February 9, 2023

Stages of the writing process

By Ruth Oji

WRITING entails a lot of work, and it’s not for the fainthearted. It is, however, an achievable task! One major thing to do is to go through the stages of the writing process to achieve more in less time. And as you practise again and again, the time to get it done becomes significantly reduced. The four basic stages of the writing process are prewriting, drafting and discovery, revising and proofreading, and publishing and presenting. I will now discuss them one after the other, and be sure to note how to incorporate these stages in writing.

I begin with the prewriting stage. You may wonder what happens here. Prewriting is simply a time to explore ideas and collect materials from a variety of sources. It is never an advisable thing for you to dive into writing without collecting your thoughts and materials in one place. The prewriting stage allows you to examine what you need to discover. This gives you the opportunity to think about the writing variables. What are writing variables? They include the general purpose and specific or personal goals of your writing, your audience, and the form of writing that will suit the purpose. A piece of writing can have one or several purposes, the most common of which are to express yourself, to inform, to tell a story, and to persuade. Also, you may determine your purpose and personal goals early in the writing process by asking yourself the following questions: ‘What do I really want to accomplish in this piece?’ and ‘How do I want my audience to respond to it?’ Without thinking through these elements, you may end up with disjointed pieces of writing that no one may consider interesting and worth their reading time. So always spend some time reflecting on your proposed idea, and see how workable it is when you put together all the variables listed here.

Having done this, you may proceed to the drafting and discovery stage. What to do? Engage in some drafting! At this point, you take the time to get your ideas down on paper without worrying about making mistakes. It’s your world and yours alone! You should feel free to change your mind and to try various approaches if one or the other does not work for you. This stage of the writing does a world of good to you because it helps you to clarify your writing variables and, eventually, you may discover not only what you want to say but also ideas you never thought of before. As you write your draft, you may also find that you are doing some revising, or that you must do more prewriting activities to help you rethink your writing plan or gather more information. That’s the power of engaging in the drafting process – it surely aids you in discovering what more there is to your writing. Whatever drafting method you use, please keep the following questions in mind: ‘In what direction is my writing taking me?’ ‘Am I developing the idea I originally had in mind, focusing on one aspect of it, or dealing with a new idea?’

As you move from here to the revising and proofreading stage, you find that you’re gradually getting there. The revising stage involves reviewing the purpose and specific personal goals of your writing and determining whether you have met them. Remember you set the purpose during the prewriting stage. It’s now the time to analyze and ascertain that you’ve got it all in one place. At this point, you will have to look at your writing with fresh eyes; it’s also great to have others look through it for you and give you some feedback. What specific things should you examine at this stage? Be sure to evaluate the content, structure, and mechanics of your writing. This is the proofreading stage which necessitates careful review and evaluation. Simple mistakes may be too costly to bear. Don’t be in a hurry to end the process! Both higher order – content, structure – and lower order – errors in punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar – concerns should be considered while proofreading so that your writing comes out better and more appealing.

Now you can confidently launch into the last stage of the writing process: publishing and presenting. This is your time to get rewarded for your hard work, commitment, and dedication to the writing process. During this stage of the writing process, you may share your completed writings with others. You are not under compulsion to do this, but it may well be worth the try. Some people may wonder how exactly they can get their writing to others. Well, there are several ways to do this. You may decide to make an oral presentation to a group that would benefit from listening in, or you could publish your writing in a newspaper or magazine that would find it useful for a set audience. This stage of presenting your work could help you get known for your good work or help you achieve the goals for which you write. I encourage you to always share your writing at every stage of the process, not only after it is completed.

Are these stages of the writing process cast in stone? Not at all. The fact is that they are not separate steps that must be completed one at a time. How is this so? Well, the entire process is flexible and can be modified depending on the individual writer and the writing activity. For some people, what comes first is planning and organizing their thoughts carefully before putting pencil to paper. However, some prefer to develop their ideas as they write, and this works for them very well. You must choose what works for you. Also, note that individual writing activities have specific requirements. What I mean is that different types of genre require different approaches in handling them. For example, a research report involves a very different approach from a personal essay. It can thus be concluded that the stages of the writing process are intertwined, leading from one to the other. Regardless of the order in which you complete the steps, writing goes beyond just the completion of these stages. I need you to consider writing as a basic strategy for approaching new knowledge and solving problems. 

Writing is truly a way of learning and growing. Thinking about the process you have gone through in completing a piece of writing can be a real learning experience and can help you continue to grow as a writer. In assessing your progress, ask yourself questions such as these: ‘What did I learn from writing about my topic?’ ‘Which aspects of the writing process were easiest for me?’ ‘Which aspects are getting easier?’ ‘What problems did I solve as I wrote? How can I improve my writing process the next time?’ ‘What similarities or differences in style do I see in this piece compared with others in my writing portfolio?’ ‘What features of my peers’ writing or professional writers’ work would I like to try myself?’ and ‘How can I apply the skills I have learned?’