Writing Process Overview

Here’s an overview of stages and processes of writing that you’ll be learning about and using as you study college writing.

  1. Considering writing – involves identifying the context of the writing – your purpose, writing type, and intended audience – as an initial planning step
  2. Prewriting – includes many different ways of generating information for writing
  3. Creating a thesis/topic sentences/support – involves identifying your main insight or assertion to be supported, and identifying appropriate categories and types of support
  4. Writing the draft – involves ordering the categories of support, creating an introduction and conclusion, and creating the whole piece of writing
  5. Revising – involves reviewing and evaluating the draft for context, thesis, topic sentences, and support, as well as clarity of language and appropriateness of format.

The table below more fully characterizes these five main processes. As you can see, writing is much more than the actual physical act of sitting at the keyboard and creating a draft.

Writing Processes
1. Considering Writing 2. Prewriting 3. Developing Thesis / Topic Sentences / Support 4. Writing the Draft 5. Revising*
may include these components:

  • identifying purpose
  • identifying audience
  • identifying type of writing
  • identifying context of the writing
  • considering the idea you want to express – creating a working thesis
may include these components:

  • journaling
  • freewriting
  • brainstorming
  • mapping
  • listing
  • outlining
  • creating a working thesis
may include these components:

  • creating a working thesis
  • developing ideas with details, examples – additional brainstorming
  • organizing supporting information into logical groups – developing topic sentences
  • researching and verifying sources
  • notetaking
may include these components:

    • creating and/or revising a thesis
    • revising topic sentences
    • developing paragraphs fully
    • organizing and linking paragraphs
    • writing an introduction
    • writing a conclusion
may include these components:

  • revising thesis for clarity, appropriateness
  • revising for unity between thesis and support
  • revising support to add/subtract
  • revising for structure: topic sentences, paragraphs, etc.
  • revising in light of writing considerations: purpose, audience, type, context
  • revising for grammatical correctness
  • revising for language style
  • revising for appropriate documentation
  • revising for appropriate layout/ format
illustrates the information in the table above, but all of the steps are in a circle around the word "essay"

One of the first things you may have noticed is the prevalence of that word “thesis.”  Sometimes you start off your writing process with a main idea, argument, or insight (thesis) that you want to write about, and sometimes the main idea or thesis evolves as you move through the various stages.  Know that in any course on college writing, you’ll focus consistently on the concept of “thesis.”

Although the table above implies a sequence to these processes, given that we generally read tables from left to right and from top to bottom, the sequence actually varies from writer to writer, and from writing project to writing project. Often, writing processes are depicted as in the image shown here, showing a circle that can be accessed at any given point.

However you choose to visualize “how writing happens,” just remember that it doesn’t happen all at once, and it certainly can happen differently, depending on the particular writer and/or the particular writing task. As you do more and more writing, you’ll engage in all of these processes, and you’ll develop a sequence that’s comfortable for you.

View the following video which discusses the main stages of the writing process – Prewriting, Writing, Revising – and why it’s important to recognize and apply these stages.


To reinforce the idea of writing as a process, read a really interesting post from Anupam Krishnamurthy’s blog Medium that references some basic brain science (the way the brain works in focused and diffuse modes) to support the concept of separating your writing from your editing.