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What is the Writing Process? | Steps & Examples

Bethany Calderwood, Katie Surber, Amy Fredrickson
  • Author
    Bethany Calderwood

    Bethany is a certified Special Education and Elementary teacher with 11 years experience teaching Special Education from grades PK through 5. She has a Bachelor's degree in Special Education, Elementary Education, and English from Gordon College and a Master's degree in Special Education from Salem State University.

  • Instructor
    Katie Surber

    Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

  • Expert Contributor
    Amy Fredrickson

    Amy has taught and tutored college-level English; she has a master's degree from Colorado State University in rhetoric and composition.

Learn the definition of the writing process, discover the five steps of the writing process, and view examples that illustrate these stages of writing. Updated: 10/05/2021

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What is the Writing Process?

Writing is an integral part of both education and employment. Good writers use their work to inform, persuade, entertain, advise, educate, and analyze. But good writing seldom goes from the brain to page in one simple step. Instead, writing is a process. What is the writing process? The writing process refers to a series of actions taken by writers to move from an assignment or idea to a polished product. The writing process definition outlines stages used by most writers to gather ideas, organize their thoughts, write, revise, and rewrite until the text is ready for the intended audience.

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  • 1:05 Prewriting
  • 2:26 Drafting
  • 3:24 Revising
  • 5:31 Editing
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Writing Process Steps

Most writers go through the same primary stages of writing when preparing a paper, story, article, or other text. There are five commonly identified writing process steps:

  1. Prewriting: planning such as topic selection, research, brainstorming, and thesis development
  2. Drafting: creating a first version or draft of the text
  3. Revising: reviewing the content of the text
  4. Editing: polishing the details and mechanics of the text
  5. Publishing: preparing the final product

Each of these five steps of the writing process will be explored further below.

Prewriting: the First Step in the Writing Process

Prewriting is the first step in the writing process and includes any work a writer does before producing a formatted document. In other words, if the end goal is a five-paragraph essay, prewriting is every step that comes before actually writing five paragraphs. Prewriting is sometimes called the planning stage. Prewriting activities include:

  • Topic selection: A topic may be assigned by a teacher or selected by a writer. The writer should consider both the audience and the goal of their writing. When choosing a topic, a writer must also identify the writing they will produce, such as narrative, persuasive, or expository.
  • Research: Some types of writing require gathering information from various sources. Writers should choose current, reliable, valid sources and keep track of which information came from which source.
  • Brainstorming: Brainstorming is a gathering of ideas. There are many ways to brainstorm, including:
    • Freewriting: On a blank piece of paper, write everything that comes to mind on the chosen topic. Write continuously for several minutes. When finished, go through the freewriting and highlight words, phrases, and sentences useful in the writing.
    • Graphic organizers: Graphic organizers come in almost limitless varieties. They have in common a visual way to write and connect words, phrases, and ideas. A graphic organizer might look like a spider web, with circled words connected by lines, or it might look like a flowchart showing which ideas come first, second, third, etc.
    • Lists: Simple lists of items that need to be included in a text can be an effective means of brainstorming.
    • Pictures: Drawing pictures of text elements can be a way to organize thoughts during the brainstorming stage.
  • Thesis development: A thesis is a concise statement of the central idea or argument of the text. The thesis, presented as part of the introduction, informs the reader of what the author intends to accomplish in the text. A writer should experiment with several versions of a thesis statement, then choose the one that best fits the text.
  • Organization: It is essential to take the ideas and information gathered during the prewriting process and organize it into a logical format. Organization often takes the form of an outline, but it could also be a story map, a series of pictures, or a list. While organizing, consider how the information can be ordered to best support the thesis statement.

While prewriting will look different for different writers and different writing styles, every writer should go through at least some prewriting steps before moving on to drafting a text.

Graphic organizers are one tool that can be used for brainstorming. Brainstorming is part of prewriting, the first step of the writing process.

Graphic organizers are one tool that can be used during the prewriting stage.

