the video below:

Bullet points / Linear Plans For some students, creating lists or bullet points is a more effective way to plan their writing.  This method may include a brief outline of the main points for each theme of the writing, or a more detailed plan with sub-points and a note of the evidence to support each point (including sources, page numbers, etc.).  Using outlines or bulleted lists will allow you to see how ideas follow on from each other. 

The following tabs show some examples of essay plans associated with using a linear plan:

the writing process planning

Printable Handouts

Planning and writing assignments (Nottingham)

Planning and writing (Oxford)  


Schedule an Appointment

1:1 bookable appointments can be made with your Academic Skills Advisers for your subject area.

Students from Ipswich can book two appointments per week (if you are a student from the Learning Network, please contact your library) - 

Appointments are scheduled in 30 minute slots.  

the writing process planning

The Writing Process Made Easy: 6-Step Resource for Writers

by Ali Luke

on Jul 27, 2022

Following a writing process will make your life much easier.

Do you ever find yourself scrapping something you’ve written because it’s not coming together?

Maybe you don’t even get that far. You write a paragraph or two, run out of steam, and just can’t figure out where to go next.

This is why intentionally following the writing process — a sequence of steps every piece of writing needs to go through — is so important. It’s the same process for bloggers, copywriters , novelists, and even students working on writing assignments or research papers.

We’re going to explain what those steps are and give you some tips for nailing each one so you end up with a fantastic finished piece.

And if you’re short on time?

Then the writing process helps you make the most of it.

the writing process planning

The 6 Steps of the Writing Process

The writing process follows six key steps:

Each step is important.

If you’re writing something short, like a blog post, some of the steps may take just a few minutes. If you’re working on a major project, like self-publishing an ebook , then some of them may take weeks or months.

The six steps are the same, whatever you’re writing, and however long (or short) it is. We’re going to explain each one and cover some frequently asked questions.

Let’s get started.

1. Prewriting

writing process woman researching in library

Prewriting is what you do before you start writing.

Without prewriting, you can’t make a plan because you don’t know what you’re going to write about.

Prewriting means:

2. Planning

writing process man planning at whiteboard

Once you have an idea and you’ve done some research, it’s time to plan your project.

There are lots of different ways you can plan.

You don’t necessarily need to create a step-by-step outline. Many writers find it helpful to use a visual format, like a mind map . Some writers plan on index cards, moving them around: this is a great approach for longer projects. Others use freewriting to start exploring their idea in a creative way.

Aim to start your planning by generating possibilities-without worrying if they’re “right” or not. Come up with more than you need.

For instance, you might list 15 possible points for a 10-point list post. Then, you can select the best ones, before getting them into the right order. These points will often become the headings or subheadings in your finished piece.

3. Drafting

writing process man working at computer

This is the stage that most people think of as “writing,” but it’s really only one part of the writing process.

Drafting your piece can feel daunting. It’s a step that many writers procrastinate over.

If you’ve done your prewriting and planning, though, you should feel a lot more confident about moving forward with your draft.

Your first draft is never going to be perfect. You’ll likely have some unnecessary paragraphs, some clunky sentences, and probably a few typos or grammatical slips.

None of that matters at this stage. Your goal when drafting is simply to keep moving forward.

4. Revising

writing process man revising

Revising literally means “seeing again.”

This stage is also sometimes called rewriting. It’s when you come to your work with fresh eyes and look at the big picture to see what needs to change.

You might cut out the first two paragraphs of your blog post if the introduction drags on too long. You might also swap subsections around, merge two short sections together, or take out some material to use in a different post.

If you’re an experienced blogger or freelance writer , and you’ve written a solid plan, this might be a short step — but it shouldn’t be non-existent. You should at least read through your work with an eye for potential big-picture changes, even if you end up deciding that you’re happy with your piece as-is.

5. Editing and Proofreading

content writer editing

After making any big-picture changes to your piece, it’s time to dig into the details and fine-tune your work.

This means reading through carefully and looking out for things like:

If you’re working on a long piece, it’s a good idea to separate the editing process from proofreading . Once you get to the proofreading stage, you should just be looking out for small mistakes, rather than making stylistic changes or deliberating on your exact word choice.

