Authority Self-Publishing

Do You Know The 7 Steps Of The Writing Process?

How much do you know about the different stages of the writing process? Even if you’ve been writing for years, your understanding of the processes of writing may be limited to writing, editing, and publishing. 

It’s not your fault. Much of the writing instruction in school and online focus most heavily on those three critical steps. 

Important as they are, though, there’s more to creating a successful book than those three. And as a writer, you need to know.   

The 7 Steps of the Writing Process

Read on to familiarize yourself with the seven writing process steps most writers go through — at least to some extent. The more you know each step and its importance, the more you can do it justice before moving on to the next. 

1. Planning or Prewriting

This is probably the most fun part of the writing process. Here’s where an idea leads to a brainstorm, which leads to an outline (or something like it). 

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or something in between, every writer has some idea of what they want to accomplish with their writing. This is the goal you want the final draft to meet. 

With both fiction and nonfiction , every author needs to identify two things for each writing project: 

  • Intended audience = “For whom am I writing this?”
  • Chosen purpose = “What do I want this piece of writing to accomplish?”

In other words, you start with the endpoint in mind. You look at your writing project the way your audience would. And you keep its purpose foremost at every step. 

From planning, we move to the next fun stage. 

2. Drafting (or Writing the First Draft)

There’s a reason we don’t just call this the “rough draft,” anymore. Every first draft is rough. And you’ll probably have more than one rough draft before you’re ready to publish. 

For your first draft, you’ll be freewriting your way from beginning to end, drawing from your outline, or a list of main plot points, depending on your particular process. 

To get to the finish line for this first draft, it helps to set word count goals for each day or each week and to set a deadline based on those word counts and an approximate idea of how long this writing project should be. 

Seeing that deadline on your calendar can help keep you motivated to meet your daily and weekly targets. It also helps to reserve a specific time of day for writing. 

Another useful tool is a Pomodoro timer, which you can set for 20-25 minute bursts with short breaks between them — until you reach your word count for the day. 

3. Sharing Your First Draft

Once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s time to take a break from it. The next time you sit down to read through it, you’ll be more objective than you would be right after typing “The End” or logging the final word count. 

It’s also time to let others see your baby, so they can provide feedback on what they like and what isn’t working for them.

You can find willing readers in a variety of places: 

  • Social media groups for writers
  • Social media groups for readers of a particular genre
  • Your email list (if you have one)
  • Local and online writing groups and forums

This is where you’ll get a sense of whether your first draft is fulfilling its original purpose and whether it’s likely to appeal to its intended audience. 

You’ll also get some feedback on whether you use certain words too often, as well as whether your writing is clear and enjoyable to read. 

4. Evaluating Your Draft

Here’s where you do a full evaluation of your first draft, taking into account the feedback you’ve received, as well as what you’re noticing as you read through it. You’ll mark any mistakes with grammar or mechanics. 

And you’ll look for the answer to important questions: 

  • Is this piece of writing effective/ Does it fulfill its purpose?
  • Do my readers like my main character? (Fiction)
  • Does the story make sense and satisfy the reader? (Fiction)
  • Does it answer the questions presented at the beginning? ( Nonfiction )
  • Is it written in a way the intended audience can understand and enjoy?

Once you’ve thoroughly evaluated your work, you can move on to the revision stage and create the next draft. 

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5. Revising Your Content

Revising and editing get mixed up a lot, but they’re not the same thing. 

With revising, you’re making changes to the content based on the feedback you’ve received and on your own evaluation of the previous draft. 

  • To correct structural problems in your book or story
  • To find loose ends and tie them up (Fiction)
  • To correct unhelpful deviations from genre norms (Fiction)
  • To add or remove content to improve flow and/or usefulness

You revise your draft to create a new one that comes closer to achieving your original goals for it. Your newest revision is your newest draft. 

If you’re hiring a professional editor for the next step, you’ll likely be doing more revision after they’ve provided their own feedback on the draft you send them. 

Editing is about eliminating errors in your (revised) content that can affect its accuracy, clarity, and readability.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

By the time editing is done, your writing should be free of the following: 

  • Grammatical errors
  • Punctuation/mechanical and spelling errors
  • Misquoted content
  • Missing (necessary) citations and source info
  • Factual errors
  • Awkward phrasing
  • Unnecessary repetition

Good editing makes your work easier and more enjoyable to read. A well-edited book is less likely to get negative reviews titled, “Needs editing.” And when it comes to books, it’s best to go beyond self-editing and find a skilled professional. 

A competent editor will be more objective about your work and is more likely to catch mistakes you don’t see because your eyes have learned to compensate for them. 

7. Publishing Your Final Product

Here’s where you take your final draft — the final product of all the previous steps — and prepare it for publication. 

Not only will it need to be formatted (for ebook, print, and audiobook), but you’ll also need a cover that will appeal to your intended audience as much as your content will. 

Whether you budget for these things or not depends on the path you choose to publish your book: 

  • Traditional Publishing — where the publishing house provides editing, formatting, and cover design, as well as some marketing
  • Self-Publishing — where you contract with professionals and pay for editing, formatting, and cover design. 
  • Self-Publishing with a Publishing Company — where you pay the company to provide editing, formatting, and cover design using their in-house professionals.

And once your book is live and ready to buy, it’s time to make it more visible to your intended audience. Otherwise, it would fail in its purpose, too. 

Are you ready to begin 7 steps of the writing process?

Now that you’re familiar with the writing process examples in this post, how do you envision your own process?

While it should include the seven steps described here, it’ll also include personal preferences of your own — like the following: 

  • Writing music and other ambient details
  • Writing schedule
  • Word count targets and time frames

The more you learn about the finer details of the writing process, the more likely you are to create content your readers will love. And the more likely they are to find it. 

Wherever you are in the process, our goal here is to provide content that will help you make the most of it. 

7 steps of the writing process

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Writing Forward

How to Develop Your Creative Writing Process

by Melissa Donovan | Feb 7, 2023 | Creative Writing | 45 comments

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

What steps do you take in your creative writing process?

Writing experts often want us to believe that there is only one worthwhile creative writing process. It usually goes something like this:

  • Rough draft
  • Revise (repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat)
  • Edit, proof, and polish

This is a good system — it absolutely works. But does it work for everyone?

Examining the Creative Writing Process

I’ve been thinking a lot about the creative writing process. Lately I’ve found myself working on all types of projects: web pages, blog posts, a science-fiction series, and of course, books on the craft of writing .

I’ve thought about the steps I take to get a project completed and realized that the writing process I use varies from project to project and depends on the level of difficulty, the length and scope of the project, and even my state of mind. If I’m feeling inspired, a blog post will come flying out of my head. If I’m tired, hungry, or unmotivated, or if the project is complicated, then it’s a struggle, and I have to work a little harder. Brainstorming and outlining can help. A lot.

It occurred to me that I don’t have one creative writing process. I have several. And I always use the one that’s best suited for a particular project.

A Process for Every Project

I once wrote a novel with no plan whatsoever. I started with nothing more than a couple of characters. Thirty days and fifty thousand words later, I had completed the draft of a novel (thanks, NaNoWriMo!).

But usually, I need more structure than that. Whether I’m working on a blog post, a page of web copy, a nonfiction book, or a novel, I find that starting with a plan saves a lot of time and reduces the number of revisions that I have to work through later. It’s also more likely to result in a project getting completed and published.

But every plan is different. Sometimes I’ll jot down a quick list of points I want to make in a blog post. This can take just a minute or two, and it makes the writing flow fast and easy. Other times, I’ll spend weeks — even months — working out the intricate details of a story with everything from character sketches to outlines and heaps of research. On the other hand, when I wrote a book of creative writing prompts , I had a rough target for how many prompts I wanted to generate, and I did a little research, but I didn’t create an outline.

I’ve tried lots of different processes, and I continue to develop my processes over time. I also remain cognizant that whatever’s working for me right now might not work in five or ten years. I will keep revising and tweaking my process, depending on my goals.

Finding the Best Process

I’ve written a novel with no process, and I’ve written a novel by going through every step imaginable: brainstorming, character sketches, research, summarizing, outlines, and then multiple drafts, revisions, and edits.

These experiences were vastly different. I can’t say that one was more enjoyable than the other. But it’s probably worth noting that the book I wrote with no process is still sitting on my hard drive somewhere whereas the one I wrote with a methodical yet creative writing process got completed, polished, and published.

In fact, I have found that using a process generates better results if my goal is to complete and publish a project.

But not every piece of writing is destined for public consumption. Sometimes I write just for fun. No plan, no process, no pressure. I just let the words flow. Every once in a while, these projects find their way to completion and get sent out into the world.

It is only by experimenting with a variety of processes that you will find the creative writing process that works best for you. And you’ll also have to decide what “best” means. Is it the process that’s most enjoyable? Or is it the process that leads you to publication? Only you know the answer to that.

I encourage you to try different writing processes. Write a blog post on the fly. Make an outline for a novel. Do some in-depth research for an epic poem. Try the process at the top of this page, and then do some research to find other processes that you can experiment with. Keep trying new things, and when you find whatever helps you achieve your goals, stick with it, but remain open to new methods that you can bring into your process.

What’s Your Creative Writing Process?

Creative writing processes are good. The reason our predecessors developed these processes and shared them, along with a host of other writing tips, was to help us be more productive and produce better writing. Techniques and strategies can be helpful, but it’s our responsibility to know what works for us as individuals and as creative writers and to know what will cause us to infinitely spin our wheels.

What’s your creative writing process? Do you have one? Do you ever get stuck in the writing process? How do you get unstuck?

Ready Set Write a Guide to Creative Writing



Hi Melissa: I do a lot of research on the topic I’ve chosen to write about. As I do the research I take notes on a word perfect document. When I have a whole lot of information written down–in a jumble–I usually leave it and go do something else. Then I sit down and start to work with the information I’ve gathered and just start writing. The first draft I come up with is usually pretty bad, and then I revise and revise until I have something beautiful that I feel is fit to share with the rest of the world. That’s when I hit the “publish” button 🙂 I’m trying to implement Parkinson’s Law to focus my thinking a little more as I write so that I can get the articles out a bit faster.


My favorite pre-writing process would have to be getting a nice big whiteboard and charting characters and plots down. I find that it really helps me anchor on to specific traits of a character, especially if the persona happens to be a dynamic one. Such charting helps me out dramatically in creating an evolving storyline by not allowing me to forget key twists and other storyline-intensive elements =)

That being said, my favorite pre-charting process is going out the on nights leading to it for a few rounds of beer with good friends!

Cath Lawson

Hi Melissa – I’m like you – I do different things depending on what I’m writing. With the novel I’m working on now – alot of stuff I write won’t even go into it.

Some of the stuff the gurus recommend are the kind of things I’d do if I was writing an essay – but nothing else.

Wendi Kelly

I don’t know if I have a set process. I start with morning pages and journaling. then whatever comes streaming from that gets written. As I go about my day I have a notebook that stays with me whereever I go and I am constantly writing in it, notes, ideas, themes, Sentances that begin with “I wonder…” and then then next monring the notebook is with me during quiet time and these thoughts are often carried right in to the process all over again. So…if that is a process, I guess…I never really thought about it. As I have said before, a lot of my writing also takes place in my…

I guess my process is that when its falling out of my head I try and catch it.

This will be the first year that I attempt NaNO so I will need to be more organized. This is good for thinking ahead. One of the reasons I started blogging in the first place was to get in the discipline of writing every day. That was the first step. Just creating the habit. This will be a good next step.


These days, I feel so scattered, I feel like I’m not getting anything done at all! (grin)

Karen Swim

Melissa, I am really organized but my writing process has never followed the guidelines. I’ve tried them on for size and find that they don’t fit. Even in school, I never did outlines and drafts so I suppose I trained myself against the system! I always do research first and gather all of my notes, clips in one location. As for the writing process itself I let it rip, then go back and fine tune. It has worked for me thus far but I’m always open to trying new techniques on for size, hey if they fit I’m all on board!

Melissa Donovan

@Marelisa, that doesn’t surprise me. Your posts are comprehensive, detailed, and extremely informative. I can tell you care a lot about your topic and about your writing. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog; your passion is palpable.

@Joey, I love the planning stage too. In fact, sometimes I get stuck there and never make it out. Ooh, and white boards. Yes. Those are good. Usually I just use drawing paper though. When I do NaNo, I’m going to try to do less planning. In fact, I’m going to plan in October and just write in November. I’m hoping this new strategy will result in winning my word count goal!

@Cath, I sort of pick and choose which tips from the gurus I use.

@Wendi, you write in the jacuzzi? That’s cool. Or hot. I guess it’s hot. Your process sounds really natural. I started blogging for the exact same reason — to write every day. I’m excited to hear you’re doing NaNo too. That will be fun, and we can offer each other moral support!

@Deb (Punctuality), it sounds like you have a lot going on! I get into that mode sometimes, where I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t get anything done. It’s really frustrating. Sometimes I have to shut down for a day to get my bearings and that’s the only way I can get back on track.

@Karen, that’s probably why your writing flows so well, because you just let it do its thing. I remember learning to do outlines back in 6th grade but it didn’t stick. Later, in college, we’d have to do them as assignments, so I didn’t have a choice. I realized that they sped up the writing process. Now I do them for some (but not all) projects. But I will say this: I actually enjoy outlining (weird?).


Melissa, I’m not a real writer but I do love reading how you, who are, go about the business of putting words to paper. As always, a great post. Thanks.


It is funny that you wrote about this today. I picked up an extra assignment with a today deadline. Let’s not talk about how long it’s been since I’ve written copy on that tight a deadline.

My mantra: “If it doesn’t make it I don’t get paid for it.” Rinse and repeat.

Also, I grew to enjoy outlining when I went back to university. Sometimes I’m happy just to outline; also known as a stall tactic.


Ah, my writing process?

1) Spit out mindgarbage! 2) Sort through mindgarbage. 3) Take out the handy scissors and glue (or rather, ctrl+c, ctrl+v…) 4) Revise Revise Revise 5) Edit, proof, polish… 6) Rewrite, revise rewrite, revise…

My prewriting is just writing. Writing trash. Then cleaning it up. 3 pages = 1 paragraph trash. Yeaaaaah.

@Milena, what do you mean you’re not a real writer? Of course you are. You write; therefore you are a writer!

@Deb, sometimes those crunch deadlines really light the fire. I’ve been amazed at what I can write in a day when there’s a client waiting for it with a nice big PayPal deposit!

@Sam, that’s a good way to get it done! Do you free-write your early drafts? I’ve been teased for editing too much, but it’s definitely worth it. You can get the good stuff early by just spattering it all over the page, and then refine it until it’s polished and sparkling!


I never really liked the 5 step process when I wrote back in school, but I suppose that learning that did make me a better writer. I don’t have a set process, sometimes it’s just sitting at the computer and opening up my blog, or a blank page in Word. Sometimes things come from something that struck me during the day. I think I have to work on the discipline of actually sitting down to write more often! Practice makes perfect, or at least close enough, right?!?!


I’ve tried to figure out what my process is, but it’s different depending on what I’m writing.

Blogging – 90% of the time, there is no process at all and it shows. I’m usually writing as fast as I can think, and sometimes I can’t keep up and I may just jump to the next thought at random. I may go back and read and finish thoughts that were left incomplete. I try to write my blogs as if the reader is having a conversation with me, which makes it feel natural for me to write.

Poetry – Most times I don’t like editting unless I’m really unhappy with the first draft. Usually I’m only changing or adding punctuations. But overall, I’ll get my inspiration and after reciting a few lines in my head and an idea of where I want to go, that’s when I’ll pull out some paper (or cardboard or napkins or laptop) and write a potential masterpiece.

Story/scripts – I plan the entire story in my head. One might call it a brainstorm, but I’ll go farther and say it’s a hurricane. I won’t stop with just a story, I’ll create characters, scenes, even background music. A lot of times I’ll get the idea but I won’t be able to write anything down, like if I’m driving, rock climbing, sky diving or underwater. A lot of ideas come to me when I’m in the bathroom. Without sharing much details about that, I’ll just say I have time to think and let my imagination go to work. When I’m able to get to some paper or my laptop, I’ll write out the story and flesh it out a little until I’m done, or I’ll keep working on the story in my head and bounce it off some people to see how they would react of this happened or that happened.

I don’t like outlines, but when it comes to screenplays, they help out a lot and it’s the only time I MIGHT use one. I’ve been known to go without them though.

@Jenny, practice does make perfect! I believe that. I rarely use the five-step process on paper, but I think I often do some steps in my head, often without even realizing I’m doing them!

@t. sterling, I consistently get some of my best ideas in the shower. There must be something very inspiring about bathrooms or water. Like you, I have a bunch of different processes that I use depending on what I’m writing. And after reading all the comments, it seems like that’s how it works for a lot of writers.

J.D. Meier

I like the show me yours, show you mine tradezees.

It’s kind of long, but there’s a lot to it:

Thanks, J.D.

Kelvin Kao

That depends on the complexity. If it’s something simple like some of my blog posts, I just start writing without outlines. For tutorials, usually there are steps so I will write down all the steps first and re-arrange them to the order I want.

For stories, sometimes I write down the events that should happen, but sometimes I don’t. Even if I don’t explicitly write out an outline, I would still have some kind of structure in my head. And even if it’s written out, eventually I will get that into my head because it’s easier for me to sort through things that way. I think it might be a habit I developed from working as a computer programmer. I tend to rely a lot on short-term memory. I get all these details into my head, and then I try to sort things out in my mind.

Actually, you know what? I’ve just brainstormed for a story right before reading this. I already have most detailed sorted out in my head, so I will most likely write and post it tomorrow. I think I’ll post my writing process after that as well. For now I’ll sleep on it. (I think maybe that’s part of the process as well.)

Oh yes, sleeping on it is definitely part of the process. I like to insert that right between rough draft and revision. Then I do it again between revision and polish or proofread. Sounds like you do things similarly to the way I do — a little of everything with the steps varying depending on the project.

Positively Present

Great post! Thanks for sharing your insights on the writing process. As for me, I feel like I work in spurts of inspiration… Lots of writing, then editing, then writing again.

That is how I’ve always written poetry — with spurts of inspiration and freewrites. Then I will go through the pages and pull out lines and phrases to build a poem. I do use brainstorming, notes, outlines, research, etc. for other forms, but it really depends on the project.


Actually, I’m not that organize when it comes to creative writing. Most of the time I keep in tune with my thoughts. When something pop-ups (words, phrase, ideas, vocabulary) is immediately write it down on my black notebook.

I go with my own style of writing because I believe my work will speak out only if it’s unique on its own. Being imperfect, I don’t put too much effort on the grammatical construction. I believe that what’s between the words are more important the the words itself. A distinctive writer possesses this quality. 🙂

Writing down your ideas, words, phrases, etc. in your notebook is an excellent habit! However, I have to disagree with you on the importance of grammar. I think it’s essential for writers to master grammar and then (and only then) can you start breaking the rules. Of course, this may depend on what you want to write (i.e. blog versus fiction). Grammar gives writers a common or shared framework in which to construct the language, and believe it or not, there are some astute writers and editors out there who will judge your work rather harshly if the grammar is not up to par. That doesn’t mean it has to be perfect, but if you’re missing the basics, it’s likely they won’t bother reading past the first paragraph. By the way, a fast and easy way to learn grammar is by listening to the Grammar Girl podcast. Just a few minutes of listening a couple times a week will teach you more than you can imagine!

