University Learning Center

The Writing Process

All writers go through some kind of process when producing papers. This process will vary from writer to writer, but listed below are common stages in the writing process. Most writers go through some or all of these stages, though they may have a different order and/or additional steps.

Consultants should keep these stages in mind - writers may need to be reminded of them as they compose.


1. Collect. Writers need access to information. Effective writers spend a lot of time gathering information through a variety of sources. Information is collected through reading, interviewing, observing, discussing, remembering, etc.

2. Connect. Meaning emerges as different bits of information connect. Writers work with the relationships between various pieces of information, creating new meanings.

3. Brainstorm. Writers begin to organize these meanings, and to synthesize them with other meaningful ideas, by brainstorming - usually on paper, and in a variety of ways. Some writers map, or list, or outline, or freewrite. However the writer works, the goal is to make concrete the ideas and relationships the writer is developing.


4. Draft. The writer next composes a rough draft, to discover how their ideas work together in the form of an essay. Often, the rough draft starts in the middle of an idea - without an introduction or a firm thesis in mind. These elements form later, as the writer revises. This first draft is often where the writer finally discovers what they want to say. Just as often, much of the first draft does not make it through the revision to the final written product!


5. Develop. As the writer begins to revise, they firm up a major thesis or point and begin to expand on the supporting ideas. The writer develops each idea through listing, defining, providing examples, explaining, reporting, comparing, contrasting, describing, providing anecdotes (personal stories), concrete profiles, and/or statistics and facts. The writer often needs to add information to effectively explain the meaning of what has been written and often must reorganize points in successive drafts. This stage of the writing process particularly benefits from outside readers.

6. Clarify. The writer anticipates and answers the reader's questions. At this stage the writer cuts what is unnecessary and adds telling details. These changes produce the illusion of easy writing that translates into easy reading. This stage of the writing process also always benefits from outside readers.

7. Edit. The writer goes over the piece line by line, often reading aloud, to make sure that each word, each mark of punctuation, contributes to the effectiveness of the piece of writing.

- Originally written by Pat Coughlin
UNCW Writing Center Director, 1996 - 2005