1.3 Writing Processes

Nancy Ami; Natalie Boldt; Sara Humphreys; and Erin Kelly

At some point you have probably been taught a writing process. Take a minute and jot down what your writing process is or what you learned from a teacher or even another writer. To get started, you might choose from this list:

  • Do you review your writing project or assignment?
  • Do you think about it for a while?
  • Do you draw a mind map?
  • Do you create an outline?
  • When do you write a first draft?
  • When do you start fixing “mistakes” or polishing sentences?

You might include all or some of the above processes, but even if you chose two, you have a writing process. In secondary and post-secondary schools your process may have been provided for you. If you’d like to check out some ways to get started writing, jump to the section 1.4 Getting Started.

For a large research paper, the process assigned to you likely went something like this:

  1. You were asked to draft and hand in a position you have taken on a topic (sometimes called a claim or thesis) for feedback.
  2. Once that thesis was approved, you took notes, maybe in the format of a journal or on notecards. You might have then created an outline (possibly with different levels of ideas designated by roman numerals, capital letters,or even wee numbers).
  3. Only after all those steps did you create a complete draft, which you then edited and proofread.

There’s nothing wrong with this writing process—but it’s important to know it’s not appropriate for all writing situations and won’t work for every writer. If you’d like to learn more about your own writing process, jump to the section 1.8 Your Own Process.

In other words, if you have ever written an outline after having created a complete draft of an essay, you’re not doing it wrong. Changing a thesis statement (sometimes called a claim or a position on a topic) several times throughout the drafting process or even writing it near the end isn’t necessarily a problem. And some texts should be produced all in one go—there’s no need to write and revise several drafts of an email and no time to do so for an exam.

The goal of this section is not to teach you one writing process but help you to develop a variety of writing processes. When you find yourself facing a new writing project, you should have a repertoire of tools and strategies to try. Put another way, think of your writing skills as tools in a toolbox: you want to have a number of tools to choose from rather than just one, such as a hammer, so to speak. A hammer fixes lots of things, but isn’t very good at fixing others. Similarly, if you only have one writing tool (like the hammer that was just mentioned), then your writing simply won’t work as well as if you had an array of tools (like a hammer, nails, monkey wrench … and so on). Before you can choose how and what you will write, you probably need to start with thinking (there is no hard and fast rule about where to start, but this is a common way to begin the writing process).


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Why Write? A Guide for Students in Canada 2nd Edition Copyright © 2022 by Nancy Ami; Natalie Boldt; Sara Humphreys; and Erin Kelly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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