Drafting: the Second Step in the Writing Process

Drafting is the next phase of the writing process. The first draft is the first time the prewriting ideas, goals, and information are written in the paper's intended format, including complete sentences and paragraphs. A first draft should follow the outline or other organizational plan developed during prewriting and should include the major components of the paper, such as introduction, body, and conclusion. It is important to note that mechanics should not be the focus of the first draft, and the first draft does not need to be good. Once ideas are on the page, they can be revised, rearranged, and edited as necessary. Careful writers should not skip the drafting process. Many papers go through several drafts before being completed. The goal of a first draft is to put sentences and paragraphs on the page.

Revising: the Third Step in the Writing Process

The third step in the writing process is revising. The goal of revising is to examine the content of the text. Revising includes questions such as:

  • Does the content of the paper support my thesis?
  • Does each paragraph have a relevant topic sentence?
  • Do the details support the thesis and topic sentences? Are any of the details irrelevant?
  • Is the tone of the paper consistent and appropriate?
  • Is the organization of the paper logical?

It is good to take a break between writing the first draft and revising it to increase perspective. Other helpful ideas for revision include:

  • Printing the paper.
  • Reading the paper aloud.
  • Viewing the paper in a different font or font size.
  • Working in a distraction-free environment.

For some assignments, peer revision is an appropriate step at this point. Having a peer read a text is an excellent way to check for clarity. Writers using peer revision should prepare a list of questions for the peer to consider while reviewing the paper. Peer revision questions might include:

  • What was the thesis of this paper?
  • What questions did you have after reading this paper?
  • What was most memorable about this paper?

The revising step is related to the previous step, drafting, in that writers can take their revision ideas to create new drafts of their texts.

Editing: the Fourth Step in the Writing Process

The fourth step of the writing process, editing, is an examination of the details and mechanics of the paper. When editing or proofreading, writers should check:

  • spelling
  • grammar
  • subject/verb agreement
  • sentence structure
  • punctuation
  • redundancy
  • ambiguity
  • consistency

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  • Activities
  • FAQs

The Writing Process: Activities

The below activities are designed to review students' understanding of the writing process and allow students to experiment with the writing process.

The Writing Process: Matching

Match the definition of the writing stage with its title.

  1. Writers begin by considering their topic, focusing their ideas, brainstorming, creating an outline, and drafting a thesis statement.
  2. Writers start to write their essay. In this stage, writers work on developing, communicating, and supporting their main ideas.
  3. Writers evaluate their content, focusing on the big ideas to ensure they are well developed and clear.
  4. Writers work on checking their grammar, spelling, and punctuation to make sure their mechanics are correct.
  5. Writers present their work.
  • Publication
  • Drafting
  • Editing
  • Prewriting
  • Revising

Answer Key: 1: prewriting; 2: drafting; 3: revising; 4: editing; 5: publication

The Writing Process: Writing Activity

Try your hand at completing each step of the writing process. Write a response of at least 500 words arguing either for or against the continued use of plastic straws (do some research if necessary). As you work on your writing, consider the challenges of each stage of the writing process. After you have written your response, answer the questions below on a sheet of paper:

  • What challenges did you face in each stage of the writing process?
  • What stage was the most challenging for you and why?
  • What stage do you rarely incorporate into your writing process? Why is it important to incorporate this stage in the future?

What are the 5 steps of writing process?

The writing process can be broken into five steps:

  1. Prewriting: planning such as research, brainstorming, outlining, and thesis development
  2. Drafting: writing the material in its intended format
  3. Revising: examining the content of the text and making needed adjustments
  4. Editing: correcting errors in mechanics, spelling, and grammar
  5. Publishing: presenting a polished product

Writers can follow these five steps to move from ideas or assignments to a complete text.

What is meant by writing process?

Writers seldom submit unaltered work to an audience (with the possible exception of text messages). Instead, writers follow a process. The writing process refers to steps most writers take in creating a finished written product. Writing process steps include prewriting (such as brainstorming and outlining), drafting, revision (for content), editing (for mechanics), and publishing.

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