Jay Tee

I separate first draft from editing, but I’m not particular about whether I finish the whole draft before I start editing. Sometimes going back and editing the first 3 chapters gets me moving on a better line.

When I edit, I do whole read-thrus until I’m happy with the story flow. Then I use the Autocrit Editing Wizard to really polish the manuscript. After that, I’m done!

I’ve never heard of the Autocrit Editing Wizard. Sounds interesting. I usually edit short pieces like web page copy or blog posts on the fly, i.e. I will stop every couple of paragraphs and go back to re-read and edit. However, with longer works, I feel like if I start editing midway, I might lose the project and get caught up in polishing before the rough draft is nailed down. All that matters, however, is that each writer finds his or her own best method. Sounds like you’ve got it down!


LOL! I think I’ve worked through every possible type of creative process possible. From outlining the whole darned thing to working with notecards, story boards and of course just winging it, which resulted in a story with a really flat ending – unforgivable:-) And while I firmly adhere to Anne Lamott’s *&^^%# first draft, I have finally settled into a process that works for me. I now use a plot worksheet and a character worksheet. It takes me a bit longer to actually start writing but what I write works and requires less editing.

I’ve tried all the methods too, and I’m glad I did. I’ve learned that each one works for me, but in a different capacity. With creative writing, such as fiction and poetry, I just jump right in and start writing. Right now I’m working on a nonfiction, educational project using detailed outlines and note cards. I think what you’ve done is brilliant — figuring out what advice works for you and what doesn’t work and then letting your own, personalized process unfold.


I have used all the methods, too, and I agree that the method used depends mostly on the subject matter. For novels, it also seems to depend on the genre. I can rip out a romance novel without an outline (in fact that’s the most fun way to do it). I finished a Romance for NaNoWriMo last year in three weeks. For novels with a more complicated plot at least a general outline is helpful (keeping in mind I have to be flexible enough to let the characters take over and go off in some completely different direction).

For me the single most important thing is letting a certain amount of time go by between drafting and editing. It could be days, it could be weeks. For novels it’s even better for me to let months go by. It gives me the the opportunity to look at the material with “fresh eyes”.

Probably for that reason, I tend to work on multiple projects at once: drafting one (early mornings on the weekends when I’m at my best); editing one and polishing another (weekday evenings). That way everything keeps moving forward, I never get bored and I always have new material in the pipeline.

I’m with you, Meredith! I can see how it would be fun to write a romance novel on the fly, and I’ve heard that mystery writers often use outlines because they need to incorporate plot twists and must keep track of various story threads. Another method is to outline as you write, so you have notes that you can refer back to when necessary. Allowing time to pass between writing, editing, proofreading, and polishing is absolutely essential! We know the brain will read incorrect text correctly, plugging in words and proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. That time away really does give us fresh eyes! I love your strategy for working on multiple projects simultaneously.


There are good things to be said for the traditional formula, but as you say it isn’t the only method that works. I have written eight novels and dozens upon dozens of short stories and never once sat down to do a brainstorming session to come up with ideas. I do a lot of research, but most of it as I go along during the writing process. The last three steps I think are golden though.

I do have one new organization tip to share though. If your tech savvy enough to do a local install of wordpress on your computer it can become a great writing tool. Not only does it have a simple to use word processor in the form of the posting tool, it allows you to categorize your research and there are plenty of tagging plugins that will allow you to easily cross reference notes and text.

I LOVE the idea of using a local installation of WordPress for research and novel writing. I can imagine all the benefits with links and images, even video. Hmm. I don’t know how to do a local installation, but I’m thinking another option would be to load WP onto a live domain and simply put it in permanent maintenance mode (plugin) or set up some kind of password protection to block it from the public. I definitely need to think about this as a tool. Thanks for the tip, Brad!

Chris Smith

I use Scrivener ( ) for all my writing. It’s great for research and saving web pages, building characters, plotting and planning, all in one place. And best of all you can break down a story into scenes (separate documents) within Scrivener itself – something you can’t do in Word or similar. Wordpress is all very well, but you can’t see all posts/pages at once in a sidebar – something you *can* do in Scrivener. You can download a free trial of Scrivener to see whether it’s for you. Don’t be put off by the complicated look of it – you can use as much or as little of it as you like and there are some very handy videos and tips on using it. I’ve found it’s the best thing for writing blog posts, short stories, novels, scripts, you name it. It can’t hurt to give it a go.

I agree, Chris. Scrivener is amazing. I use it for fiction and poetry, and it’s made the writing process so much smoother. I highly recommend it to all writers. Plus, it’s reasonably priced.

I’m loving reading all these, but I don’t really have a process … I sit at the keyboard and hope something comes out of my fingertips … and if it doesn’t I let myself get distracted by shiny things like Twitter.

(Okay, I never said it was a PRODUCTIVE method.)

Really? I would have guessed that you use outlines at least some of the time. I definitely have to use outlines for longer works of nonfiction, and I always outline website copy when I’m writing for clients. It’s such a good (and productive) way to organize your thoughts, but for fiction and poetry (and many blog posts) I often let it flow freely, and it turns out that method is productive too 😉


Hello Melissa, My name is Kylee and I’m 15. Being naturally gifted in journalism, its a dream or fantasy of mine to become an author. For me to get into my ‘zone’ I have to be in a completely serene enviroment for hours. I’ve written short stories and essays but would like to complete the ultimate thrill of Mine: a novel. Its frustrating really, the difficulties of finding my creative writing process. I have difficulties in making a plot complex enough, and character development. I know they are major issues but I’m having trouble perfecting my writing. If you could help me in any way, I’d gladly appreciate it. Thank you.

You’re getting an early start. The best advice I have for you is to read a lot. If you want to be a novelist, then read as many novels as you can. Try keeping a reading journal where you can write down your thoughts and observations about how other authors handle plot and character development. You’ll find that you start to read differently. Instead of reading for enjoyment or entertainment, it also becomes a fun study in your craft. You can visit my Writing Resources section or Books page to check out my recommendations for books on the craft of writing. Good luck to you!

Linda Maye Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

Mine’s pretty simple:

1. Do background research. Mostly stuff for the setting like common plants and animals, names of places, photographs. I’ll also read books to familiarize myself with whatever topic of the book in involved.

2. Start writing.

3. Do spot research as I’m writing. Search for the name of something, looking at pictures of something to help me describe it; etc.

4. Move around the scenes as I write, which is sort of like shaking out the wrinkles in a sheet. I add new things that occur to me, correct typos, etc.

That’s excellent, Linda. It sounds like you’ve nailed your process!

Meghan Adona

I have no writing process, actually. I’m the type of person who thinks while I’m writing, or I think of an image and the story comes out suddenly. I also think before I write, and imagine how the scenes will turn out. I’m a very visual person when it comes to writing. In addition, I found out that when I do plan, my stories never get drafted at all, or they do but I don’t like it. Planning never really works for me. I need to let all my ideas be out of my mind, and not from pre-writing.

All that matters is that you’ve found the process that works for you, and it sounds like you have!

Rod Raglin

Here’s a trick (procedure, technique, system, gimmick) I use when I’m writing a novel. I don’t write linearly. Some parts of the story are more appealing to me than others so depending on my mood (perhaps that should be muse) I jump around. Admittedly, connecting the scenes may take a bit of of revision since I never know where the story will eventually take me, and on occasion I’ve had to trash a significant amount. That’s okay, since my goal is to enjoy myself every time I sit down to write – and I do.

This method works well for a lot of writers. I mostly try to write my own drafts linearly, but I skip around if I’m struck with inspiration.

Every writer experiences different levels of enjoyment during the process. In my experience, most writers encounter a lot of frustration at certain points in the process. So I have come to view writing as rewarding rather than enjoyable. A lot of the work is fun, but a lot of it is difficult, tedious, even maddening. But at the end, it’s all worth it if you can push through the hard parts.

Book suggestion: The Writer’s Process, Getting Your Brain in Gear by Anne H. Janzer.

This book explains the actual psychology behind the creative process and then suggests how to apply it to your work. Some good insights.

Thanks for the recommendation, Rod. I’m always looking for books on the craft of writing to add to my collection.

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The Writing Process: A Seven-Step Approach for Every Writer

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Main Writing Process Takeaways:

  • Writing process refers to a series of steps that a writer must follow to complete a piece of writing.
  • Having a  writing process  is essential to produce a wide range of content.
  • Breaking down your text into different stages could ultimately improve content quality.
  • A writing process or method includes the following stages: planning, drafting, sharing, evaluating, revising, editing, and publishing.
  • The prewriting stage is the most critical stage of the writing process .

We all follow a writing process when creating an article or any written content. In most cases, this process becomes a routine that comes naturally rather than a step-by-step guide.

However, following a step-by-step writing process can come in handy, especially when dealing with challenging pieces. In this post, we will discuss the seven-stage writing method that you can use for writing high quality content.

What is the Writing Process?

Writing process refers to a series of steps that you must follow in order for you to complete a piece of writing . Writers may have different writing methods , but the writing stages are essentially the same. These stages break writing into manageable pieces from planning, drafting, and sharing to revising, editing, and publishing. That way, the task seems less laborious.

The primary strength of the writing process is its usefulness in producing a wide range of content. Whether you’re an academic writer, blogger , or screenwriter , it helps you write better, easier, and faster.

Read More: The Best Copywriting Courses For Beginners

Why is the writing process important.

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Having a writing process will help you break your writing tasks into manageable parts, making the work less intimidating. As a result, you’re less likely to experience writer’s block. It could also aid in reducing the anxiety and stress that comes with writing. Also, breaking down your writing work into different stages could ultimately improve content quality.

It will allow you to focus on your piece. That way, you can tailor your content to address the specific needs of your target audience.

We could think of writing in terms of merely producing materials for readers to enjoy. But there’s more to the story.

With the right approach, writers usually undergo three stages — thinking, learning, and discovery — to produce excellent pieces. And such authentic writing usually makes lifelong learners and versatile writers.

Writers must always follow a writing process to be efficient and more productive.

It does not matter whether you are writing a thesis, academic report , research paper , essay, or blog content. The more organize your ideas are when you present them in text, the more you will be able to connect with your readers.

What are the 7 Steps of the Writing Process?

image shows a hand creating a checklist of goals on a paper

The EEF’s “ Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 ” guidance report broke down the writing process into seven stages. This includes the planning , drafting, sharing, evaluating, revising, editing, and publishing stages. As writers become adept in these stages, they can quickly move back and forth, revising their text along the way. In other words, writing is not a linear process.

1. Planning or Prewriting

The planning or prewriting stage involves brainstorming, which takes into account your writing purpose and goal. It’s also the stage to connect your ideas using graphic organizers. The prewriting stage is when you ask the following questions:

  • What will I write?
  • What is the intended purpose of the writing?
  • Who is the audience for your writing?

You need to do intent research to better understand what your target readers need. For instance, if you are writing for the web, you can take advantage of Google-Related Questions to know what the people are searching for online in relation to your topic.

Answering these questions ensures that you start your writing with the end in mind. Furthermore, you’ll be able to see your writing project through your audience’s eyes.

2. Create Your First Draft

Before your content is ready for publishing, you must have created a couple of drafts.

Thanks to the drafting process, you can write freely from the beginning to the end. What’s more, it provides a way to quickly draw from your outline or list of main plot points — depending on your writing process.

You could also use these stages to establish word count goals to get a rough idea of the project duration. This is especially important for creative writers such as novelists.

3. Share Your First Draft

After completing the first draft, it’s time to take a break and share the text with others.

While it may sound a bit scary at first, the feedback will help you evaluate elements of your writing. These include the composition, structure, and overall effectiveness.

Consider sharing your first draft in the following places:

  • Your email list — if you have one
  • Online writing groups and forums
  • Social media groups for writers
  • Social media group for a specific genre

In the end, you’ll know whether your first draft fulfills the intended purpose and appeal to your audience. The feedback also tells you if your writing is clear, enjoyable, and easy to read.

4. Evaluate Your Draft

This writing process involves doing a full evaluation of your first draft.

At this stage, you have to take the feedback that you’ve received into account. It’s also an excellent opportunity to address possible mistakes with grammar or mechanics.

For fiction writers, this writing stage allows you to ask whether the readers like your main character. Likewise, non-fiction writers have to ask if their content addresses their audience’s questions.

After evaluating your work, you can move to the revision stage of writing.

5. Revising Your Draft

Revision involves making changes to your work based on the feedback you received and thorough evaluation. This writing process is especially useful for fiction writers.

Along with correcting structural problems in your story, it also allows you to find loose ends and tie them up. You can also add or remove content to improve your write-up’s flow and usefulness.

When you’re done revising, you’ll have a new draft that takes you closer to your  writing goal .

At this point, your newest revision becomes your latest draft. After that, you may opt to edit your own work using a content writing and editing tool like INK or hire a professional editor.

6. Editing your Content

The editing aspect of the writing process is about eliminating possible errors in your revised content. These include elements that can affect your text’s accuracy, clarity, and readability.

The editing process also addresses misquoted content, factual errors, awkward phrasing, and unnecessary repetition. Not only does good editing make your work easier, but it also makes the text more enjoyable.

Specialized writing tools such as INK could prove useful for editing web content. But it’s best to avoid self-editing for books. Consider hiring a professional editor for novels and non-fiction books.

7. Publishing your Content

The last stage of the writing process involves sharing your text with your audience.

There are various ways to publish your content, depending on the content type. For example, you can share your book using self-publishing platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and CreateSpace .

Whatever the writing may be, the writing processes outlined above will help you create an excellent piece.

What is the Most Important Step in the Writing Process?

Educators have not reached a consensus on the most important writing process . Some would argue that the prewriting stage is the most critical for completing a piece of writing.

After all, brainstorming is required to create an idea that’ll eventually become the content. Besides, writers can use the prewriting stage to avoid or overcome writer’s block.

Meanwhile, educators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill believe that the revision stage is the most critical. It’s when a piece of writing undergoes the most changes.

It could entail increasing the word count to supply as much information as possible. You could also rearrange some aspect of the manuscript to improve the content’s flow, pacing, and sequence.

Read More: 10 Effective Content Writing Techniques for Beginners

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  • A step-by-step guide to the writing process

The Writing Process | 5 Steps with Examples & Tips

Published on April 24, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on December 8, 2023.

The writing process steps

Good academic writing requires effective planning, drafting, and revision.

The writing process looks different for everyone, but there are five basic steps that will help you structure your time when writing any kind of text.

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Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

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outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Table of contents

Step 1: prewriting, step 2: planning and outlining, step 3: writing a first draft, step 4: redrafting and revising, step 5: editing and proofreading, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the writing process.

Before you start writing, you need to decide exactly what you’ll write about and do the necessary research.

Coming up with a topic

If you have to come up with your own topic for an assignment, think of what you’ve covered in class— is there a particular area that intrigued, interested, or even confused you? Topics that left you with additional questions are perfect, as these are questions you can explore in your writing.

The scope depends on what type of text you’re writing—for example, an essay or a research paper will be less in-depth than a dissertation topic . Don’t pick anything too ambitious to cover within the word count, or too limited for you to find much to say.

Narrow down your idea to a specific argument or question. For example, an appropriate topic for an essay might be narrowed down like this:

Doing the research

Once you know your topic, it’s time to search for relevant sources and gather the information you need. This process varies according to your field of study and the scope of the assignment. It might involve:

  • Searching for primary and secondary sources .
  • Reading the relevant texts closely (e.g. for literary analysis ).
  • Collecting data using relevant research methods (e.g. experiments , interviews or surveys )

From a writing perspective, the important thing is to take plenty of notes while you do the research. Keep track of the titles, authors, publication dates, and relevant quotations from your sources; the data you gathered; and your initial analysis or interpretation of the questions you’re addressing.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Especially in academic writing , it’s important to use a logical structure to convey information effectively. It’s far better to plan this out in advance than to try to work out your structure once you’ve already begun writing.

Creating an essay outline is a useful way to plan out your structure before you start writing. This should help you work out the main ideas you want to focus on and how you’ll organize them. The outline doesn’t have to be final—it’s okay if your structure changes throughout the writing process.

Use bullet points or numbering to make your structure clear at a glance. Even for a short text that won’t use headings, it’s useful to summarize what you’ll discuss in each paragraph.

An outline for a literary analysis essay might look something like this:

  • Describe the theatricality of Austen’s works
  • Outline the role theater plays in Mansfield Park
  • Introduce the research question: How does Austen use theater to express the characters’ morality in Mansfield Park ?
  • Discuss Austen’s depiction of the performance at the end of the first volume
  • Discuss how Sir Bertram reacts to the acting scheme
  • Introduce Austen’s use of stage direction–like details during dialogue
  • Explore how these are deployed to show the characters’ self-absorption
  • Discuss Austen’s description of Maria and Julia’s relationship as polite but affectionless
  • Compare Mrs. Norris’s self-conceit as charitable despite her idleness
  • Summarize the three themes: The acting scheme, stage directions, and the performance of morals
  • Answer the research question
  • Indicate areas for further study

Once you have a clear idea of your structure, it’s time to produce a full first draft.

This process can be quite non-linear. For example, it’s reasonable to begin writing with the main body of the text, saving the introduction for later once you have a clearer idea of the text you’re introducing.

To give structure to your writing, use your outline as a framework. Make sure that each paragraph has a clear central focus that relates to your overall argument.

Hover over the parts of the example, from a literary analysis essay on Mansfield Park , to see how a paragraph is constructed.

The character of Mrs. Norris provides another example of the performance of morals in Mansfield Park . Early in the novel, she is described in scathing terms as one who knows “how to dictate liberality to others: but her love of money was equal to her love of directing” (p. 7). This hypocrisy does not interfere with her self-conceit as “the most liberal-minded sister and aunt in the world” (p. 7). Mrs. Norris is strongly concerned with appearing charitable, but unwilling to make any personal sacrifices to accomplish this. Instead, she stage-manages the charitable actions of others, never acknowledging that her schemes do not put her own time or money on the line. In this way, Austen again shows us a character whose morally upright behavior is fundamentally a performance—for whom the goal of doing good is less important than the goal of seeming good.

When you move onto a different topic, start a new paragraph. Use appropriate transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas.

The goal at this stage is to get a draft completed, not to make everything perfect as you go along. Once you have a full draft in front of you, you’ll have a clearer idea of where improvement is needed.

Give yourself a first draft deadline that leaves you a reasonable length of time to revise, edit, and proofread before the final deadline. For a longer text like a dissertation, you and your supervisor might agree on deadlines for individual chapters.

Now it’s time to look critically at your first draft and find potential areas for improvement. Redrafting means substantially adding or removing content, while revising involves making changes to structure and reformulating arguments.

Evaluating the first draft

It can be difficult to look objectively at your own writing. Your perspective might be positively or negatively biased—especially if you try to assess your work shortly after finishing it.