Make sure you run your post through a good grammar checker , too, just in case you missed something.

6. Publishing

writing process publish button

Your work isn’t complete until it’s published.

At this stage of the writing process, you might be formatting your post in WordPress and publishing your work on your blog. This may involve things like creating a meta description, adding in links, and creating a featured image.

Alternatively, you might submit the piece to a client, editor, or publication.

If they want changes, you may need to circle back to the “revision” and “editing and proofreading”  steps.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Writing Process

What’s the most important step in the writing process.

All the steps of the writing process are important.

You might think that drafting matters the most because, without it, you can’t have anything that looks like a finished piece. However, the prewriting stage is hugely significant: coming up and developing a strong idea will make every other stage easier.

Ultimately, all the steps matter, but prewriting (step 1) and drafting (step 3) are especially crucial steps to focus on.

Can I Skip Steps in the Writing Process?

It’s not advised!

Also, most writers find themselves following these steps whether or not they realize it. For instance, they might brainstorm ideas in the shower, ruminate on a particular idea, have a loose plan in mind, then sit down to draft.

However, the first two steps of the writing process may not have been executed well—and the writer may need to go back and replan after writing a very rough draft-but they have taken place.

Some writers skip revising (step 4) and editing (step 5), instead opting to publish their first draft. This means their piece won’t be as strong as it should be.

Even excellent writers still need to do some editing.

If you’re struggling with writer’s block , that may be because you’ve not completed the earlier steps in the process.

Trying to draft without going through the prewriting stage or planning stage is often going to leave you feeling stuck. You simply haven’t had the time to think through and organize your ideas.

What’s the Hardest Step in the Writing Process?

There’s no one step of the writing process that’s intrinsically harder than the others.

Some writers find drafting really hard, while others struggle with coming up with ideas. Some hate proofreading and prefer to outsource it.

If you are finding a particular step of the process hard, look for ways to change how you approach it.

For instance, if you always struggle to plan, you might look at different planning techniques-like mind mapping, using a template structure for your work, talking through your ideas and recording what you say, or even drawing a storyboard for your piece.

Improve Your Writing Process Today

Maybe you’ve never thought about the writing process from start to end before.

Or perhaps there’s a particular step you struggle with.

You don’t need to master every step at once. 

Pick one step of the writing process to focus on today. Spend 20 minutes on that step alone, and see what a difference it makes to your finished piece.

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University of Lynchburg

The Writing Process

Creating a successful paper is a different process for everyone. Some writers require complete silence with no distractions, while others crave noise while they work. While no guide can help you find what situations will work best for you to write, there are steps in the writing process that promote a cleaner, better final draft. The general steps are: discovery\investigation, prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing.


The first step in writing a successful paper in college requires an active engagement with your sources. Simply reading a primary source for content is no longer sufficient. The question should no longer be “What happened?” but rather “Why did that happen? What does that say about the character(s)/plot?” Make notes of your thoughts and ideas as you read.

Once the writer has finished an active reading of the primary source, it may be necessary to obtain secondary sources to back up the thesis. If your research yields books, remember that it is not necessary to read the entire book. You can either look for a chapter title that you believe will have information pertinent to your paper, or look at the index for terms that you will be discussing. Peer-reviewed journals available online will be your most commonly used secondary resource. Use the online searches through the Knight-Capron Library, but remember that other search engines, such as Google Scholar, can yield results.

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 final stage in writing a paper requires a review of what you have written. In this last read of your paper, you should look for any grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors that have slipped through the cracks during the revising stage, or that were introduced in your revisions. Reading your paper aloud, or asking a friend to read your paper to you is a good way to catch errors. Often if you read your own paper, especially out loud, you can catch errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Though this step seems minor within the process of writing, it is an easy way to prevent the loss of points over simple mistakes.

Formatting, Inner-text citation, and Works Cited

The formatting required for your paper will change depending on the field of your topic. Generally, the sciences and business and economics use APA or CSE formatting. English, and other humanities will use MLA, and History uses Chicago. The appearance of inner-text citations, and Works cited page will all be affected by these different formats. Consult your syllabus or ask your professor to learn what format you should use. Guides for APA, Chicago, and MLA are available online .

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