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The Writing Process

Four Stages for Success

By Taylor Koeth

Wait a minute... writing has stages? So you mean to tell me that I’m not supposed to sit down the day that my essay is due, type it all in one sitting, and then turn it in? Yes, that is exactly what I am telling you (and reminding myself because I am notorious for doing just that)!

There are two types of people in this world: those who make a grocery list before heading to the store and those who wander around the store for way longer than necessary because they did not make a list and cannot remember what they need. The person who made a grocery list also makes it back home with everything they needed, while the person who failed to make a list realizes that they must make a second trip to the store to get everything they forgot. If you skip the writing process, then you will be like the second person––confused and wasting your time. Do not be the second person––make a grocery list, have a plan, complete these four stages for a better paper. Let’s review the four stages of the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing.

Stage One: Prewriting

Prewriting is simply identifying the purpose of your essay and gathering and organizing your thoughts and ideas. There are several strategies that can help you through this stage, including freewriting, listing, outlining, and clustering. Here are a few steps to help you get the prewriting process started!

  • Identify the purpose of your paper
  • Identify the audience of your paper
  • Complete a brainstorming strategy (freewriting, listing, outlining, or clustering)
  • Make an appointment with the Speer Writing Center! We can help you brainstorm, draft, or revise!

Stage Two: Drafting

Drafting is my favorite part of the writing process if, and only if, I complete the prewriting stage, but if I skip the prewriting stage, drafting is an absolute nightmare. Luckily, you have completed the handy prewriting checklist above, so drafting is going to be a piece of cake. During this stage, you get to begin writing your paper! Yes, this task sounds daunting, but you are simply organizing the ideas you gathered during the prewriting stage into complete thoughts, sentences, and paragraphs. This stage will include multiple drafts; typically, a rough draft, revised draft(s), and a final draft. Don’t worry if your first draft is awful–it’s called a rough draft for a reason.

  • Write
  • Write
  • Keep Writing

Stage Three: Revising

Now that you have a draft to work with, you can begin the revision process. As you revise, focus on the essay/paper as a whole, looking at the content and organization. During the revision stage, you should read your draft two or three times, both silently and aloud, and as you read, think about the purpose and audience you identified while prewriting. I like to print off a copy of my draft and mark it up as I read, putting question marks next to confusing points, crossing out phrases that I need to remove, circling words that I need to rephrase, and underlining any strong points. Do not be afraid to add to, remove, or shift entire sections of your paper during this stage. As you make these changes, your essay will start to come together.

  • Read your essay/paper silently and aloud
  • Identify the main point of each paragraph – Does it introduce the information presented? Is it specific?
  • Identify the supporting details for each main idea – Are they accurate, relevant, and specific?
  • Mark up your work – look for phrases or sentences to add, rearrange, remove, or replace

Stage Four: Editing

Once you have a revised final draft, you can begin the editing process, which, contrary to popular belief, is not the same thing as the revision process. The revision process focuses on higher-order concerns such as content and organization, and the editing process focuses on lower-order concerns such as mechanics and grammar issues. Take advantage of the websites that can assist you during the editing process–Grammarly is my favorite! Here are a few key things to look at while editing:

  • Spelling
  • Capitalization
  • Punctuation

If you get stuck on any of these stages, the consultants at the Speer Writing Center are more than happy to help–email us to make an appointment! Happy writing!


Taylor Koeth is a junior English education major. You can find her in the Speer Writing Center on Mondays at 8:30 PM and facilitating online Zoom sessions on Tuesdays at 7:45 PM.


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