It’s best to leave your work alone for at least a day or two after completing the first draft. Come back after a break to evaluate it with fresh eyes; you’ll spot things you wouldn’t have otherwise.

When evaluating your writing at this stage, you’re mainly looking for larger issues such as changes to your arguments or structure. Starting with bigger concerns saves you time—there’s no point perfecting the grammar of something you end up cutting out anyway.

Right now, you’re looking for:

  • Arguments that are unclear or illogical.
  • Areas where information would be better presented in a different order.
  • Passages where additional information or explanation is needed.
  • Passages that are irrelevant to your overall argument.

For example, in our paper on Mansfield Park , we might realize the argument would be stronger with more direct consideration of the protagonist Fanny Price, and decide to try to find space for this in paragraph IV.

For some assignments, you’ll receive feedback on your first draft from a supervisor or peer. Be sure to pay close attention to what they tell you, as their advice will usually give you a clearer sense of which aspects of your text need improvement.

Redrafting and revising

Once you’ve decided where changes are needed, make the big changes first, as these are likely to have knock-on effects on the rest. Depending on what your text needs, this step might involve:

  • Making changes to your overall argument.
  • Reordering the text.
  • Cutting parts of the text.
  • Adding new text.

You can go back and forth between writing, redrafting and revising several times until you have a final draft that you’re happy with.

Think about what changes you can realistically accomplish in the time you have. If you are running low on time, you don’t want to leave your text in a messy state halfway through redrafting, so make sure to prioritize the most important changes.

Editing focuses on local concerns like clarity and sentence structure. Proofreading involves reading the text closely to remove typos and ensure stylistic consistency. You can check all your drafts and texts in minutes with an AI proofreader .

Editing for grammar and clarity

When editing, you want to ensure your text is clear, concise, and grammatically correct. You’re looking out for:

  • Grammatical errors.
  • Ambiguous phrasings.
  • Redundancy and repetition .

In your initial draft, it’s common to end up with a lot of sentences that are poorly formulated. Look critically at where your meaning could be conveyed in a more effective way or in fewer words, and watch out for common sentence structure mistakes like run-on sentences and sentence fragments:

  • Austen’s style is frequently humorous, her characters are often described as “witty.” Although this is less true of Mansfield Park .
  • Austen’s style is frequently humorous. Her characters are often described as “witty,” although this is less true of Mansfield Park .

To make your sentences run smoothly, you can always use a paraphrasing tool to rewrite them in a clearer way.

Proofreading for small mistakes and typos

When proofreading, first look out for typos in your text:

  • Spelling errors.
  • Missing words.
  • Confused word choices .
  • Punctuation errors .
  • Missing or excess spaces.

Use a grammar checker , but be sure to do another manual check after. Read through your text line by line, watching out for problem areas highlighted by the software but also for any other issues it might have missed.

For example, in the following phrase we notice several errors:

  • Mary Crawfords character is a complicate one and her relationships with Fanny and Edmund undergoes several transformations through out the novel.
  • Mary Crawford’s character is a complicated one, and her relationships with both Fanny and Edmund undergo several transformations throughout the novel.

Proofreading for stylistic consistency

There are several issues in academic writing where you can choose between multiple different standards. For example:

  • Whether you use the serial comma .
  • Whether you use American or British spellings and punctuation (you can use a punctuation checker for this).
  • Where you use numerals vs. words for numbers.
  • How you capitalize your titles and headings.

Unless you’re given specific guidance on these issues, it’s your choice which standards you follow. The important thing is to consistently follow one standard for each issue. For example, don’t use a mixture of American and British spellings in your paper.

Additionally, you will probably be provided with specific guidelines for issues related to format (how your text is presented on the page) and citations (how you acknowledge your sources). Always follow these instructions carefully.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
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  • Appeal to authority fallacy
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Revising, proofreading, and editing are different stages of the writing process .

  • Revising is making structural and logical changes to your text—reformulating arguments and reordering information.
  • Editing refers to making more local changes to things like sentence structure and phrasing to make sure your meaning is conveyed clearly and concisely.
  • Proofreading involves looking at the text closely, line by line, to spot any typos and issues with consistency and correct them.

Whether you’re publishing a blog, submitting a research paper , or even just writing an important email, there are a few techniques you can use to make sure it’s error-free:

  • Take a break : Set your work aside for at least a few hours so that you can look at it with fresh eyes.
  • Proofread a printout : Staring at a screen for too long can cause fatigue – sit down with a pen and paper to check the final version.
  • Use digital shortcuts : Take note of any recurring mistakes (for example, misspelling a particular word, switching between US and UK English , or inconsistently capitalizing a term), and use Find and Replace to fix it throughout the document.

If you want to be confident that an important text is error-free, it might be worth choosing a professional proofreading service instead.

If you’ve gone over the word limit set for your assignment, shorten your sentences and cut repetition and redundancy during the editing process. If you use a lot of long quotes , consider shortening them to just the essentials.

If you need to remove a lot of words, you may have to cut certain passages. Remember that everything in the text should be there to support your argument; look for any information that’s not essential to your point and remove it.

To make this process easier and faster, you can use a paraphrasing tool . With this tool, you can rewrite your text to make it simpler and shorter. If that’s not enough, you can copy-paste your paraphrased text into the summarizer . This tool will distill your text to its core message.

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The Seven Steps are the building blocks to great writing. They break down writing into simple chunks, so students aren’t overwhelmed by writing a whole piece straight away. Instead, they gain confidence with each Step they learn, to become creative and engaging writers. Eventually they will learn how to put it all together and write complete texts independently.

The Seven Steps

Step 1: plan for success, step 2: sizzling starts, step 3: tightening tension, step 4: dynamic dialogue.

  • Step 5: Show, Don’t Tell

Step 6: Ban the Boring

  • Step 7: Exciting Endings/Ending with Impact

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How many times have you asked your students to plan their work – without success? One of the biggest hurdles is to show students that thinking is an essential part of writing.

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Do you see the same old starts over and over again? ‘One day … Once upon a time … I think that … In my opinion …’ Teach students how to start at the moment of change, to immediately grab the reader’s attention.

Start where the action is. Not at the beginning of the day, when nothing is happening. Begin when the volcano starts oozing lava or as you walk onstage for the talent competition.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Tension and drama brings narrative writing to life. The reader must believe the protagonist will fail: the tornado is too strong, the villain is too evil, the black forces of depression are too overwhelming. Yet, through strength, talent and determination, somehow our main character triumphs in the end.

To persuade or inform a reader, don’t just run through your main arguments or list the facts. You need to build up momentum. Start strong, but save your best arguments and strongest messages for further into your writing.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Think of dialogue as a mini play within the story. Let your characters walk, talk and even stalk – that’s how we get to know them.

Quotations from real people can also be powerful. The words of an expert, a celebrity, or an ordinary person affected by an issue, can add strength and vibrancy to informative or persuasive writing.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Step 5: Show, Don’t Tell

If I tell you I am generous, do you believe me? No way. But if I buy all of your raffle tickets to help cancer research, are you more convinced? Use your characters’ actions to show the reader what they’re really like.

In informative and persuasive writing, engage or convince the reader by showing them one example to reflect a larger issue, e.g. one orangutan whose habitat has been destroyed.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Everyone gets up, gets dressed, travels to school. It’s not exactly exciting. So why write about it? Ban all mention of the boring ‘B’ words: bed, breakfast and bus trips. Think like the movies: movie characters never travel, they just arrive.

Show your students how to review their work to make sure every sentence is engaging and important to their writing.

Challenge students to be better than basic. They can be brilliant, not boring!

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Step 7: Exciting Endings/Endings with Impact

Would you tell a joke without knowing the punchline? If you want to build to a big climax you have to know where you are heading

Let’s banish rushed endings, or the all-too common ‘It was all a dream’.

A call to action, a plot twist, a crucial question: find the most impactful way to end your piece. This way, you’ll leave a lasting impression on your reader.

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  • January 26, 2018

Fringe Highlight

Novelists Jerome Griffin and Orna Ross, ALLi Director, discuss the seven stages of conscious creation as they relate to writing. Understanding the different requirements of each stage from concept to completion can, Orna argues, up your writing speed, ensure you're more likely to finish well, and improve your writing craft.

Here’s a summary of the topics we covered:

  • Vision Phase of writing: Intention, Incubation, and Investigation
  • Making Phase of writing: Drafting and Elaboration
  • Revision Phase of writing: Clarification and Correction
  • Why writers fail to finish and publish their books

Three phases of the writing process

A linear vs. erratic approach to writing, motivation and exhilaration to write, skills and mindsets for each writing phase.

  • Focusing your mind

F-R-E-E Writing

Observational skills.

  • Control your inner Critic

Collaboration and Teamwork

Listen, watch, or read.

Listen to our podcast and read the transcript of the show below.

Listen to Fringe Highlight Podcast on Libsyn

Read our indie author fringe highlight transcript.

Jerome:   My name is Jerome Griffin, I’m an author and founder of Short E Publishing. And joining me to discuss the seven stages of the creative process is Orna Ross who is a best selling author and founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Good morning Orna and welcome.

Orna:   Hi Jerome, how are you and hello everyone, welcome to our kick off session for Fringe, great to have you here.

Jerome:   Absolutely, thank you very much. I’m fine thanks, how are you, Orna, today?

Orna:   Yeah, fantastic.

Jerome:   Good, good, writing away as, any projects on the go?

Orna:   Always a project on the go, I’m actually putting together the go creative series, which has had a long and checkered kind of, I took the scenic route on this one. So, it’s great to be putting it to bed and doing this session with you. And there is an accompanying workbook which people can download and get stuck in to. So, it’s all coming out now into publication, which is great. And then I’ll be back to fiction.

Jerome:   Excellent, well, good stuff and that leads us nicely into this session, and we’ve got a few questions lined up about the project you’ve been working on.

So, I’d like to start by, for our audience, can you give us a brief overview of the seven stages of the creative process in relation to writing a novel please?

Summary of the 3 phases and 7 steps of the Creative process

Orna:   Yeah, sure. Just, I suppose, the first thing to say about this and you know, those who have kind of followed the work on my own website, will be familiar with the concept that these stages are not unique to writing a book. These are the stages of the creative process no matter what you’re creating and we always go through these. The thing is, that when we do something that is kind of easy for us, we don’t notice them. But when we’re doing something that’s challenging, like writing a book or publishing a book, then understanding the seven stages and, you know, which stage you’re in at a particular point in time is really useful. Because each stage asks you to bring a different attitude of mind and a different set of skills.

And so, the stages are, the first one is intention, so you actually, you know, make a firm, you go public on a firm intention to say I am going to write a book and it’s about such and such.

The next one is incubation, where you germinate the idea. And this is the one that, a lot of writers skip and the more preparation you can do around incubation and germination, actually the easier the later stages get. So, it’s really worth while putting plenty of time into this phase and stage.

The next one is investigation. And it goes hand and hand actually with germinating the idea. In that you investigate the idea, research it and we’re very familiar with the idea of researching, you know, in libraries, on the internet, what we conventionaly think of as research. But research actually takes three different forms, there is that type of research but there is also researching the imagination and researching the memory. And again, these are really key preparation stages that are great fun and if you put the right amount of time and energy and approach into them, they make the next stage, which is stage four, the making stage, the drafting, much, much easier.

After drafting comes stage five, which is elaboration. It’s deepening the draft. Making sure you’ve said everything you want to say.

And then and only then should we start editing, the clarification and correction stage.

And then finally it’s completion. Finishing the work and letting go. And it’s really surprising how many people can go through the first six stages and never finish. Finishing is a stage in and of itself. It needs it’s own particular kind of energy and that’s why, you know, it’s something that people don’t necessarily understand clearly enough.

Why Writer's fail to finish and publish

Jerome:   Ok. Why do you think that is? Why do you think people get that far in the process and don’t complete it?

Orna:   I think what happens, I think fear can kick in at that point, you know? If you’re constantly kind of ‘improving’ the work, then you don’t have to put it out there. There is always something scary about putting a book out in to the world because of course then, it is ready for everybody else to judge and criticize if necessary, review, you know? And you have to put it out there. So, for some writers and particularly beginning writers, there is a sense that it is never good enough and so there is a holding on that happens.

Jerome:   Yeah, sure, ok then. As well as the seven stages of the creative process, you’ve broken these down into three grouped phases. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and why you think that’s necessarily?

Orna:   Well, I think it is useful and I suppose that’s another thing I’d like to emphasis, that both the seven stages and the three phases are ways of thinking about what we’re doing and the aim is that it is useful. So, if it is useful for you, use it and if not, if you don’t need it, then there is no need, perhaps, to go there. It’s very often when people are blocked or getting stuck or it’s taking too long, that knowing about this stuff is useful. So, in writing, there are no rules, nothing is absolutely necessary, every, you know? And we make up so much of what we do as we go along that it is open ended and exploratory.

But thinking about your work, the three phases are vision, making and revision. And I think it is, again, useful to know which stage and which phase you are in.

  • So, the vision phase would be the intention, incubation and investigation. They kind of go together and it can be very difficult to separate them and so, you know, they belong very naturally together.
  • And then the making phase , it is a very different energy that you bring to that, drafting and deepening. It’s, you know, a much more kind of conscious effort phase whereas the vision phase, I think it’s much looser, more organic, more exploratory.
  • And then the final phase of revision , again, has a different energy. Clarification, correction, editing and completing require, you know, they fit very well together in terms of the energy and the skills that you’re trying to bring to it.

So, you know, I am very aware that, as I’m talking about, I’m making it sound terribly linear and it isn’t. Each of the seven stages and each of the three phases, they meld in to each other, they kind of interweave and loop around each other. I often think of it as being like a cèilidh or a bard dance, you know? That kind of swoops and loops and, you know, yells and cries and, you know, hopefully moving in that sort of musical way, being free to move forwards and backwards. So, you know, as you’re drafting, of course you’re also germinating and incubating and maybe doing another bit of research and, you know, maybe even going back to say oh my goodness, this book isn’t about what I thought it was about. It’s actually about something else, you know? So, it isn’t linear, first I do this and then I do that. I mean, I’m sure you have the experience, when you talk to people who have never written a book, that they think, you know, you sort of sit down at your computer and you write the first word and you type all the way through all the chapters until the last word. Well, there may be some writers who do that but they are …

Jerome:   I’d like to meet them if they are [laugh].

Orna:   Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who does it. Actually, I did, years ago, met one writer who had it all in their head first and then put it all down and he did very little revision. But they were short books, novellas really, and it’s most unusual. Most of us work, whereas if it was like kind of a jigsaw, on a bit over hear and then a bit down there. And then it all comes together in the end by some kind of mysterious process that we don’t fully understand.

Jerome:   Yeah, absolutely. I’d like to take you back actually, to something you said earlier about the exploration stage, where there are three different forms of research, you know? You’ve got the library research which everybody can kind of visualize. But then you talked about imagination and memory and then having moved on to how it’s not a linear approach and, you know, you go through different phases at different times? Just want to talk about the side of research where, you know, if people come across things that make their work factually inaccurate or it suddenly doesn’t make sense, how you can get past that? I mean, obviously the works are organic so they can change but like the example you gave about the author who has the idea and goes through it start to finish without deviating, I wonder if people hit those stumbling blocks, how they get around them? And whether the imagination and memory side of research are sometimes more powerful than the actual library research, and because it’s fiction, we can get away with it? Or, how do you feel about that?

Orna:   Yeah, I definitely, it’s so interesting you’re asking this question because of where I am in my own fiction writing at the moment, actually. I’m in the middle of a trilogy about the poet Y.B. Yeats and it’s a fictionalized biography so, certain parts of it are invented but a lot of it is tied to what really happened. And what the experience of writing this book has done for me, more than anything else is, I will never do this again [laugh]. It’s so hard in comparison to the freedom and the fun you can have with fiction. And so, you know, sometimes I think authors get bogged down a little bit in research and getting everything right and a little bit concerned about that critic who will say, particularly, you know, historical fiction writers or people who are writing in a factual world, worried that somebody is going to find some detail that isn’t exactly right and so on. And I would say, don’t worry so much about that. Never worry so much about those critical types of people. You do your best with that stuff but that’s not where the heart and soul of a book lies, you know, with the connection that happens between the imagination of a reader and the imagination of writer is happening at a much, much deeper level than that. And the critic who is jumping on those facts is kind of missing the point a little bit. So, yes of course we do our best to get our facts right and in actual fact, you know, I have killed myself getting the facts right around the story that I’m writing, probably gone way too far and taken it far too seriously and that’s why I’m saying, I do at the same time realize that that part of it, while it’s important to some degree, the most important thing actually, is to go deep and this is the bit that far more writers miss out on, I think. The need to really go deep as to why you’re writing this particular book and where it’s going to connect, you know, at that level, on that deep and aware level. So, it’s often I think of it as being, you know, it’s what is between the words as much as the words you’ve chosen and just connecting you to the readers. So, when you get that sort of anxious moment about ah, you know, is this ‘right’, remember that nothing in fiction is actually right and even in non-fiction, you know, it’s all filtered through the perception of the writer and the reader. It’s that connection, it takes a great reader to make a great book as much as good writing and so on. So, put more attention and more emphases on going deeper. You’ll have more fun there. You will connect more deeply with your own reasons for writing in the first place. And you are likely to connect more deeply with your reader as well.

Jerome:   Good, excellent, fair enough, ok. You mentioned earlier that you don’t see the creative process as linear but particularly for aspiring authors out there, would you recommend they try and keep it as linear as possible? And is it something, well, you said yourself, you don’t do that, you dip back and forth between the different stages. But do you think that as an aspiring author, it’s worthwhile trying to keep it as organized and as linear as possible? Or to just go with the flow of it?

Orna:   I think whatever is producing words is what you should do, you know, once you get to the producing words part of the process. But I definitely think understanding that it does happen in a staged way and understanding those stages and what they are asking of you, will make your life a lot easier and you’ll have more fun. And you won’t hit that horrible place where you don’t know what to write, where you’re sitting down and you’re staring at the screen and nothing is coming. If you follow the staged approach, then by the time it comes to writing, then you’re absolutely dying to write. You are, you know, you’ve held yourself back for a long time and when you sit to do your draft, the job is very different. So, in the workbook that accompanies this session, you will see that the sorts of skills that you’re drawing on when you’re drafting are very different. And then you can just kind of go with those because you will already have satisfied a great deal of your other needs in the first three stages.

So, I would really recommend, it’s like one of these things where, you know, it is the best advice I can give and I try to keep it myself, and don’t always. But, and you won’t always either and that’s ok. But it’s definitely good, guiding principles and then the small bits of the kind of looping back and looping forward that happen within the different stages, that’s fine, that too is part of the process. That’s not, you know, it’s not rigid, it is not linear but it is staged.

Jerome:   Yeah, fair enough. And it’s so difficult, I know this to be true myself but you said, you know, it’s best to delay the actual writing for as long as possible, until you’re champing at the bit to actually really get going on it. And you mentioned earlier that you think one of the key phases that authors tend to skip is the incubation and germinating period. But when, is there a time when you know now is the time to start writing or when do you have that revelation?

