The Writing Process vs. Your Writing Process

For a student, understanding The Writing Process is essential to composing complete and effective writing projects. But, it is also important to understand and develop your own writing process that helps make writing more manageable and pleasurable for you. 

  • There is The Writing Process that you’ll read about in writing textbooks — the one that is capitalized and includes certain steps in a certain order.
  • Then there is your writing process — this is the way you actually write when you sit down to compose an assignment. It may look similar in some ways to The Writing Process, but it may also look very different. 

Every writer has their own process. What is most important is understanding the steps of The Writing Process so you can develop your own writing process that helps you create writing products that are clear, effective, complete, and successful. 


The Writing Process

Depending on where you look, you’ll find varying descriptions of the steps of The Writing Process — some writing texts will outline just a few steps while some will include ten or more steps. We will keep it simple and say that The Writing Process, in general, includes these five steps:

  • Prewriting
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Editing 
  • Publishing


Once you are assigned a writing project, you enter the prewriting stage — this is where you plan what you will write. This stage could include creating an outline, brainstorming ideas, drawing a storyboard, or many other prewriting strategies. Once you have your writing project planned out, you begin drafting — this is where you actually write your ideas down into a first draft. From there, you revise what you’ve written by making changes to content, style, clarity, and other “big picture” ideas. Then you edit your draft by looking at sentence-level concerns like grammar, punctuation, citation, and format. Once the project is complete and error-free, you publish it — this can mean submitting it to your instructor or sharing it with others. 

The Writing Process is a series of steps, but it is not necessarily a linear process. In other words, you don’t go through those five steps in order and always come out with a draft that is 100% perfect. Instead, The Writing Process is recursive — this means that you might move back and forth through various steps as you go. For example, you might brainstorm ideas, draft a paragraph, revise that paragraph, brainstorm more ideas, create two more paragraphs, revise and edit all of your paragraphs, etc. Your process can be much messier than a set of five steps in a row!


Your Writing Process

Because The Writing Process is recursive, it is customizable, which means that every writer can develop a writing process that works for them. You don’t have to be stuck going through a set of steps that don’t work for you simply because a writing textbook tells you these are the steps you need to take! Instead, you should think about the steps of The Writing Process, notice your own writing tendencies, figure out what works and doesn’t work for you when you write, do some research to find alternate writing methods, and continue to practice what feels right for you. No writing process is wrong as long as you feel good about it and it yields your desired results.

To begin to develop your own writing process, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • How and when do I like to write?
  • What writing methods and strategies are most effective for me? 
  • In what order do I like to achieve writing tasks?
  • What helps me feel good about what I’ve written?
  • What does not work for me when it comes to writing?

Keep in mind — developing your own writing process doesn’t mean you should dismiss The Writing Process altogether. It also doesn’t mean that you should only write in ways that are comfortable and easy. Instead, you should push yourself to discover new ways of writing — ways that help you optimize your writing time and ways that inspire gratifying work. Once you’ve discovered a writing process that works for you, keep honing it and trying new methods. If you’re committed to improving your process, you will see the results in your writing products. 


Bringing It All Together

Knowing The Writing Process is valuable. Developing your own writing process is necessary. 

The Writing Process gives you a guideline that can help you understand how to approach writing projects, but trying out new methods, embracing the recursive nature of writing, and figuring out what works best for you is a way to get to know yourself better as a writer, a student, and a thinker. Learn the steps, practice, be bold, but always do what feels good and right for you. Happy writing!

Written by Katie Kottemann
Student Success Coach

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