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The Writing Process | Enrichment Course

Overview of the Writing Process

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ESL versions also available



Overview of the Writing Process

In very simple terms, the writing process has three main stages: (1) Think, (2) Write, and (3) Polish. As you move through each stage, you take a number of specific steps to complete your written product, whatever it may be.

There is nothing “magical” about the stages or steps in the writing process. They simply follow a logical sequence of necessary events. One step flows into the next because it makes sense to do so.

On this page, you can examine examine the writing process as a whole so you see how each stage is connected.

Stage 1. Think

Before you can even start writing, you need a topic and a well defined idea. Without a clear idea, you may end up staring at a blank page to no avail. Perhaps worse, you may end up coming up with ideas as you write so that the beginning, middle, and end of your work do not seem to connect very well.

It makes sense that your first step is to think about ideas for writing. Spending some time generating ideas helps you come up with possible ideas you may want to develop into writing. Then you select your best idea thoughtfully.


You make sure your idea is not too narrow; otherwise, you will not have enough to write about. At the same time, you do not want a topic that is too broad; otherwise, it will be unmanageable—unless you writing a book! Essentially, spending some time at this stage ensures your idea is just right for your writing task.

Once you have a well defined idea, the next step is to plan what you want to say. You can write a formal outline or jot down how you plan to walk the reader through your thinking or rationale. This way, you create a roadmap before you start writing. This planning saves you time and headaches as it prevents you from getting lost in your ideas or from pursuing dead-end ideas during the actual writing.

Stage 2. Write

As you write each paragraph, you must follow your plan. Your paragraphs tells a story. Each paragraph must support your central point. Paragraphs must also be connected coherently so that you walk the reader through your rationale.

Your main goal is to write paragraphs that give your readers a clear picture of your ideas as they read your work. Whatever your mental picture is, it should be in your readers’ minds as faithfully as possible when they are finished reading your product.


The most common way (though not the only way) to organize your paragraphs into a coherent whole is to write an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You write one or two introductory paragraphs to frame your ideas and introduce your central point (or your thesis); write body paragraphs to support your central point; and finally, write a concluding paragraph to bring the whole product into focus.

Depending on your product, you can use headings and, for longer products, even chapters to organize your ideas into parts that are more easily digestible for your readers.

Stage 3. Polish

Once you complete your draft, you can always find ways to improve it. First, you edit your work by focusing on its substance; that is, you improve your ideas, making sure they are clear to your readers. The reader should be at the center of the process, that is, you must ensure that your readers will be able to understand your ideas when they read your product.

Next, you edit your draft, focusing on the mechanics of writing, grammar, and style. The goal is to ensure that, depending on the product, you use proper grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and word choice.

Finally, you add any final touches to your work. It is important to check your work for other minor details such as how you layout and format your document. Depending on the publisher, you must follow specific formatting and citation guidelines.


If you are writing your own blog or newsletter, you have much flexibility there. If you are completing a college essay, you must follow a predetermined formatting style.

Why Not Just Jump Right into Writing?

To an inexperienced writer, following the writing process as outlined above may seem like a great deal of stages and steps. Nonetheless, keep in mind that writing is a process, and processes take time. When you engage in the writing process, you work through your writing purposefully and methodically, so you end up saving time. “Jumping right into it” haphazardly usually leads to getting lost in the process. You make mistakes, lose track of your ideas and become incoherent, find yourself rewriting paragraphs, and so on.

Not following the writing process, you may end up with a good product in the end, but at a much greater cost than you would by following logical stages. After years of practice, you may end up coming up with this process anyhow because it just makes sense. You can save yourself years of frustration by following a process that others have already figured out the hard way.

Whether you are writing a short email or blog post or a longer article or college essay, the the idea of creating a written product can be intimidating. Sometimes you do not even know how to get started. By following the writing process, however, you know what you need to do from start to finish.


The writing process breaks the complex task of writing down into more manageable tasks. As you move through the steps, you know what you need to do. The choice is between diving into the water knowing what you need to do or belly flopping.

Up Next: Stage 1. Step 1. Generating ideas

Continue the lesson to learn about the first stage in the writing process.