Orna:   Well, it can come in two ways. It can come in this absolutely uncontrollable urge to write but I don’t think you should write until you have a good sense of what is happening, beginning, middle and ideally some sense of the ending that you’re going for. You may not know the exact details and this applies for non-fiction writers as well, you know, to have a good sense of the book. Now, I know some people are plotters and some people are pouncers and some people like to outline and other people like to write as they go. But having observed now, you know, a vast number of writers between the work I used to do, and when you and I knew each other, back in Dublin, back in the 2000’s, you know, running a writing school and a literary agency and the work I do now in the Alliance of Independent Authors, having observed definitely thousands of writers, it’s undoubtedly true that those who outline, produce more work than those who don’t. So they, you know, and particularly once they’ve done it a few times, they speed up and, you know, engage more with their work and what they’re doing and what they’re about, if they outline. So, I would say the ideal, and again, you know, the ideal doesn’t always happen but I would say that the ideal is don’t start until you have a very good sense of what you’re going to be writing. And aim that when you begin the draft, you have, first of all, cleared the decks so that you can actually do the work of drafting, you know, in a consistent way. So, ideally when you’re drafting a book, you should be working roughly at the same time each day or if not that, that you’re very clear on what hours in the day you’re going to be doing this work. You should be working on it every day if possible. So, you’re much better to do, you know, 20 minutes and half an hour a day for six days than to do all that time in one or two sessions. There is a sort of a relay thing that happens where, you know, day upon day, it’s how you build a longish book and immersing yourself in the world on a daily basis makes it much, much easier. When you break it, you come out of it. And it is like, you know, when you stop reading a book and you put it aside, it actually, no matter how much you are enjoying it and are engaged with it, it can be quite difficult to pick that book back up again. It’s the same as when you’re writing. So, the drafting stage needs, you know, you need to prepare for it in your life and also having an outline there so that you know what you’re going to be, what you’re aiming for. And also knowing that it will change as you go. So, you’re holding those two contrary things in mind all the time. And they’re equally important and you balance them. And then never sitting down to actually draft until you know what you’re going to write in that session. So, you don’t sit down and stare at the screen with no idea of what’s going to come. You actually have a clear idea before you sit down, you know roughly how many words you are going to do and what you are going to be writing about and again, it may go in a different direction and that’s ok. But that’s the best way to prepare for it.

So, yeah, so starting then, to answer your question, the point at which you should begin the draft is the point at which you’ve cleared the time and space in your own life to do it and you’ve got a reasonably clear idea of what you’re setting out to do.

Jerome:   Fair enough. And so being as organized as possible and having that time and space keeps people motivated, I guess, to complete the draft. And it stops them getting disillusioned or it helps prevent the disillusionment …

Orna:   Absolutely and keeps the nerves and the, you know, the inner critic is kind of kept happy. So, an energy rises if you do it in that way, if you’ve prepared well by doing good prep in the first three stages, there’s an energy that then rises and carries you through. It can be hugely exhilarating actually. I know that Rachel Aaron who wrote a book about moving from doing 2000 words a day to 10000 words a day or something, she talks very much about the exhilaration when you actually are drafting and when you get in to that stage of being able to really kind of write, you know, a lot at speed. Which is what you’re aiming for in the drafting stage.

Jerome:   And to keep that motivation and exhilaration going for the full drafting stage, I’ll just come on to something you said before and I know on your blog, you’ve said and pardon the vernacular but you said just get the shitty first draft done. And, you know, we all recognize that some of our writing is going to be on fire and some of it’s just not going to be in the first draft stage. But for aspiring authors, for newbies to this game, how would you advise them to avoid getting disillusioned by when they’re not producing the goods and when it is just part of the shitty first draft? How would they just keep motivated to keep going on? What advice would you give them there?

Orna:   The thing you have to do is you have to have support practices. You have to have ways in which you nurture the artistic part of yourself which tends to be very child like, soft, sensitive, open, you know, you need to be all of these things in order to draft well. And it’s exposing of yourself and so you need support practices and one of the ones I recommend very highly is f-r-e-e writing, another is perhaps some form of mediation. And you also, on a daily basis, need to get out and move. You need to not get so bogged down with responsibilities and the book that you forget you have a body [laugh]. So, those three things together, if you do them, and getting good rest is the other thing, intentional rest so that you’re not, if you get your mind in to a state where it is tight and anxious, that is anti creative. So, as well as doing the work of the drafting, and particularly in that phase, you need these sustaining, nurturing practices that are soft and easy and support you as an artist. You need to also surround yourself with people who understand what you’re trying to do and who will help you and motivate you and, you know, pick you up when it feels tough and so on. So, if you don’t have people like that in your life, you need to find them online or, you know, in your local community, there are writers groups everywhere and ALLi exists of course to do just that. But make sure that you do find yourself a supportive community, even if it is just a community of one or two other people who will, you know, encourage you in what you’re doing. And what you’re doing is a wonderful thing to do. And you know, it’s like any wonderful thing, like anything, it’s challenging and the very act of creating is in itself, by definition, a challenge. You are stretching yourself, you are going outside your comfort zone and feelings will arise and it is those feelings of anxiety that destabilize most books. So, it’s the inner critic that is susceptible to outer criticism and it is about learning ways to sort of diffuse and dissolve that. And there are lots of exercises, again, in this accompanying workbook that you can do, that will be helpful there.

Jerome:   To be honest, what you said there a little while ago about finding supportive people as well, having those around you, it really resonates with me because when I did the course that you ran in Dublin, Get it Written, and there were, I think it was 24 of us on the course? And early in the course you split us up in to genre specific groups and got us working with each other, critiquing each others work and that was such a powerful motivator because, you know, being an author is such a solitary or can be a solitary occupation. I’ll come back to that bit because it doesn’t necessarily need to be but yeah, surrounding yourself with supportive people really, really, yeah, it resonates with me.

So, moving on, you said earlier each stage of the creative process requires a different set of mindsets, skills and behaviors. Can you give us an overview of those different requirements and skills and mindsets for each stage?

Orna:   I’ll do it for the three phases probably because each of the, and again, this is in the workbook and the only reason I’m not going to talk through each one is just that we only have an hour and each on could nearly take, you could nearly give an hour over to each one. So, just to talk about in terms of the phases.

So, the vision phase, as you would expect, is very much about opening up. So, the first phase, as we said, is intention but even before you get to the intention, there is this whole sort of imaginative transformation that needs to happen. So, we all go about our days, you know, doing what we need to do and we’ve got family or we’ve got work or, you know, a household to uphold or whatever it may be and there is this outer self that is out in the world doing its thing. But we also have an inner life and we have a brain that thinks too much, you know, one of the outstanding findings of psychology in the last 20 years is just how redundant most of our thought pattern is. And a lot of the work in the vision phase is actually about quietening the thinking mind. So, in the go creative process, we call that the con mind, because it’s associated with so many con type words like conservative and conceptual and confliction sometimes, and so on. So, you quieten that dimension of yourself so that the creative mind can arise.

So, you can’t grasp hold of creativity. It’s like trying to hold water, it would just run away between your fingers. What you do is you dissolve the con mind, dissolve the thinking mind and then spontaneously creativity just rises, it can’t help itself. It’s always there for you. It is about you finding the way in which you access it.

So, in the vision phase, we’re talking very much about things like mulling and doodling and staring at the window and, you know, day dreaming and nice sleep and how you encourage that creative state to rise in your life.

And the making phase then, it’s a different energy. We’ve already spoken a good bit about that, it’s a much more work based energy to get the draft written. And then the deepening phase, also in the drafting phase, lots of questioning of yourself about what exactly it is you’re trying to say and how do I help the reader to see more clearly, to understand more deeply what it is I’m actually trying to communicate here? So, that will be the drafting and deepening. So, it’s a much more, in this phase, you continue to nurture your creative self, of course you do but you’ve also got to bring in the skills of discipline and commitment and selection. So, you’re going to need to probably say goodbye to certain things in your life that the book is going to take the time and space, things like maybe television or hobbies or certain friends or whatever it might be, you’re going to have to kind of like put that aside for a while and really commit. There’s a focusing and an attention that happens in this phase that is, feels very directed. Whereas in the vision phase, you’re encouraging and openness, in the making phase you’re encouraging a focus and a direction.

And then the revision phase, in the clarification phase particularly, you’re looking, you know, for the first time, you put on a critics hat yourself and you look at the work in terms of what needs to be made better? What do I have to do in order for the reader to really understand? What did I mean, you know, when I said that over there? The most useful tool you have in this stage, and there are loads and loads of questions and editing points in the workbook, Work and Play book, I’m calling it, that accompanies this session, loads of things to look out for as well, you know, you’re looking at things like spelling and punctuation. And your most useful tool is the delete button, you know, you have overwritten in your ‘shitty first draft’ and then you deepened it, hopefully, and you’ve overwritten again, and that’s the job in the drafting and deepening, is to create, produce, to put down as much as you can, you know, it’s a down draft. You’re doing it for you, you’re getting it down so you see what you are actually saying until you have that first draft completed and you actually know what you’re saying. And then the correction, clarification is like the updraft, it is for the reader. So, you’re looking at clarity above all, simplicity, brevity, you know, the hallmarks of good writing where you’re really concerned about saying it better and getting rid of all the weaknesses and the floppiness and the stuff that doesn’t work. So, for this phase, I always think it’s kind of useful to imagine somebody who is quite critical, reading your work but not until you get to this phase. So, that’s why it is so important to separate them.

And then finally, in the finishing phase, it’s a different sort of skill again, it’s more an understanding of you as an artist and as a creator and understanding your own tendency to be attached to the work or perhaps to be impatient? To push things too fast and put it out there when it’s not quite ready? Observing, you know, the kind of self-talk that you do at the end of the book is very revealing and is very helpful for the next one. How you feel about putting it out there? And understanding as well, things like what changed in the course of writing the book and what stayed the same? What did I learn? How am I different and how do I go on now to the next one?

Jerome:   Right, absolutely. And yeah, I mean you’ve clearly said what is required in each of the three phases but I guess it’s one thing understanding what is required, very different to transition from one to the other. You’ve got bag loads of experience with the work you’ve done over the years so, I’d imagine that you’re quite used to jumping from one mindset to another. But, again, for the aspiring author out there, how do you go about changing your mindset and your behaviors for each stage? Particularly if, like we said, it’s not a linear process and you could go back to the incubation stage or you could go back and forth across the stages? How do you then refocus your mind to deal with that?

Focusing your mind to write

Orna:   One part of it is what we spoke about earlier, which is the nurturing practices that keep us strong and that keep our mind big, you know, so we stay in big mind and the smaller anxieties and things that are kind of niggling at us and our own tendency to distract ourselves and not to do the work, because resistance is something that we haven’t quite discussed but has been present in our conversation since the beginning. And the resistance to doing whatever it is that needs to be done. So, sometimes, you know, when you should be drafting, it would be much easier to just go off, you know, go over here and do a little bit more research and so you need to, it’s more and more, I think about recognizing that in yourself and allowing big mind to just observe it. When you observe it, that in and of itself is often enough. I think what derails people more than anything else is that they’re not aware of these stages and because they are unaware that these even exist, they are very confused and they can become overwhelmed. So, certainly the first stage is awareness. What is my task here, at this point in time on this project? What am I actually supposed to be doing? And secondly aware of your own tendencies to resist which is universal, always when you are making something that matters to you, resistance is part of the process. So, you need to know that resistance exists but more importantly, you need to know how it presents itself for you. So, again, it’s about developing that part of yourself that is the observer. So, again, what I would see looking at people, looking at a lot of writers across the board, those who have a nurturing practice that keeps big mind, you know, observer mind, artist mind, whatever you want to call it, the create state active in them, be it a meditation practice, yoga practice, you know, running, whatever it might be, whatever is your thing, those that have that, cope with the universal resistance that rises. Cope with, you know, knowing with what they’re supposed to be doing at a particular time and getting on and just doing it. And those that don’t, get caught in the small mind. So, the practices that sustain you, number one and knowing what you’re supposed to be doing and in a sense, like in a meditation where you bring yourself back to the breath each time, it’s about bringing yourself back to whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing at that time. So, in order to do that, you need to know what it is you’re supposed to be doing at that time. And that to me is stage one, anyway, just getting to understand where you are in the project, what it is asking of you and what you are supposed to be doing.

Jerome:   Ok. And following on from that, I know you’ve devised quite an extensive list of exercises and techniques for authors, to help them through each stage of the creative process. I think we’ve touched on some already, mediation and what not, that you’ve talked through. I know when I did the course in Dublin, one that I’ve used since, that I just thought was brilliant was sitting on the couch and getting your characters to talk to their therapist. And it brings out a back story, it brings out so many great things about the characters. But can you give us a couple of examples of other techniques and exercises that you think would be useful for authors to get over stumbling blocks that get in the way of their writing?

Orna:   Yeah, I mean there are so many and I’ve selected some of the most effective ones for the workbook and I do want to distinguish between the kinds of practices that I’ve been talking about there a moment ago like running, meditation, yoga, f-r-e-e writing, they’re kind of support practices. And then what we have in the workbook are actually very specific exercises that apply to each stage, if you like. So, they draw out, you don’t need to know what skills do I need for this stage, you just need to do these exercises and by doing it you will kind of have your, you will be applying your skills to it. So, in terms of, for example, the incubation stage, there is a recommendation to go on a word diet, where you stop actually reading, don’t read any newspapers, books, magazines and as little as possible on the internet. Anything that doesn’t actually apply to the work that you’re working on. So, that would be, just the kind of exercise that doesn’t require you to actually do some writing.

There are loads of exercises here where we actually ask you to write specific things in and around your project. In the investigation phase, looking at other books that people have written that you love but reading them twice. First as a reader, as you normally would but then when you are finished as a writer, so, looking at what the writer actually did to achieve the effects that you think are worthwhile in the book? So, really breaking it down and looking at the sentence structure and the size of the paragraphs, the rhythm of the book, the pacing, where certain things happened, mannerisms and favorite words, you know, all these kind of things that go on in a book and by observing it closely in somebody else’s writing, you develop the ability to observe this in your own.

Also a very good thing to develop is your observational skills, so, for five or ten minutes a day, where you actually start describing, you know, looking really closely at where you are and describing it through the five senses. So, what you’re seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling and so on. So, getting very, very specific about what you’re seeing and then just dropping that. But developing the ability to describe what is going on around you in words and thinking about developing the five senses.

So, these are all in the visioning stage. So, one of the most important things is to have a notebook, always carry a notebook. So, when you are leaving the house, you know, it’s kind of money, keys, Oyster card or whatever, you know, you’re getting, and my notebook. So, you don’t kind of leave home without it.

Control your inner Critic

And then in terms of, you know, when you’re drafting, there are some exercises here about how you can actually control the critic, and Annie Lamott’s, where she drops the voices in to a jar, is, any of you who have read Bird by Bird , that’s a very useful sort of exercise. Hemmingway’s recommendation to always leave a little ink in the well so you walk away from the writing one day, knowing, in the middle of a sentence, knowing what the sentence, you know, and you pick up that sentence the next day when you sit back down and you’re off again. You don’t have to kind of think about it.

And in the deepening phase, I think the most useful thing is what we call the anti edit, so it’s to develop the frame of mind where you are very indulgent and you’re looking at all the best parts of it, of what you’ve done. And you draw, literally, so, you print it off and draw circles around, yeah, I like that. And this is the bit or what is it about it that I like and I value in this part? And then bringing the rest of the draft up to meet that. And beginning to learn in that deepening phase about what is actually going on, what are the emotions that are being generated? And this is just as true for non-fiction writers as a fiction writer, name the emotions that are being generated by the work and thinking about how you go further in to that feeling? Handwriting is another skill, I think we need to connect with. Of course keyboards are fabulous and I use text to speech and I have lots of technical tools that I love to work with, Scrivener, Vellum, you know, all of these, they’re all wonderful in terms of making, writing and producing books. But we learned to write with our hands and paper and ink and it expresses us in ways that, you know, type never will. So, I really recommend returning to handwriting, particularly for your f-r-e-e writing, but also for note taking and especially if you’re trying to kind of go a bit deeper, incubate something, germinate something, go back to the hand. Yeah, and then there are just, in the workbook, too many to kind of list off now, but there are just loads and loads and loads of questions that you can ask yourself about the book to ensure that you’re bringing out as much as you possibly can.

Jerome:   Yeah, yeah, like I said, it’s a pretty extensive list you’ve designed and yeah, I think, yeah, even just using a handful of them would help any author along the way. Right, as part of the completion stage earlier, you recommended getting a second opinion on any work. And many indie authors claim that they have a team behind them from beta readers and editors to cover designers and marketers and it’s a team effort these days as opposed to a solitary exercise. But as the different stages of the process require different mindsets, do you think it’s fair to suggest that some authors may not be as comfortable with certain stages, such as research for example? And should those authors maybe source help for those areas? Or do you think it’s kind of all part of the journey they need to complete themselves and recognize that we must all overcome certain challenges and they’d be better for it?

Orna:   That’s just a great question and I think it’s something that we need to, it’s a project by project thing to some degree. I would recommend if it’s your first book, that you do everything yourself. Unless there is something that you know you’re really, really bad at, in which case get work arounds, you know? So, research is something but really, you know, all of these stages are part of the final product. When you’ve done a book or two, then you can know ok, this part of the research, I can outsource and this part I need to do myself. But until you’ve done at least, I would say, two books yourself, you don’t understand, I mean, your first book, you’re teaching yourself how to write a book, and, you know, how to write a book is not an easy thing to do. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it and contrary to what we think, not everybody is writing a book these days [laugh]. Or lots of people are starting books but, you know, how many people are finishing all the way through to, you know, an edited piece of work? So, yeah, I think you have to kind of, for the first, now there are, when I say have to, again, advisable, you know, there are exceptions to everything. And I’m thinking of non-fiction writers here, in particular, it may be useful to have somebody who does, you know, what you might call grunt work research and, you know, gives you what you need. But there’s always the, I mean, talk to any writer about their research and they will talk about magic, they will talk about when they started looking for something, the way it lead to something else and then this coincidence happened and, you know? So, it’s all part of the process and the other thing is you are writing a book because it is an important thing in your life. There is something in the doing of this that is important for you as a person. And so, engaging with each step of the process is part of whatever it is, whatever your deep, you know, you  may never know or understand why you are driven to write a book but doing it will teach you, you know, what you need to know from the doing of it. So, yeah, just do it I think.

Jerome:   Yeah, it’s a form of therapy, isn’t it, to a large degree, yeah [laugh]. Ok, well, I think that’s answered everything I was looking to ask Orna. So, thank you very much, that’s been incredibly insightful and yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.

Orna:   Thank you, I really enjoyed doing it and we can answer any questions that anybody may have, just go across to the speaker and sponsor booth, that’s where our comment box is for any questions you might have, specifically about your own project, I’d be delighted to answer them over there. And thanks for a lovely interview Jerome.

Jerome:   Good, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you very much and thanks everybody for tuning in.


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outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

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The Writing Process

The writing process is something that no two people do the same way. There is no "right way" or "wrong way" to write. It can be a very messy and fluid process, and the following is only a representation of commonly used steps. Remember you can come to the Writing Center for assistance at any stage in this process. 

