The Writing Process

sign that says "create"

Image: Tim Mossholder, 2018

Warm Up

Consider the questions about different types of writing below. Discuss them as a class. 

  • What famous poems or short stories from your culture do you know?
  • Have you ever attended or performed in a play? What was it like?
  • What famous speeches do you know? What were they about?
  • Why is creative writing useful to you as a language learner?
  • What experience do you have writing for school assignments?
  • What steps do you do when you write something?

The Writing Process

Whether you are writing traditional academic essays, poems, or short stories, you will use the writing process. The writing process is the series of steps that a writer can do to write anything. There are five steps in the writing process.

Vocabulary To Know

1. Prewriting - understanding the task that you need to do for an assignment, thinking of many possible ideas to write about, and choosing the best one

2. Drafting - writing your ideas into full phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. 

3. Revising - changing your essay to include, delete, or move ideas

4. Editing - fixing any grammar, spelling, or word choice errors

5. Publishing - sharing the final version of your writing with others

You will begin most writing tasks by prewriting where you think of ideas that you could write about. When you think of many, many possible ideas, it is called brainstorming. After you have thought of many ideas, you will start drafting. The first draft is not perfect. That is okay. It is not supposed to be. Your draft is just your first attempt to say your idea more fully. After you draft, you will revise what you wrote to change any big ideas or organizational patterns. Then, you will edit what you wrote to fix any grammar or spelling errors. It makes the most sense to do this at the end. If you did it before revising, you might spend a lot of time fixing all the grammar, and then during revising, you could decide to completely delete the sentence or paragraph you made grammatically perfect. Change big ideas first. Then change little grammar mistakes. Finally, when you have a version of your writing that says your ideas clearly, you publish your work so others can read it.

This process can be used for any kind of writing, not just school assignments. These skills transfer or move between different tasks. If you are writing a poem for a loved one or a resume for a job application, you will still use your writing process skills. You can practice the writing process skills with creative writing, and you will be able to use them later on when you write other types of writing. 


Johnny was asked to make a flyer for work. He thought of many ideas he could include on the flyer (prewriting). He couldn't decide between two ideas, so he asked a friend for her opinion (prewriting). He decided on one idea and made a quick, imperfect version of the flyer (drafting) before he left for lunch. When he came back, he decided to change one of the big ideas from the flyer (revising), and he found a few grammar mistakes to fix (editing). At last, he printed off the final version of the flyer and hung it on the office bulletin board (publishing). He thought his flyer looked pretty nice, and he thought that taking a break for lunch really helped him look at it with fresh eyes. 

Reflecting on the Writing Process

While these are usually presented as a series of steps, it is okay to move backward and forward along the writing process. For example, if you are revising and editing a speech, but as you are doing that, you realize that it would be better to just speak on a different topic, then it is okay to go back to the prewriting step. These steps are recommendations for how to approach writing. As you study creative writing, consider how you use the writing process in your own writing.

It is important to reflect on your own thought process. Being aware of how you think, can help you grow as a writer. The ability to think about your own thinking is called metacognition1.

There are two parts of metacognition: metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation2. Metacognitive knowledge is what you know about how you think, and metacognitive regulation is what you do because you know about how you think3. If you know that you do prewriting in class before writing a draft, that is metacognitive knowledge. However, if you know that you do prewriting in class before drafting and you know that you prefer to see your ideas connected with arrows rather than just writing a list, then you can act. That is metacognitive regulation. You can do something to control how you think to make the writing process more effective for you. You can keep track of your actions and control them4 to maximize your writing ability and learning. 

As you study writing, think about how you think when writing. Is the way you think helping you write better? Is there anything you would change? You will do many activities and use different strategies as you learn creative writing. Think about your thinking. Which strategy works best for you? Once you have that metacognitive knowledge, act on it. Try it out. You can use metacognitive regulation to try new things and find what works best for you. Keep reflecting and acting on your reflections. 





Exercise 0.1

Reflect on how you write. What do you think about when you need to write something? What do you do? Write one paragraph describing your personal writing process. 

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