Steps of the Writing Process

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Step 1: Prewriting

Think and Decide

  • Make sure you understand your assignment. See  Research Papers  or  Essays
  • Decide on a topic to write about. See   Prewriting Strategies  and  Narrow your Topic
  • Consider who will read your work. See  Audience and Voice
  • Brainstorm ideas about the subject and how those ideas can be organized. Make an outline. See  Outlines

Step 2: Research (if needed) 

  • List places where you can find information.
  • Do your research. See the many KU Libraries resources and helpful guides
  • Evaluate your sources. See  Evaluating Sources  and  Primary vs. Secondary Sources
  • Make an outline to help organize your research. See  Outlines

Step 3: Drafting

  • Write sentences and paragraphs even if they are not perfect.
  • Create a thesis statement with your main idea. See  Thesis Statements
  • Put the information you researched into your essay accurately without plagiarizing. Remember to include both in-text citations and a bibliographic page. See  Incorporating References and Paraphrase and Summary  
  • Read what you have written and judge if it says what you mean. Write some more.
  • Read it again.
  • Write some more.
  • Write until you have said everything you want to say about the topic.

Step 4: Revising

Make it Better

  • Read what you have written again. See  Revising Content  and  Revising Organization
  • Rearrange words, sentences, or paragraphs into a clear and logical order. 
  • Take out or add parts.
  • Do more research if you think you should.
  • Replace overused or unclear words.
  • Read your writing aloud to be sure it flows smoothly. Add transitions.

Step 5: Editing and Proofreading

Make it Correct

  • Be sure all sentences are complete. See  Editing and Proofreading
  • Correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.
  • Change words that are not used correctly or are unclear.
  • APA Formatting
  • Chicago Style Formatting
  • MLA Formatting  
  • Have someone else check your work.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Writing process: From discovery to done (complete guide)

The writing process has many stages, from discovery and investigation to publication. Read authors’ insights on finding ideas, revision and more, and tips and methods to find the process that works for you.

  • Post author By Jordan
  • 5 Comments on Writing process: From discovery to done (complete guide)

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

The writing process is a complex, not always linear creative process. From ‘plotters’ vs ‘pantsers’ (to ‘bashers’ vs ‘swoopers’), this guide unpacks stages of the writing process, what authors have said about the practices and habits of writing, and more. Use the links above to jump to the section that interests you now.

Writing process stages: 7 areas of practice

Some writing schools and authors divide writing into four stages, some five. Yet these seven see a story from first idea to publication:

  • Discovery. Before you can draft, you need an idea, a premise. This is the investigative stage of finding the seed for a story with the most potential.
  • Prewriting . The preparation to write before drafting begins. Depending on whether you’re a ‘plotter’ or ‘pantser’ (more on this below), this may include outlining, brainstorming, freewriting, or other common prewriting techniques.
  • Drafting. You write narration, exposition, scenes, chapters (depending on your story’s format). Drafting may be fast or slow, depending on your preferred methods. Try different approaches and techniques to shake up your usual writing habits.
  • Writing feedback and story development. Once you are comfortable to share your work-in-progress (WIP), you may share early drafts with a trusted friend, writing coach or critique circle for perspective and insight.
  • Revision . The process of reviewing what you’ve written, deciding what to keep (and which ‘darlings’ to ‘kill’).
  • Editing. While revision entails making decisions about the content of your story, editing involves making decisions about the presentation of that content – how best to make the story more impactful and polished.
  • Publication (and promotion). Isn’t the writing process over at this stage? Not at all – your query letters, story pitches, blurbs, review requests and other matter will be some of the most important material of the entire writing process. This is the writing that puts the story you’ve labored over in the right hands.

Keep reading for tips, methods and ideas about each of these stages, supplemented by reading from the Now Novel blog.

Writing process stages infographic - discovery, prewriting, drafting, feedback, revision, editing, publication

Recommended reading

  • The writing process: 7 steps to structure and success

To the top ↑

Sometimes we fail for a week, a month, a year, a decade. And then we come back, circle the fire. Our lives are not linear. We get lost, then we get found. Patience is important, and a large tolerance for our mistakes. We don’t become anything overnight. Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing (2013), p. 58.

Discovery: Finding and investigating writing ideas

The writing process may start from an idea that arrives like a soothsayer. A flash of inspiration, insight, wisdom – a dream, unexpected connection, some kind of beguiling chance encounter or happenstance that makes you say, ‘I’ve got an idea’.

Yet the idea-finding process may equally be deliberate, even robotic. Consistently trying your hand at writing prompts until an idea niggles away at your waking mind, for example, persistently saying, ‘pick me’.

Finding and developing writing ideas is a skill you develop like any part of the writing process. That way you can make an idea come, not just for a first book, but a second, third (if with a little coaxing).

Essayist and cultural theorist Walter Benjamin said of the writing process:

Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven. Walter Benjamin, quote via Goodreads .

Before you make a picture with those threads, you need the wool you spin into finer thread: The fluffy stuff of an idea.

Writing process methods: Ways to find ideas

There are many ways to find ideas and find joy in the discovery stage of writing process.

Discovery and investigation may include a little or a lot of research, depending on what you need to know. The seed of an idea may come from multiple sources at once, as Toni Morrison says of her Pulitzer-winning novel Beloved :

Beloved originated as a general question, and was launched by a newspaper clipping. The general question (remember, this was the early eighties) centered on how – other than equal rights, access, pay, etc. – does the women’s movement define the freedom being sought? Toni Morrison, ‘On Beloved ‘ in Mouth Full of Blood: Essays, Speeches, Meditations, p. 281.

Here are fifteen ways to find ideas:

15 ways to find writing ideas and begin the writing process

  • Try writing prompts such as the step-by-step prompts to find a central story idea in the Now Novel dashboard.
  • Ask ‘What if…?’ For example, ‘What if a mysterious satellite held captivating mysteries about an alien race?’
  • Draw from life. What experience could you use/alter for non-fiction or fiction?
  • Use visual prompts. Use a photo or artwork as your starting point. Free-write a paragraph describing what you see, then continue and keep or turf the opening material.
  • Play/combine. William S. Burroughs’ famous ‘cut up’ technique reassembles random cuttings from print into new ideas, for example.
  • Trawl headlines. Google intriguing subjects in the ‘news’ tab. E.g. ‘travel disasters’ brought up ‘How ‘dark tourism’ can pass on the lessons of past tragedies’. Mine your headline for ideas.
  • Explore myths and legends. Reads stories from world mythologies. You could update an ancient tale with modern touches.
  • Argue with other stories. Maybe a story’s annoyed you, or you want to explore a secondary character’s viewpoint (from a work now in the public domain). Write back.
  • Test out ideas in short fiction. Famous novels (such as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce) began as short story test runs.
  • Draw inspiration from music. Listen to a song. What ideas, characters, premises do the lyrics evoke?
  • Try creative constraints. The collective OuLiPo used devices such as writing stories omitting a chosen vowel entirely to find the unexpected.
  • Browse famous quotes. Take something like ‘Happy families are all alike…’ from Anna Karenina . Where else could it lead?
  • Join writing groups. Prompts set by members for each other may inspire new ideas.
  • Research historical figures or eras. You may unearth a riveting idea from the past.
  • Tap into your subconscious and keep a dream journal or meditate, silence and going inward often brings clarity.

FAQs about the discovery stage of writing

Share your idea with trusted people for external perspective. Test it out in a writing group or class. Ask questions about ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘why’ ‘where’ and ‘when’ to finesse a hazy or partial idea into something deeper, fuller.

The varied ways myths and legends are recycled (Thor in Norse mythology becoming Marvel’s popular character) reminds us there are no new ideas. Originality lies in the specifics of voice and execution. Be specific, be yourself and find your voice through practice and intentional execution.

This is where it helps to remember the writing process is not linear. The discovery stage is also a good time for research, finding out what is being done (and overdone) in your genre. What agents are looking for (or tired of seeing). Resources listing recent publishing deals give insights into what’s sold recently and book market appetites. To start though, focus on telling a good story. Great stories find their audience.

🗣️ How did you find your last story idea? Let us know in the comments, and keep reading for tips and methods for prewriting, drafting, and more.

  • 38 plot ideas (plus 7 ways to find more)
  • How to find book ideas: 15 easy methods
  • Book ideas: 12 fun ways to find them
  • Finding story topics when stuck: 5 simple methods

How to Write Scenes Free Guide


Read a guide to writing scenes with purpose that move your story forward.

Ideas are like fireflies; go hunting for them and they elude you. Sit and enjoy the night, and they appear from out of nowhere. You have to let the ideas come to you. Expand your world, read outside your comfort zone, take walks. The fireflies will come. Just give them the chance. Sabrina Jeffries in 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists: Insider Secrets from Top Writers by Andrew McAleer (2008), p. 69.

Prewriting: Useful preparatory writing processes

Prewriting is the processes before you start drafting a story which help you prepare.

There are many kinds of prewriting. Because the writing process is not linear, you might come back to one or more of these methods at some stage of drafting:

Common prewriting steps and methods

  • Picking a premise. If you have multiple ideas, go with the idea that pulls you most and (if you want a marketable book) the one you know has the better market potential.
  • Choosing a genre or subgenre. This goes hand in hand with picking a premise, since if you set your book in outer space and explore future technology, chances are you’ll be shelved with sci-fi.
  • Brainstorming. A process of generating ideas, whether you use mind maps, answer prompts and questionnaires, or churn out every idea you can think of in scenario- or topic-driven lists.
  • Creating a story outline. This may be a meticulous, detailed outline, or a cursory collection of notes. The more complete your outline, the more handrails you’ll have. This prevents wandering off into irrelevancies, plot holes and impossible paradoxes, and so on.
  • Creating initial summary material. Summary material includes things like character profiles or IDs, scene summaries , or a one-page synopsis of what your story is about (also a useful exercise in the Publication and promotion stage of process).
  • Freewriting. Before more structured drafting, you might explore a topic or scenario with freewriting. Set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes and just write whatever comes into your head about a topic you think will be important to your book. It might spawn scene, chapter, or character ideas.
  • Research. This may overlap with the discovery/investigation stage, as your idea may also need a little research to solidify what you want to write about. It might include fiction set in a similar era or place, making a bibliography of potentially helpful non-fiction, speaking to subject exploring films and documentaries, or visiting physical or digital archives. For some tips on how to research place when you can’t visit those places, read our tips.
  • Interviewing. This is especially pertinent for types of writing such as historical fiction, non-fiction, memoir. Interviews with subject experts, people who lived through specific events or an era, could provide helpful nuance, context, and ideas for relevant story details.

You don’t necessarily need to do every kind of prewriting. Some authors favor ‘just-in-time’ research (an idea Bujold spoke about in relation to fantasy worldbuilding ).

Authors on prewriting and whether or not to plan stories

The prewriting perspectives below show there are many way to skin (or rather save) a cat. Try different methods and find what works for you .

Loose story outlining

Author Scott King gives this reminder that prewriting (planning, creating structure, organizing) should serve the needs of your story, and stay adaptable to its unique needs:

An outline is a map of your story. It’s not set in stone. Even when you work from an outline, you will discover new twists and turns as you progress. The outline is there to remind you of where you are going so you can’t ever get too far from where you need to be. Since I was working under pressure, I didn’t want to get crazy with how I structured Ameriguns . I defaulted to a three act structure, the kind you’d use in a screenplay, but altered it to fit the needs of the story. Scott King, ‘Outline’ in The 5 Day Novel , 2016, p. 58.

Pullman on how establishing rules is part of play

More broadly, Philip Pullman, in ‘The Practice of Writing’, talks about how having some rules at the start of creative process gives paradoxical freedom to play. He compares guidelines such as rules (or outlines) to choosing where touchdown lies for a football game:

And as we know about all games, it’s much more satisfying to play with rules than without them. If we’re going to enjoy a game of football in the playground, we need to know where the touchline is, and agree on what we’re going to regard as the goalposts. Then we can get on with playing, because the complete freedom of our play is held together and protected by this armature of rules. The first and last and only discovery that the victims of anarchy can make is: no rules, no freedom. Philip Pullman, ‘The Practice of Writing’ in Daemon Voices , pp. 18-19

‘Plotting’ vs ‘Pantsing’: Find your balance between prewriting and drafting

So much has been written and said about whether you should plan stories in detail in advance (‘plotting’), or go where imagination takes you (‘pantsing’, after the expression ‘to fly by the seat of your pants’ or work with instinct and gut more than organized knowledge).

Your writing process may change to suit your project

Author K.M. Weiland raises the useful reminder that your writing process doesn’t need to ape a famous writer’s approach, or be the same across every story you tell:

Each author must discover for himself what methods work best for him. Just because Margaret Atwood does X and Stephen King does Y is no reason to blindly follow suit. Read widely, learn all you can about what works for other authors, and experiment to discover which methods will offer you the best results. K.M. Weiland, ‘Chapter One: Should You Outline?’ in Outlining your Novel: Map your way to success , p. 11.

Planning stories helps character development

Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for writing, said of the space and planning deeper characterization requires:

Type, general character, may be set forth in a few strokes, but the progression, the unfolding of personality […] if the actors in the tale are to retain their individuality for [the reader] through a succession of changing circumstances—this slow but continuous growth requires space, and therefore belongs by definition to a larger, a symphonic plan. Edith Wharton, The Writing of Fiction: The classic guide to the art of the short story and the novel (1925), p. 33.

Not planning, creative freedom and excitement

Author Lee Child, on the other hand, extolls the benefits of not planning (and not being as pedantic about the marks you hit as an editor or publisher might be):

I write without a plan or an outline. The way I picture my process is this: The novel is a movie stuntman, about to get pushed off a sixty-story building. The prop guys have a square fire-department airbag ready on the sidewalk below. One corner is marked Mystery, one Thriller, one Crime Fiction, and one Suspense. The stuntman is going to land on the bag. (I hope.) But probably not dead-on. Probably somewhat off center. But biased toward which corner? I don’t know yet. And I really don’t mind. I’m excited to find out. Lee Child, ‘Introduction’ in How to Write a Mystery: A handbook from Mystery Writers of America

🗣️ What is your preferred prewriting method? Or do you pants it all the way, or pants a little then switch to planning? Tell us in the comments.

  • What is prewriting? Preparing to write with purpose
  • Story plotting and structure: Complete guide
  • Story planning and outlining: Complete guide
  • Story planner success: How to organize your novel

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Writing process challenges you may encounter

Before we discuss drafting and the writing process, let’s explore common process challenges (and tips to overcome them):

Common hurdles in creative process

There are challenges in creative process that beginning authors and veterans alike face. You’re not alone if you’ve ever gone rounds in the ring with:

  • Fear of failure (or success). What happens if a publisher or agent says no? What if reviews or crits are harsh? Or how will you handle sudden public recognition and scrutiny in the event of success?
  • Procrastination (avoidance behaviors). When writing a story feels hard, it’s easy to put it off (or use not having time or something else as an excuse not to write).
  • Distractibility. Whether you have a condition such as ADHD that adds further focus challenges or are a social media addict, we live in a highly distracting, ‘always on’ world.
  • ‘Time Burglars’ . There are many thieves of time that take away from the writing process if you don’t make regular writing a top priority.
  • A harsh inner critic. Many aspiring creative people have harsh inner critics who destroy their work before anyone else can.
  • Laziness. This is a common reason not to write, too.
  • Unpreparedness. Many writers find projects spool out and become much harder and more complex than originally anticipated. That can be discouraging.

Overcoming writing process challenges

How can you work with and overcome some of the above procedural challenges in writing?

  • Keep SMART goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based goals are much easier to track and attain than hazy aims
  • Work on tolerance for your mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes starting out, and seasoned pros do, too
  • Chunk up complex tasks: Struggling to write a chapter a week to schedule? Try write 300 words per day and set a bigger ‘stretch goal’ (an extra target if you make your first easily)
  • Turn off the net if you need to: Put your phone in airplane mode and pause all notifications
  • Remember the difference between procrastination and waiting: It’s fine to wait for maturity, fuller knowledge of your subject, to be in the right frame of mind. It’s not putting off but letting process take its necessary time for this story
  • Get up and move often: The writing process is (for the most part) a sedentary one. It’s easy to forget to move. Stone-like posture may lead to petrified process, even if your mind’s going a hundred miles a minute

The accountability of working with a writing coach or joining a crit circle that meets regularly helps (in Now Novel’s experience), too.

Natalie Goldberg writes, on procrastination vs waiting:

Waiting is something full-bodied. Perhaps waiting isn’t even a good word for it. Pregnant is better. You’ve worked on something for a while. You are excited by it, even happy, but you are wise and step back. You take a walk, but this walk isn’t to avoid the writing on your desk. It is a walk full of your writing. It is also full of the trees you pass, the river, the sky. You are letting writing work on you. Natalie Goldberg, ‘Procrastination and Waiting’, in Wild Mind: Living the writer’s life , p. 210.

How to nurture your writing process and avoid common pitfalls

We asked Now Novel’s writing coaches their best advice on the writing process, and about patterns they see in beginning writers (and ways to overcome destructive habits).

Romance author and writing coach Romy Sommer on remembering why you’re telling your story:

Now Novel writing coach Romy Sommer

Writing is hard work. Probably harder than you thought it would be when inspiration first struck and you decided to write a novel. So find the joy in what you are writing. Remind yourself daily of WHY you are writing this story. Remember that spark that first inspired you to sit down and write, because that is what will keep you going when the going gets tough.

SFF and YA author, editor and writing coach Nerine Dorman on allowing yourself to make ‘happy accidents’:

Writing coach and SFF author and editor Nerine Dorman

Many writers I’ve worked with lack confidence in their ability, and tend to focus on those first chapters to the point where they lose the momentum to push forward with the rest of the plot. I give them Bob Ross’s advice of making plenty of ‘happy little accidents’ as we can’t actually work on writing if there’s nothing there to revise. Your first draft can be as messy as you need it to be. The most important thing is to get into the habit of writing as regularly as your schedule allows, and to see your writing as a very personal way to express yourself. Granted, there are the basic building blocks of writing and style, which I aim to teach, but I like to think that we also look at what it means to be a writer – a constantly evolving, growing creative person.

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We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully; few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance. Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the writer’s life , p. 61.

Drafting stories: Getting knee-deep in scenes

We could equally call the drafting stage of process ‘discovery’ like the first stage. After all, drafting is where you discover many of the ‘happy accidents’ Nerine describes above. Discoveries that may often depart from your outline (or lead you back into revision-planning).

Learn more about approaches to drafting, what authors say about doing fewer vs multiple drafts, and tips to make this part of process work for you.

Types of draft in the storytelling process

There are many terms authors use to refer to drafting. Numbered (first, second, third) drafts. Even drafts before the first, the so-called ‘draft zero’ (which describes a discovery draft, the purpose of which is just to learn the broad scope of the story and set down some of the material in full).

In one of Now Novel’s live webinars, writing coach, author and editor Hedi Lampert shared a drafting concept by the late author and writing educator Anne Schuster, who hosted women’s writing workshops in Cape Town.

The idea is a simple, three-part drafting process. To paraphrase:

  • The down draft: The draft where you get your ideas down on the page, with as much messiness or as many placeholders as you need to keep moving.
  • The up draft: A second draft in which you pick up on details for development, expansion, and color in more of your story.
  • The dental draft: A third draft in which you polish the work of your first two drafts, paying attention to language and finer detail now the story elements have solidified.

This is a useful concept in that it gives each stage of drafting a proper focus and purpose (and allows for not getting everything ‘right’ straight away).

Authors on the drafting stage of writing process

Will you draft chapters in chronological sequence or out of order? Should you worry about chapters and scene breaks or carve up the text later?

These are some of the questions authors face about drafting. Read authors on drafting and their individual processes. These perspectives show that what works for one person might not work for another. Try different methods until you find what works for your process, or this project.

Toni Morrison on creating chapters and parts in a draft

Toni Morrison describes putting in story segment divisions at a later point in process:

Chapter and part designations, as conventionally used in novels, were never very much help to me in writing. Nor are outlines. (I permit their use for the sake of the designer and for ease in talking about the book. They are usually identified at the last minute.) Toni Morrison, ‘The Writer Before the Page’, in Mouth Full of Blood: Essays, Speeches, Meditations , p. 266.

Sir Terry Pratchett on the purpose of a first, second and third draft (creative freedom, shaping, addressing detail)

Sir Terry Pratchett said that the first draft is ‘just you telling yourself the story’, and qualified something like a systematic per-draft process when he said:

First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11. Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape. Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair. I usually find that most of the book will have handed itself to me on that first draft. Sir Terry Pratchett, via Goodreads

Colleen McCullough on how many drafts until done: It depends

How many drafts ‘should’ you write? It depends, writing is rewriting as Colleen McCullough describes:

Once I’ve got the first draft down on paper then I do five or six more drafts, the last two of which will be polishing drafts. The ones in between will flesh out the characters and maybe I’ll check my research. Colleen McCullough, quoted by Writers Write here .

🗣️ What is your drafting process currently? Is there a system, number of drafts or method that works well for you? Share it in the comments.

  • Writing first drafts: 10 ideas to reach final drafts
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The concept of finishing a piece of writing, taking it through successive drafts, did not yet exist for me. I reveled in the heady pleasure of committing a few words to paper and treasured each like a rare jewel I had dug from the earth with my bare hands. A journal suited my fledgling status as a writer and made me feel serious and important, a real writer, and honored the scant output I produced. In my journal I practiced being a writer in both senses of the word: practiced as in trying out, and practiced as in keeping a daily practice, the way the nuns observed their daily order of prayer services. Katherine Towler, in Writers and Their Notebooks , edited by Diana M. Raab, pp. 65-66.

Writing feedback and story development

Remember that we said the writing process is not always linear?

When you get writing feedback depends on you. You may want feedback on your story idea or summary, your early chapters. You may prefer not to show your WIP to anyone until you’re at least one or more drafts deep. Tweet This

Maybe you move between drafting rounds, and feedback rounds, as you use readers’ perspectives to tweak your story and workshop it.

Why getting feedback is a crucial stage of writing process

When we don’t have critiques, manuscript evaluations, editors or beta readers, we only have our own perspectives to rely upon. You get used to your own mistakes, and nobody knows their own blind spots or the details they hadn’t thought of (that a shrewd second opinion might).

To ensure feedback aids (more than frustrates) your writing process:

  • Get feedback from writers you trust. You might want input from writers at a similar stage of development to yourself, or editors who have been story doctors for some time.
  • Take feedback from whence it comes. That crosspatch member of your crit circle who never has a nice word to say? Expect the kind of feedback that person usually gives. If a crit circle or beta reader is harsh or overwhelmingly negative, it’s OK to find a better fit.
  • Stay open to perspectives and use what’s useful. There’s that saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ Don’t get parched just to protect your ego. Reviewers on major platforms could be way harsher if you don’t take time to fix what isn’t working.
  • Describe what feedback you’re looking for. Now Novel’s critique submission system contains categories you can check off for feedback, such as ‘grammar and language’, ‘characters’, ‘structure and flow’ and ‘dialogue’. Specifying what kind of feedback you want helps readers tailor their feedback to be more relevant to your needs.
  • Give any necessary context. Nobody knows your writing process or story better than you do. Remember to contextualize anything an editor or beta reader may need to know to have a better understanding of what you’re aiming for (in style, subject matter, tone, characterization, etc.).

Giving feedback also does wonders for many authors’ writing processes – helping others with writing challenges helps you build the tools to solve your own.

Channeling feedback into the writing process

Too much feedback (especially if overly harsh as it can be in poorly moderated communities), especially in the early stages of a story, may inhibit or discourage. When evaluating writing feedback, ask:

  • Is there overlap between what feedback givers are saying? This could signal a real and higher priority issue to address in revision
  • What is higher vs lower priority feedback to implement? Major confusion-bringing issues such as continuity issues or tense drift and head-hopping are naturally a higher priority than minor details that don’t affect whether readers can understand the story, for example

When getting and giving feedback in a crit circle or a beta reading community, it’s easy to compare yourself to other writers. Writing coach Romy Sommer advises against comparisons:

Now Novel writing coach Romy Sommer

Do not compare yourself to other writers. We each work differently, we each need to find the writing process that works best for our lives and the way our brains work, and what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Accepting that took a huge weight off my shoulders and enabled me to embrace my own process.

The development stage of creative process: Comb story’s nose, blow its hair

As Terry Pratchett says, developing a story – later rewrites and drafts – gets into grooming-like detail. Combing a story’s … nose!? You may well find that there are Picasso-like parts, or the princess’s hair is snotty, not sleek. Tweet This

At the developmental stage of writing, ask yourself questions an editor would, such as:

  • Is it clear? Does the reader have sufficient context or clear wording to understand the story and follow along?
  • Does it have cohesion? Do actions and reactions flow and make sense? When characters converse, does it have the pattern of real call and response or is it like two people with crossed wires?
  • Is the story ‘colored in’? Is there sufficient description (and are descriptions specific/detailed, not hazy)?
  • Are events and actions clear and intriguing? Does the procession of events create questions the reader wants answered?
  • Is there flow between lines, scenes, chapters? Or if the story is non-linear, do the pieces come together to make an interesting, impactful whole?

Here’s a fuller checklist with 34 story development questions for rewrites and successive drafts:

Story development checklist - 34 questions for later drafts

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Writers have always struggled with the same core issues: getting the work done (productivity) and creating something worth reading (creativity). And, unless you believe that misery is necessary for true art, aim for a third goal: making the process enjoyable, cultivating a fulfilling and happy life that includes writing. Let’s consider this our triple objective: productivity, creativity, and enjoyment. Surely that’s not asking too much? Anne Janzer, ‘Finding Your Own Process’ in The Writer’s Process: Getting your brain in gear, p. 15

Revision: Seeing again with fresh eyes

The word ‘revision’ says it all. The fifth stage of the writing process is seeing again, reviewing what you’ve written, to make insertions/deletions as needed.

There may be parts of your story that would benefit much from expansion, coloring in. Maybe there are parts that you have to cull, as much as you may feel attached to them.

Revision vs editing: What’s the difference?

Revision is a process of making decisions about the content of your story. It may include:

  • Adding in new scenes, chapters or sections
  • Rearranging scenes, chapters or sections
  • Cutting out subplots or other material that aren’t contributing to the whole sufficiently
  • Trying a different person to determine the effects on POV

That last example touches on an important truth about revision: it’s as creative as drafting, and it can be a fun process of play, of trying out different things.

Editing, on the other hand, is focused on improving the presentation of decisions made about content. Often, you may find that an editor suggests further revisions. This is work that you’ll do, because only you (as the author) are qualified to make this level of creative decision, it being your story.

Authors’ ideas on revision and the writing process

What do authors say about the revision process?

Joyce Carol Oates on revising as you go being arduous

Joyce Carol Oates shared that her writing methods changed over time, as she grew older:

I think that I envy my younger self because I used to write a whole draft of a novel and then go back and rewrite it […] Today, I do a lot of revising as I go along and that seems to be more painful and arduous. It’s a slow process, almost like putting a mosaic together or weaving things in and out, whereas before it felt more like galloping on a horse and then creating the manuscript. For some reason I’ve become more attuned to the individual sentence and reworking the sentences. I’m not sure why that happened. Joyce Carol Oates, USA Weekend , quoted by here .

This raises an important decision about revising: When will you stop to review and tweak elements? If you stop every page, prepare for a first draft that may take years! Give yourself the time your process dictates.

Jamaica Kincaid on the internal revision process

Of course, your revision is not only the work you do on paper. Dame Agatha Christie said the best time to plot a novel was while doing the dishes. Jamaica Kincaid, in conversation with Publishers Weekly , says:

I write a lot in my head. The revision goes on internally. It’s not spontaneous and it doesn’t have a schedule. You know how some people write every day at a certain point? I’m not like that. I carry something around for a long time. I weigh the words and the sentences. I weigh the paragraphs. The process is much more meditative for me. So, when I put something down on paper, I’ve already edited a lot. Jamaica Kincaid, interviewed by Liesel Schwabe, ‘The Age of a Mountain: PW Talks with Jamaica Kincaid’, December 2012.

🗣️ What is your approach to revision? Do you sit with ideas a long time, write at a gallop and then revise, or make painstaking revisions as you go? Share in the comments.

  • Revision in writing: How to improve between drafts
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Editing: The polishing stage of writing process

Editing, the penultimate stage of writing process, is itself made up of several important stages. It’s often a challenging one because there is an even bigger degree of ‘letting go’. Letting someone make tracked changes and suggestions to your manuscript, for example.

When you hand over writing to an editor, you may be getting your first sample of ‘reception’ (if you have been working in private, not with a crit circle). T.S. Eliot drily said, ‘Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.’

Editing is often an immensely enriching process, though, for both editor and author. Earnest discussion and deep thought about a story’s strengths (and how best to serve them) and challenges (and how best to address them) may unearth surprising gems.

The main types of fiction editing

The four main types of editing are:

  • Developmental editing. This examines large-picture aspects such as character and story development, narrative structure and pacing.
  • Line editing. More detail-oriented, line-level editing that examines issues such as language, style, flow and clarity.
  • Copy editing: Focuses on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and eliminating errors and residual issues with style or flow that may be left over from (or have crept in after) line editing.
  • Proofreading: The final stage of editing, catching any final errors before publication (a stage self-publishing authors may be tempted to omit, but do so at risk of excoriating reviews).

Many editing providers, including Now Novel, offer manuscript evaluations . This is often bundled with developmental editing as a part of discovery process (we subtract the cost of an evaluation from developmental editing). A manuscript evaluation produces a reader’s report with actionable recommendations on aspects such as plot and character development, narrative structure, pacing, conflict and more.

Is editing writing process? It is in that it is en route to publication. How much writing you’ll do at this stage depends on how much revision there is to be done.

If you have excellent language faculty and a strong grasp of story, an editor may recommend you proceed straight to copy editing from an evaluation, if there are no large-scale issues.

  • Editing and revising: 7 tips from top authors and editors
  • Editing copy? 8 tips for a word-perfect manuscript

Publication and promotion: Writing around your story

Does the writing process end once your work’s edited? Some would say ‘yes’. Yet publication and promotion involve a lot of writing ‘around’ your story, about your story. Press, promotion, selling.

This isn’t a type of writing (and part of process) that’s for everyone (you may want to outsource some of this work – for example writing social media captions – to a marketing agency if or once you can afford it).

Publication and the writing process

Types of writing you’ll do when you’re ready to publish include:

  • Writing query letters or script pitches
  • Writing bios for author pages
  • Writing newsletters, social media captions, and other marketing material
  • Writing speeches or guest blogs about the process of writing your story

Promotion and publication are a whole other side of process that we’ll cover in fuller detail in another complete guide.

See the resources recommended reading below for tips on aspects such as creating your author brand, creating a business plan, and ways to get more reviews.

Helpful resources for publication and promotion writing

Here are several resources that provide tips on publication and promotion as well as useful examples:

  • Publishers Weekly – frequent round-ups of publishing news and interesting developments in publishing
  • Query Shark – examples of query letters dissected by an agent
  • Jane Friedman’s blog – with twenty years’ experience in the publishing industry, Jane shares helpful publishing insights such as how to query and how to avoid publishing scams
  • Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn – a helpful blog featuring podcasts and articles packed with publishing and book promotion insights
  • Kindlepreneur – writer Dave Chesson has a site devoted to book publishing and promotion how to’s, useful for self-publishing authors.

🗣️ Is there a book publishing and promo resource you love you don’t see here? Let us know about it in the comments.

  • How to write a query letter: 10 easy steps
  • Writing to market: 10 pros and cons to weigh
  • Self-publishing on Ama zon: 20 pros and cons for authors
  • How to create a business plan for writers

Now Novel provides help with every stage of the writing process. Learn more about membership benefits for serious writers .

Related Posts:

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  • Tags writing process

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA Honours in English Literature and his undergraduate in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town.

5 replies on “Writing process: From discovery to done (complete guide)”

I’m mostly a pantser, I think. I let the ideas take me where they want to go with an end point in mind. The problem is that I don’t always like the direction, missing that fireman cushion completely. I feel like I’ve given away a piece of my soul to have to start over (I don’t want to say second draft because it feels more like a new zero). I know how important it is to get to the end, but if I truly have a fresh idea I have to go down that road, but I’m so scared it’ll take me straight to Hades… again. Eventually, I’ll be very well versed in writing my own story, I suppose. Lots and lots of practice.

Hi Margriet, thank you for sharing that. It’s very interesting as a method as you do end up doing a lot of review and revision as you go. Have you every thought of having some kind of ‘pantsers compromise’ of maybe outlining one scene ahead? Something Ernest Hemingway said was to the effect of ‘stop for the day when you know what happens next’ which might be one way to keep Hades and his kidnappers at bay 🙂 Thank you for sharing your process!

Thanks for this Jordan – comprehensive doesn’t do it justice!

For me, the difference between being someone who wanted to complete a first draft and actually doing it was definitely when I stopped being a panther and embraced the value of plotting & planning.

I’m still more of a plantser than someone who plots things to the nth degree, but having a very clear idea of at least the first 20-30% of the novel is going to go, with an idea of the way it’s going to end allows me the flexibility and freedom to start the novel with confidence that I’m going to finish, because I have a pretty good map of the journey and the destination.

I know I’m going to get “there”, even if the actual final destination changes along the way, or if I take a few pretty little detours along the way. I’ve used two different plotting approaches to complete 3 first drafts now – so I think it’s not necessarily what plotting style you go for, it’s about having one and making it work.

Hi Mark, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for sharing that. I love the happy accident of ‘panther’ in particular. Because that describes what pantsers are like, pouncing with minimum hesitation. That makes total sense to me; each story will also have its own demands in terms of the mix of research and other stages required so process may have to adapt to the demands of a specific work.

I saw that and had a little chuckle at myself – the inner pantser lives on!

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Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, the ultimate blueprint: a research-driven deep dive into the 13 steps of the writing process.

  • © 2023 by Joseph M. Moxley - University of South Florida

This article provides a comprehensive, research-based introduction to the major steps , or strategies , that writers work through as they endeavor to communicate with audiences . Since the 1960s, the writing process has been defined to be a series of steps , stages, or strategies. Most simply, the writing process is conceptualized as four major steps: prewriting , drafting , revising , editing . That model works really well for many occasions. Yet sometimes you'll face really challenging writing tasks that will force you to engage in additional steps, including, prewriting , inventing , drafting , collaborating , researching , planning , organizing , designing , rereading , revising , editing , proofreading , sharing or publishing . Expand your composing repertoire -- your ability to respond with authority , clarity , and persuasiveness -- by learning about the dispositions and strategies of successful, professional writers.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Like water cascading to the sea, flow feels inevitable, natural, purposeful. Yet achieving flow is a state of mind that can be difficult to achieve. It requires full commitment to the believing gam e (as opposed to the doubting game ).

What are the Steps of the Writing Process?

Since the 1960s, it has been popular to describe the writing process as a series of steps or stages . For simple projects, the writing process is typically defined as four major steps:

  • drafting  

This simplified approach to writing is quite appropriate for many exigencies–many calls to write . Often, e.g., we might read an email quickly, write a response, and then send it: write, revise, send.

However, in the real world, for more demanding projects — especially in high-stakes workplace writing or academic writing at the high school and college level — the writing process involve additional  steps,  or  strategies , such as 

  • collaboration
  • researching
  • proofreading
  • sharing or publishing.  

Related Concepts: Mindset ; Self Regulation

Summary – Writing Process Steps

The summary below outlines the major steps writers work through as they endeavor to develop an idea for an audience .

1. Prewriting

Prewriting refers to all the work a writer does on a writing project before they actually begin writing .

Acts of prewriting include

  • Prior to writing a first draft, analyze the context for the work. For instance, in school settings students may analyze how much of their grade will be determined by a particular assignment. They may question how many and what sources are required and what the grading criteria will be used for critiquing the work.
  • To further their understanding of the assignment, writers will question who the audience is for their work, what their purpose is for writing, what style of writing their audience expects them to employ, and what rhetorical stance is appropriate for them to develop given the rhetorical situation they are addressing. (See the document planner heuristic for more on this)
  • consider employing rhetorical appeals ( ethos , pathos , and logos ), rhetorical devices , and rhetorical modes they want to develop once they begin writing
  • reflect on the voice , tone , and persona they want to develop
  • Following rhetorical analysis and rhetorical reasoning , writers decide on the persona ; point of view ; tone , voice and style of writing they hope to develop, such as an academic writing prose style or a professional writing prose style
  • making a plan, an outline, for what to do next.

2. Invention

Invention is traditionally defined as an initial stage of the writing process when writers are more focused on discovery and creative play. During the early stages of a project, writers brainstorm; they explore various topics and perspectives before committing to a specific direction for their discourse .

In practice, invention can be an ongoing concern throughout the writing process. People who are focused on solving problems and developing original ideas, arguments , artifacts, products, services, applications, and  texts are open to acts of invention at any time during the writing process.

Writers have many different ways to engage in acts of invention, including

  • What is the exigency, the call to write ?
  • What are the ongoing scholarly debates in the peer-review literature?
  • What is the problem ?
  • What do they read? watch? say? What do they know about the topic? Why do they believe what they do? What are their beliefs, values, and expectations ?
  • What rhetorical appeals — ethos (credibility) , pathos (emotion) , and logos (logic) — should I explore to develop the best response to this exigency , this call to write?
  • What does peer-reviewed research say about the subject?
  • What are the current debates about the subject?
  • Embrace multiple viewpoints and consider various approaches to encourage the generation of original ideas.
  • How can I experiment with different media , genres , writing styles , personas , voices , tone
  • Experiment with new research methods
  • Write whatever ideas occur to you. Focus on generating ideas as opposed to writing grammatically correct sentences. Get your thoughts down as fully and quickly as you can without critiquing them.
  • Use heuristics to inspire discovery and creative thinking: Burke’s Pentad ; Document Planner , Journalistic Questions , The Business Model Canvas
  • Embrace the uncertainty that comes with creative exploration.
  • Listen to your intuition — your felt sense — when composing
  • Experiment with different writing styles , genres , writing tools, and rhetorical stances
  • Play the believing game early in the writing process

3. Researching

Research refers to systematic investigations that investigators carry out to discover new  knowledge , test knowledge claims , solve  problems , or develop new texts , products, apps, and services.

During the research stage of the writing process, writers may engage in

  • Engage in customer discovery interviews and  survey research  in order to better understand the  problem space . Use  surveys , interviews, focus groups, etc., to understand the stakeholder’s s (e.g., clients, suppliers, partners) problems and needs
  • What can you recall from your memory about the subject?
  • What can you learn from informal observation?
  • What can you learn from strategic searching of the archive on the topic that interests you?
  • Who are the thought leaders?
  • What were the major turns to the conversation ?
  • What are the current debates on the topic ?
  • Mixed research methods , qualitative research methods , quantitative research methods , usability and user experience research ?
  • What citation style is required by the audience and discourse community you’re addressing? APA | MLA .

4. Collaboration

Collaboration  refers to the act of working with others to exchange ideas, solve problems, investigate subjects ,  coauthor   texts , and develop products and services.

Collaboration can play a major role in the writing process, especially when authors coauthor documents with peers and teams , or critique the works of others .

Acts of collaboration include

  • Paying close attention to what others are saying, acknowledging their input, and asking clarifying questions to ensure understanding.
  • Expressing ideas, thoughts, and opinions in a concise and understandable manner, both verbally and in writing.
  • Being receptive to new ideas and perspectives, and considering alternative approaches to problem-solving.
  • Adapting to changes in project goals, timelines, or team dynamics, and being willing to modify plans when needed.
  • Distributing tasks and responsibilities fairly among team members, and holding oneself accountable for assigned work.
  • valuing and appreciating the unique backgrounds, skills, and perspectives of all team members, and leveraging this diversity to enhance collaboration.
  • Addressing disagreements or conflicts constructively and diplomatically, working towards mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Providing constructive feedback to help others improve their work, and being open to receiving feedback to refine one’s own ideas and contributions.
  • Understanding and responding to the emotions, needs, and concerns of team members, and fostering a supportive and inclusive environment .
  • Acknowledging and appreciating the achievements of the team and individual members, and using successes as a foundation for continued collaboration and growth.

5. Planning

Planning refers to

  • the process of planning how to organize a document
  • the process of managing your writing processes

6. Organizing

Following rhetorical analysis , following prewriting , writers question how they should organize their texts. For instance, should they adopt the organizational strategies of academic discourse or workplace-writing discourse ?

Writing-Process Plans

  • What is your Purpose? – Aims of Discourse
  • What steps, or strategies, need to be completed next?
  • set a schedule to complete goals

Planning Exercises

  • Document Planner
  • Team Charter

7. Designing

Designing refers to efforts on the part of the writer

  • to leverage the power of visual language to convey meaning
  • to create a visually appealing text

During the designing stage of the writing process, writers explore how they can use the  elements of design  and  visual language to signify , clarify , and simplify the message.

Examples of the designing step of the writing process:

  • Establishing a clear hierarchy of visual elements, such as headings, subheadings, and bullet points, to guide the reader’s attention and facilitate understanding.
  • Selecting appropriate fonts, sizes, and styles to ensure readability and convey the intended tone and emphasis.
  • Organizing text and visual elements on the page or screen in a manner that is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and supports the intended message.
  • Using color schemes and contrasts effectively to create a visually engaging experience, while also ensuring readability and accessibility for all readers.
  • Incorporating images, illustrations, charts, graphs, and videos to support and enrich the written content, and to convey complex ideas in a more accessible format.
  • Designing content that is easily accessible to a wide range of readers, including those with visual impairments, by adhering to accessibility guidelines and best practices.
  • Maintaining a consistent style and design throughout the text, which includes the use of visuals, formatting, and typography, to create a cohesive and professional appearance.
  • Integrating interactive elements, such as hyperlinks, buttons, and multimedia, to encourage reader engagement and foster deeper understanding of the content.

8. Drafting

Drafting refers to the act of writing a preliminary version of a document — a sloppy first draft. Writers engage in exploratory writing early in the writing process. During drafting, writers focus on freewriting: they write in short bursts of writing without stopping and without concern for grammatical correctness or stylistic matters.

When composing, writers move back and forth between drafting new material, revising drafts, and other steps in the writing process.

9. Rereading

Rereading refers to the process of carefully reviewing a written text. When writers reread texts, they look in between each word, phrase, sentence, paragraph. They look for gaps in content, reasoning, organization, design, diction, style–and more.

When engaged in the physical act of writing — during moments of composing — writers will often pause from drafting to reread what they wrote or to reread some other text they are referencing.

10. Revising

Revision  — the process of revisiting, rethinking, and refining written work to improve its  content ,  clarity  and overall effectiveness — is such an important part of  the writing process  that experienced writers often say  “writing is revision” or “all writing is revision.”  

For many writers, revision processes are deeply intertwined with writing, invention, and reasoning strategies:

  • “Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what one is saying.” — John Updike
  • “How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” — E.M. Forster

Acts of revision include

  • Pivoting: trashing earlier work and moving in a new direction
  • Identifying Rhetorical Problems
  • Identifying Structural Problems
  • Identifying Language Problems
  • Identifying Critical & Analytical Thinking Problems

11. Editing

Editing  refers to the act of  critically reviewing  a  text  with the goal of identifying and rectifying sentence and word-level problems.

When  editing , writers tend to focus on  local concerns  as opposed to  global concerns . For instance, they may look for

  • problems weaving sources into your argument or analysis
  • problems establishing  the authority of sources
  • problems using the required  citation style
  • mechanical errors  ( capitalization ,  punctuation ,  spelling )
  • sentence errors ,  sentence structure errors
  • problems with  diction ,  brevity ,  clarity ,  flow ,  inclusivity , register, and  simplicity

12. Proofreading

Proofreading refers to last time you’ll look at a document before sharing or publishing the work with its intended audience(s). At this point in the writing process, it’s too late to add in some new evidence you’ve found to support your position. Now you don’t want to add any new content. Instead, your goal during proofreading is to do a final check on word-level errors, problems with diction , punctuation , or syntax.

13. Sharing or Publishing

Sharing refers to the last step in the writing process: the moment when the writer delivers the message — the text — to the target audience .

Writers may think it makes sense to wait to share their work later in the process, after the project is fairly complete. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you can save yourself a lot of trouble by bringing in collaborators and critics earlier in the writing process.

Doherty, M. (2016, September 4). 10 things you need to know about banyan trees. Under the Banyan.

Emig, J. (1967). On teaching composition: Some hypotheses as definitions. Research in The Teaching of English, 1(2), 127-135. Retrieved from

Emig, J. (1971). The composing processes of twelfth graders (Research Report No. 13). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Emig, J. (1983). The web of meaning: Essays on writing, teaching, learning and thinking. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc.

Ghiselin, B. (Ed.). (1985). The Creative Process: Reflections on the Invention in the Arts and Sciences . University of California Press.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. (1980). Identifying the Organization of Writing Processes. In L. W. Gregg, & E. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Cognitive Processes in Writing: An Interdisciplinary Approach (pp. 3-30). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.  

Hayes, J. R. (2012). Modeling and remodeling writing. Written Communication, 29(3), 369-388. https://doi: 10.1177/0741088312451260

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1986). Writing research and the writer. American Psychologist, 41(10), 1106-1113.

Leijten, Van Waes, L., Schriver, K., & Hayes, J. R. (2014). Writing in the workplace: Constructing documents using multiple digital sources. Journal of Writing Research, 5(3), 285–337.

Lundstrom, K., Babcock, R. D., & McAlister, K. (2023). Collaboration in writing: Examining the role of experience in successful team writing projects. Journal of Writing Research, 15(1), 89-115.

National Research Council. (2012). Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century . Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

North, S. M. (1987). The making of knowledge in composition: Portrait of an emerging field. Boynton/Cook Publishers.

Murray, Donald M. (1980). Writing as process: How writing finds its own meaning. In Timothy R. Donovan & Ben McClelland (Eds.), Eight approaches to teaching composition (pp. 3–20). National Council of Teachers of English.

Murray, Donald M. (1972). “Teach Writing as a Process Not Product.” The Leaflet, 11-14

Perry, S. K. (1996).  When time stops: How creative writers experience entry into the flow state  (Order No. 9805789). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304288035).

Rohman, D.G., & Wlecke, A. O. (1964). Pre-writing: The construction and application of models for concept formation in writing (Cooperative Research Project No. 2174). East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University.

Rohman, D. G., & Wlecke, A. O. (1975). Pre-writing: The construction and application of models for concept formation in writing (Cooperative Research Project No. 2174). U.S. Office of Education, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Sommers, N. (1980). Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers. College Composition and Communication, 31(4), 378-388. doi: 10.2307/356600

Brevity - Say More with Less

Brevity - Say More with Less

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Coherence - How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Coherence - How to Achieve Coherence in Writing


Flow - How to Create Flow in Writing

Inclusivity - Inclusive Language

Inclusivity - Inclusive Language


The Elements of Style - The DNA of Powerful Writing


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outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

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The Road to Creativity in 7 Steps

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

It’s a weird place, being in the mind of a creative personality. Your mind is always going, constantly generating ideas and discovering ways to bring them to life.

But have you ever thought about the steps of your creative process? Being aware of how your creative internal process works can be an extremely helpful thing. It’s an excellent way to overcome creative roadblocks, boost your overall productivity, and collaborate more effectively.

So, whether you’re tackling a product design process, a creative team brainstorming session, or searching for ways to make your own creative process more efficient, keep reading for the seven stages of the creative process!

Step 1: Creative Ideation

The creative process begins with an idea.

Your ideas come from what you’ve seen, heard, and experienced, so encourage new ideas by setting aside time each day to daydream, and to look for new trends and inspiration online, in new places, and through new experiences.

Your next eureka moment might come to you while you're brainstorming or when you least expect it, but once it does, the creative process has begun!

For more insight on creative thinking, we recommend the book, The Art of Thought . It’s a very enlightening read for creative minds!

Step 2: Letting it Stew

A pot of stew, with floating elements of graphic design software. The second step of the creative process is to let your ideas stew.

This is part of the insight stage. After your idea hits, it’s time to let it stew.

And much like a delicious stew, it cannot be rushed. Let it sit, let the different flavors start to mingle and combine.

This is where you’ll start to see your idea’s creative potential, what it might look like in action, and the steps you’ll need to get it done. Your brain will need some time to think. Often, it works best when you aren’t actively trying (there’s a reason so many good ideas happen in the shower!).

So, take a walk, think about it while you’re lying in bed, or when you’re cooking dinner. Whatever it takes to give your idea that time it needs.

Step 3: Gather Your Ingredients

Your idea is perfectly marinated, so it’s time to enter the preparation stage and spend some time gathering information, problem-solving, and doing research.

Depending on the medium you’re using, you’ll also spend some time deciding the best way to bring your idea to life. You may need to look at other work, do some reading, or, if this is for a client, step into their shoes to see things from their perspective.

It wouldn’t hurt to do a little marketing research at this stage as well, to make sure your idea is aligned with your client’s needs.

Step 4: Mind Mapping

The incubation stage is over and now it’s time for your idea to come to life. If you’re a writer, you might start with an outline to put the big pieces into place. If you’re a designer, it might be sketches or a mood board. An animator may need a storyboard or to start creating custom characters.

Whatever your medium, this is where you’ll begin roughly molding your idea into what you want your finished product to be. If it’s for a client, you should also start adjusting your finished product to their needs. 

Don’t be afraid to step away and come back to your mind map to see if you think of any new ingredients to add in order to create a better finished product.

Step 5: Scoop it All Out

A pumpkin being scooped out by a pitcher and a ladle. The fifth step of the creative process is to get all of your ideas out, just like the pumpkin.

Now it’s first draft time, baby.

It’s time to get that idea out of your head. Scoop it all out. Seeds and all. You want it all on paper, Google Doc, Illustrator , Premiere Pro , or whatever you’re using.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. For now, just scoop it out and get your first version down. You can always revise a rough draft; you can’t revise what doesn’t exist.

Step 6: Revise, Rethink, Re-season

Now it’s time to love on your idea. Revise your draft according to feedback from your Creative Director, your client, or yourself.

Don’t rush it, because this is probably the longest step of the process, and don’t be afraid to set your idea on a shelf and walk away for a few days, either. It’s often best to give things a second marinade so you can approach them later with a fresh eye and re-season as needed.

Step 7: Sample the Recipe

We have arrived at the final stage of the process.

Once your creative idea has been nurtured into something you’re proud of, it’s time to let others (Creative Directors, Creatives, whoever’s judgment you trust) sample your recipe. Let them have a taste and get their honest feedback.

Is there something that needs adjusting? No worries, revise as needed.

Once you’re confident you have a worthy concoction, put it into action.

Whether it’s a video , a social media ad, a logo , or a blog, make sure it’s performing the way you intended it to perform.

If it’s not, just revise as necessary.

<div class="c-blog_comp-cta cc-component-2"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left"><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-wrap"><img src="" loading="lazy" alt="" class="c-blog_comp-cta-left-img"></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-cta-right cc-dark"><div class="c-blog_comp-content"><div class="c-text-wrapper cc-mb-32"><div class="c-title-4 cc-bold"><strong>Like to work as a freelancer with consistent income?</strong></div></div><div class="c-text-wrapper"><div class="c-text-2">Designity's collaborative model is designed to give you all of the perks of being a freelancer without the income instability.<br></div></div></div><div class="c-blog_comp-wrapper"><a href="" target="_blank" class="c-button w-button"><strong>Join Our Creative Community</strong></a></div></div></div>

Looking for a creative outlet?

If you’re in need of a creative outlet for your process, a place to have those ‘aha’ moments, then Designity is always looking for new talent.

Designity can offer you all of the freedom of a freelancer with the consistent income and workload of a creative agency. We’d love to see where your unique creative process can take you.

What does your creative process look like?

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The Creative Writing Process

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Having a creative process helps writers stay organized and focused, and can also help prevent writer’s block. It allows writers to experiment with different ideas and approaches, and to make changes and revisions as needed. This can lead to a more compelling and engaging story, with well-drawn characters, vivid settings, and a compelling plot.

Stephen King is known for his intense writing process, where he writes for a minimum of six hours a day, seven days a week. He sets a goal of writing 2,000 words a day and sticks to it, no matter what. Before starting a new project, King outlines the plot, characters, and setting in detail.

Margaret Atwood is a meticulous planner, who outlines her novels in detail before she begins writing. She also keeps a notebook with her at all times, where she jots down ideas as they come to her. Atwood believes that writing is a combination of inspiration and discipline, and she applies this principle to her process.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

Ernest Hemingway was known for his minimalist writing style, and his process reflected this. He would write short, simple sentences that packed a punch. He would revise and revise, cutting out anything that wasn’t essential. Hemingway believed in writing only what was necessary, so his process was one of simplification and elimination.

Ray Bradbury was known for his passion for writing, and his process reflected this. He would write every day, without fail, and believed in the power of persistence. Bradbury’s process was all about following your heart and writing from the soul.

The creative writing process refers to the steps involved in producing a piece of writing, from conceptualizing the idea to revising and polishing the final draft. It can vary greatly from writer to writer, but typically includes the following steps:

  • Generating ideas: Brainstorming, freewriting, and researching potential themes, characters, settings, and plot points.
  • Planning and outlining: Structuring the story, defining the narrative arc, and determining the overall flow of the piece.
  • Drafting: Putting the ideas and outline into written form, focusing on getting the story down on paper without worrying too much about perfection.
  • Revising: Going back over the draft and making changes to improve the content, structure, and style.
  • Editing: Paying attention to grammar, punctuation, and other technical details to ensure the writing is polished and ready for publication.
  • Publishing: Sharing the finished product with an audience, either by submitting it for publication or posting it online.

This process can be iterative, with writers often returning to earlier stages to make changes or refine the story further. The key is to find what works best for you as an individual and be open to experimenting and evolving your process as needed.

Additionally, having a creative process can also help writers build good writing habits, such as setting aside dedicated time for writing, setting achievable goals, and seeking feedback from others. This can help writers stay motivated and productive, and can lead to a more fulfilling writing experience.

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Stages of the Writing Process

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This resource provides a list of key concepts, words, and phrases that multi-lingual writers may find useful if they are new to writing in the North American educational context. It covers concepts and and key words pertaining to the stages in the writing process, style, citation and reference, and other common expressions in academic writing

Writing can’t be done without going through certain stages. All writers go through their own unique writing processes before they make their final drafts. Usually, writers start with choosing topics and brainstorming, and then they may outline their papers, and compose sentences and paragraphs to make a rough draft. After they make a rough draft, writers may begin revising their work by adding more sentences, or removing sentences. Writers may then edit their rough draft by changing words and sentences that are grammatically incorrect or inappropriate for a topic.


Before you start writing, you will think about what to write, or how to write. This is called, brainstorming . When you brainstorm for ideas, you will try to come up with as many ideas as you can. Don't worry about whether or not they are good or bad ideas. You can brainstorm by creating a list of ideas that you came up with, or drawing a map and diagram, or just writing down whatever you can think of without thinking about grammar. Think of this like the erratic thunder and lightning that comes from a thunderstorm.

Next, you may want to outline your paper based on the ideas you came up with while you were brainstorming. This means that you will think about the structure of your paper so that you can best deliver your ideas, and meet the requirements of writing assignments. You will usually outline your paper by beginning with its three major parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. The specific structure of each essay may vary from assignment to assignment. Many writers call this a skeleton unto which you develop or “flesh out” the paper. Once you have the skeleton in place, you can start thinking about how to add additional detail to it.

Rough Draft

Your professors or instructors will often require you to submit a rough draft of your paper. This usually means that your work is still in progress. In the rough draft, readers want to see if you have a clear direction in your paper. When you are required to submit a rough draft, it doesn't need to be perfect, but it does need to be complete. That means, you shouldn't be missing any of the major parts of the paper. For more information on drafting and revising your work, watch our Drafting and Revising video.

Revise and Edit your writing

What is the difference between revise and edit ?

Revision lets you look at your paper in terms of your topic, your ideas, and your audience. You may add more paragraphs or remove paragraphs to better fit into a given genre or topic. In a word, revising means that you organize your writing better in a way that your audience can understand your writing better. You may want to read our resource on basic rhetorical elements to help guide your revision.

Editing typically means that you go over your writing to make sure that you do not have any grammatical errors or strange phrases that make it difficult for your readers to understand what you are trying to say. In other words, editing means that you take care of minor errors in your writing. This is a lot like polishing your writing.

Polish your writing

We often hear professors or instructors say that you need to “ polish your writing .” What do you mean by polish ?

The word polish originally meant to make something smooth and shiny, as in “she polished her leather shoes.” In writing, polish can mean to improve or perfect, or refine a piece of writing by getting rid of minor errors. In other words, when your professors or instructors say, “polish your writing,” it means that you should go over your writing and make sure you do not have any errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and to make sure that you do not have any sentences that do not make sense.

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Kathryn Aragon

Business & Growth Solutions and Training

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How to Write a Good Article (7-Step Content Writing Process)

March 22, 2021 By Kathryn Aragon

When every brand has a blog, simply creating content isn’t enough. You need to know how to write a good article. And you need to make sure it captures the attention of your target audience.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to write a good article every time you sit down to write. We’ll start by identifying the type of writer you are, and then I’ll give you my 7-step process for consistently turning out good articles that rank well with readers and search engines.

2 Types of Writers

There are all sorts of writers. So, as you might guess, there are lots of approaches to writing a good article.

Planners can’t write until they have outlined every chapter, section and subsection. Pantsers , who write by the seat of their pants, like to start typing and see where their ideas take them. I’ve known other writers who can’t begin to write until they can “see” the entire project in their head.

Me? I’m a bit of a mix. Sometimes I have an idea and will free write to see where it takes me. Most of the time, I’m facing a deadline and don’t have time to waste, or the project is too big, and unless I plan it carefully, I could easily lose control.

As a result, I’ve settled into a writing process that allows me the flexibility to see where my ideas take me and still move quickly to completion.

7-Step Writing Process for Writing Good Articles (Consistently)

Step 1. concept.

For me, every writing project starts with an idea . It’s generally somewhat loose and unformed at the beginning, but I like the concept, so I know it’s worth pursuing. For example, the idea for this article arrived just after finishing an ebook for a client. It was a simple thought, “Hey, I should share my writing process.”

Often, the keywords for the project will be in the idea, and I already have a vague idea of the length and format: article, ebook, training program, etc.

Step 2. Working title

I may or may not start with a title. But I usually plug in something, even if I know it’s likely to change. Often, as I write, I realize that a particular phrase turns up often, and I suspect it could work as the final title. In that case, I pop back up to the top of the document and either replace the working title or add my new idea below it.

When the project is done, I’ll select the title I like best. Or, if I’m unhappy with my working titles, I’ll brainstorm for more.

Note: If I’m writing an article to rank for a keyword, I use the keyword in the title. For your working title, try this format:

keyword [colon] benefit

Step 3. Outline / Research

Just after I have an idea for a new project, I get a flood of ideas for how I could develop it. That’s when I grab a pen and paper or pull up a Google Doc to jot down my ideas. At this stage, the vague idea begins to become more concrete.

Find the high-level topics you need to include

I typically jot down my ideas in the order they come to me, then rearrange them to create a logical progression of thought. I want to see the working title and the major headings right away. That way I can see the overall structure of my project and confirm that the concept is worth pursuing.

Note: When writing, always work BIG to SMALL. Iron out your big concepts (subheads) before worrying about the details (the words).

Refine the article idea

To write a better article, you need to make sure your idea is clear and focused.

Once you have a rough outline, you can refine the concept of your article.

  • Does it share information people are looking for?
  • Is it specific and focused?
  • Is it intriguing to your target audience?

If the outline doesn’t support my original idea, I work with the concept and my supporting ideas until they flow well from beginning to end.

How in-depth does your outline need to be?

That depends on the scope of the project.

If you’re writing a 1,000-word article , once you have your subheads in order, you can start filling in the content. In most cases, you can write in order, from the intro to the conclusion.

Writing from top to bottom, your ideas connect better, so you end up with a cleaner draft. (This flow will give you a better article because each idea flows into the next.)

But the content writing process is flexble. If you have ideas for one section and not another, it’s okay to that write the article out of order.

If you’re writing a 4,000-word article or a large project like an ebook , you’ll need a more detailed outline — usually as many as three levels deep. This lets you see at a glance how you’re going to develop each of your main ideas.

When you’re writing a long, in-depth article, review your outline carefully, before you start writing. Make sure you don’t have multiple sections that say the same thing. Check the flow of your ideas: Does one idea lead logically to the next? If you see any weak areas or gaps, fix those now.

How to fix a weak outline

Sometimes, when I struggle to get the outline right, it’s because the article idea is weak. When that happens, work from BIG to SMALL to diagnose the problem.

  • The topic itself
  • Your concept: way you’re approaching the topic
  • The bottom-line point you’re trying to make

Sometimes, there’s disconnect. Your point doesn’t connect logically with the topic you’ve chosen. Or the way you’re approaching the topic is too vague or too complex.

Evaluate your concept first, to see if it needs to change. Then, if the concept is sound, do a bit more research to see if you can identify the problem.

For instance, my agency was recently working on an article about retargeting. The article brief included both keywords, and the ideas we were supposed to include referred to “retargeting” and “remarketing” interchangeably.

As we researched the topic to create our outline, we realized retargeting and remarketing are two distinct strategies. There was no way to talk about them together. To make this article work, we had to change the focus of the article to include both strategies. Then we created a section for each term.

Step 4.  Research / Write

Research is never a stand-alone step in my writing process. I research when I’m refining my article idea, when I’m creating my outline, and as I write the first draft.

To learn how to write a good article, you must get good at research.

During the outlining phase, you’re looking for the ideas and topics you need to include in your article. During the writing phase, your research focuses on statistics, graphics, quotations, case studies, and other proof elements that will support your claims.

As I just mentioned, writing and research go together. If you’re in a writing frenzy and know you need a statistic, you don’t have to stop writing to search for the perfect statistic. To keep your flow, type an underline or highlight that passage to remind yourself to come back to it. Then, when you’re done writing, scour the web for the statistic you need.

But sometimes, writing and research together can help you connect your ideas and find a better way to present your idea. Both ways of working are valid. Both with help you write a good article.

Aim to write an ugly first draft

Your goal during this stage of the writing process is to capture and refine your ideas. You want to make your points as clearly as possible.

Don’t try to write a masterpiece at this stage. If you have a rough draft that follows your outline, you’re good. Once you’ve got the bones down, you can start focusing on making your writing smoother and more readable .

Note: A title and an outline give you the framework of your article, but you can’t always know exactly how the article will come together until you’re writing. When you outline, you’re a planner . When you begin writing, you need to be at least a little bit of a pantser .

For me, every article starts rough. I’m just throwing ideas and words onto the page. As I get into the article, my ideas begin to crystalize. As that happens, my writing becomes less “drafty” and begins to read more like a final draft.

By the time I get to the end of my first draft, I can see my point very clearly, so I write a good, clean conclusion. Then I go back to the beginning and rework the introduction.

In general, however, I research and refine the outline, then, when the organization looks good and I’m confident I know what I’m going to say, I begin to write. I like this stage to be relatively uninterrupted by left-brained processes. I want to find a flow and stay there.

For me, a writing session lasts as long as the ideas flow. When the ideas stop, I take a break.

Step 5. Review

Once the writing is done, I can lightly edit the article, but fine editing and review must wait. I’m usually still in the writing zone, and I see what I thought I wrote, not what’s really there.

I do a quick review to catch glaring mistakes and make sure I covered everything I meant to cover. This is a good time to give it a good spelling-check and grammar-check. Grammarly is my favorite app for this.

As I mentioned above, I start by making sure my intro still works. If the project veered away from the original concept, the intro probably needs to be rewritten.

I make whatever corrections seem necessary, then put away the project until the next day at least.

Step 6. Rounds of edits

One or two days after I finished writing, I can review the project more objectively. I’m no longer in my writing zone and can see the article as a first-time reader might.

A quick read-through tells me where the rough spots are and helps me identify gaps where I need to add content, or repetitive areas where I need to consolidate ideas or delete them altogether.

I try to fix those areas now. During this phase, I may move whole sections or sentences, add or delete paragraphs, and make sure the structure and logic are sound.  This process continues until I can read through the piece without a hitch.

But don’t expect one pass-through to be enough. Great writing happens during the editing phase. So I go through the article several times, fine-tuning and improving my writing with each pass.

Here are my tips for better self-editing.

Edits should always progress from the general to the specific. I wait to review the finer details until I’ve completed the rough edit. Now, it’s much easier to see the awkward phrases, unclear references, and grammatical mistakes.

The process isn’t perfectly linear, though. If I see these errors while making my rough edits, I fix them. But a last read-through inevitably turns up small mistakes that I couldn’t see before, so I always make time for one last review.

Once the text looks good, I return to the title:

  • Does it capture the essence of the project?
  • Does it entice readers to click through or download?

Step 7. Final read-through

Before calling the project done, I do one final read-through to catch anything I might have missed in my editing.

I also do a visual scan to make sure the piece looks good at a glance. On a blog, I preview the article and quickly scroll through it. For an ebook, I do a quick scroll through the document.

At this point, I’m looking at paragraph lengths and layout. This is when I might tweak subheads or adjust images.

What’s Your Content Writing Process?

I like my process because it easily scales for any sized project. It also allows me to work quickly while still being creative and flexible. It almost guarantees I’ll write a good article.

But as I said before, all writers are different. What’s your process? Does it keep you productive, or are you looking for a better way?

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The Writing Process: 5 Practical Steps

Simone Flanigan

  • STEP 1: ASSESS (Review + Analyze)

STEP 2: PREPARE (Research + Prewrite)

Step 3: draft.



While you have likely heard the phrase “the writing process” many times — what does it actually mean? A writer’s process may be as unique as the writer, but there are concrete steps in the process of crafting an academic writing project that are guaranteed to yield strong rhetorical results when executed with intention.

STEP 1: ASSESS (Review & Analyze)

The first step of any writing project is to ensure you understand the project’s specific expectations. Some key requirements to take note of:

  • Expected length / word count
  • Number and type of sources required
  • Type of project (genre) and its requirements/expectations

As you move through the project’s details carefully, take note of anything important and make a list of questions you have. Find answers to those questions before proceeding.

Rhetorical Situation

Next, consider your rhetorical situation. This means considering your writing goals and the needs, wants, and perspectives of your audience in order to achieve those goals. Sometimes writers write strictly to inform an audience, but most of the time they write to directly persuade an audience into action. Before you can possibly persuade someone else, you need to determine what you know about a subject and what you still need to understand. This is also an excellent time to explore your potential bias , which is crucial if you have never done so. Sometimes, the more answers you uncover, the more questions you continue to ask, which is a positive step in finding compelling content for a more interesting project.


  • What are the project’s required goals?
  • What are my personal goals as the creator and writer of the project?
  • How will I appeal to pathos, ethos, logos and kairos in my piece?
  • What assumptions do I have about my subject?
  • How can I unpack my cultural lenses to better understand where my assumptions are coming from?
  • What credible sources can help me determine the truth or misunderstandings behind my assumptions?
  • Who is the best audience when considering my goals?
  • Why does this particular audience think and feel the way they do? This takes true empathy to unpack.
  • Run a Google search with keywords separated by the + sign — for example, “homelessness+domestic abuse” — then look for sources from popular magazines, journals, and newspapers.
  • Search for the same keywords on the Google “news” tab to find current information about the topic.

The more you know about a topic, the more opportunities you will have for finding what really speaks to your personal interests, which will allow for more diverse research and a more creative approach. Each time you go down a different path and your ideas take new shape, it is important to reconsider the rhetorical situation to ensure that you are considering your goals as a writer and meeting the needs of your audience.

Intended Audience

So, how do you know who your audience should be? Finding your intended audience means locating that specific audience you want to direct your persuasive arguments to. While writing projects often start out general, the further you get into your research, the more specific your solutions may become. If you are looking for ways of solving the opiate crisis in America, you may decide to speak directly to pharmaceutical companies, or perhaps your goals are more suited to addressing parents of teens who are prescribed opiates after surgeries. Finding that specific audience is critical to rhetorical success. The more you understand your audience personally, the more likely you will be successful in persuading them.

Mode of Delivery

Your mode of delivery is the medium you use for a project. There are different ways of delivering information: text-based, audio-based, visual-based, etc. Figuring out the best mode of delivery is a key part of the rhetorical situation. First review the project’s instructions: Is there a specific mode of delivery the project asks for? If you have the freedom to choose your own mode, ask yourself questions like:

  • Would this project be more effective in an audio format?
  • Would it be more powerful with the inclusion of images?

To answer these questions, you need to look at your audience’s specific needs and make choices based on what modes of delivery will work best for them.

Because so many audiences access information online, multi-modal projects (the use of multiple formats within one project) have become increasingly common. The combination of powerful modes allows for even greater rhetorical success. For example: a photo essay relies on images to tell a story and inspire emotion, but the text accompanied with the photos deepens the understanding of the topic’s technicalities. Understanding more about multimodal communication will allow you to convey your information in new and more interesting ways if you think it would be more compelling to your intended audience.

In summary, make sure you have carefully considered the following questions:

  • What are the assignment’s specific expectations?
  • What do I already know about my topic?
  • What do I still need to understand?
  • Have I carefully considered the rhetorical situation?
  • Who should my intended audience be?
  • What would be the best mode of delivery for this particular audience and rhetorical situation?

Research Questions

Not all types of writing projects require extensive research, but the ones that do will benefit from crafting a research question. Once you understand your audience’s specific needs, you can develop your research question by using a resource like this detailed how-to guide from Scribbr.

The Internet has revolutionized the way in which writers are able to acquire and disseminate information. Because there are so many options of where to find information, sometimes it feels overwhelming trying to decide where to begin researching. This is why it is so important to work through the research process consciously in order to move beyond the obvious.

Once you have developed a strong research question , you can gather the strongest data from reputable sources and move to the academic database.


  • The source is from a reputable and established organization
  • The writer cites their sources and also has a exemplary reputation
  • The source uses relevant and up-to-date documentation to support its claims
  • The source seeks to educate and instill knowledge and is not opinion focused
  • In most situations, the source is relatively recent, although this might not be the case when working with primary materials

To help you remember how to evaluate a source, check out the CRAAP test and bookmark this page.

For even more strategies on deciding on whether or not a source is reliable, check out this guide by the University of Maryland .

Most writing projects require at least some research. While there are a host of strong, reliable sources online, GoogleScholar and library databases can take your research further and legitimize your ideas. Generally speaking, scholarly information took the author/s considerable time to research, write, and peer review. Their dedication to their research now allows us to participate in the conversation and continue to build on the foundation they already laid.

Library databases are notoriously intimidating. To help you find the right database, try searching for your college’s libguide like this:

[your college’s name]+libguide

There you should find a link to your college’s lib guide where databases are conveniently organized into different subjects. College libguides also usually connect you with specific librarians who can help you with any research questions you have.

Other Types of Research

Not all research comes in the form of using your computer. Examples of field research that could assist your rhetorical goals include:

  • Site visits
  • Case studies
  • Ethnographic studies

Thesis Statements

This amount of preparation may seem intimidating, but by moving through each stage carefully, you prevent the experience of having to start projects over or spending more time revising than actually writing. Prewriting starts with crafting a working thesis statement. The difference between a working thesis statement and a thesis statement is in the word “working.” The working thesis acts as your thesis statement, but as you research and form new ideas and strengthen your arguments, you are able to amend your thesis statement to be even more powerful. As your ideas evolve, so will your thesis statement.


To write a compelling thesis statement, focus on the following:

  • Example: Given the evidence in the most recent state and nongovernmental organization studies, Utah should preserve and protect its public land, rather than auction it off to oil and gas development.
  • Example: The evidence in recent reports from [State Agency] and [Nongovernmental Organization] strongly suggests that in order to preserve Utah’s unique landscapes and wildlife, Utah’s public land should remain under federal management.
  • Example: The evidence [state specific evidence briefly] clearly shows that auctioning public lands to private interests puts Utah’s unique landscapes and wildlife at risk and would also severely restrict public access to those lands, which is why Utah’s public land should remain under federal management.

The more confident you become as a writer, the more complex and unique your thesis statements may become; however, often a thesis statement typically includes:

  • Stating a specific argument/position
  • Supporting that thesis statement with three claims
  • Using credible research to bolster those claims

The stronger your thesis statement and supporting evidence is, the easier it will be for you when you sit down to outline the project itself.

More Resources on Building a Thesis Statement

  • Study these steps in developing a thesis from Harvard 
  • Look at these tips from Purdue University 
  • Watch this video from Scribbr

Most students admit they skip outlining their work, but without intentional outlining, your strong, powerful points can be lost on an audience. In order to prevent confusing or misdirecting an audience, take the time to consider the order in which you organize your information. This step takes ample focus and time, which is why it’s tempting to skip it altogether, but without understanding how to outline and why it’s so important, your writing goals may never be carried out as effectively as they could.

Over time, writers typically start to outline in a more organic way, but understanding this step must happen first.


Spending time outlining your work gives yourself a map for the drafting process, which means rather than struggling to figure out what to say next, your outline shows you what points and sources come next. While you practice different methods of outlining, consider using your sources as a way to structure your project. For example, say you have seven strong sources that you plan on using in your project: decide what order to share them in that will yield the strongest rhetorical results. Or, you could also focus on your main claims and determine in which order those arguments become the most persuasive.

Whether you are working on an essay, a multi-modal piece, a podcast, a video, etc., being intentional about outlining your work before you begin writing will overall create a more productive and pleasant experience within the writing process.

More Resources on Outlining

  • Read this multi-modal piece from Scribbr: How to Write an Essay Outline
  • Read this essay from San Jose State University Writing Center 

At this point, you are finally in the drafting stage of your work. Because you have done so much preparatory work to get here, the following steps will go smoother than ever.

Because you already took the time to outline, you created a guide for drafting your project. The outline shows you when and where to share your main claims and supporting evidence. Each genre has specific expectations, so make sure you take a look at professional examples of the type of project you are creating. If you have chosen an essay as the ideal mode of delivery, your paragraph structure will likely follow an arrangement similar to this:

  • Summarize paragraph topic or introduce new claim
  • State evidence
  • Explain evidence
  • Emphasize your point
  • Transition to new paragraph

Also in this step of the writing process, you will use your sources to layer and support your arguments, which means you need to understand how to cite those sources. Answering the question “How do I cite my sources?” isn’t as simple as it used to be. Citing sources isn’t just about deciding between MLA , APA , or Chicago ; it’s about returning to the rhetorical situation. If you are writing an essay for a college course that is asking for MLA, then absolutely use MLA. But what if a project is being published online? Most essays published on online platforms link their sources, so referring to sources is as easy as a click of the mouse. Even using traditional software like Microsoft Word allows for writers to embed or hyperlink their sources . If you still feel overwhelmed with citations, check out this article by Annika Clark called “ Finding the Right Spiderman: An Introduction to Reference and Citation Formats .”

The goal of citation is always to guide and inform the reader. Citations:

  • introduce source material
  • give the reader a way to reference the source
  • offer the audience specific information (like page numbers) so that a reader can find the information without difficulty

As you draft your work, you also want to return to your thesis statement and make any needed changes to strengthen and clarify it. You might also find that you need additional research to strengthen changes you’ve made to your work. From there you are ready to complete your writing and move to the revision stage.


Editing and revising are similar, but what separates them is really about time and effort. Editing looks to fix those smaller grammatical issues you may have missed. Revising is when you need to revisit actual steps:

  • Is this thesis strong enough?
  • Are these the best sources?
  • Is this the right mode of delivery?

Editing is fairly easy, especially when you use helpful services like Grammarly and Citation Machine . Revising can feel daunting, but the more time you spend with steps 1–3, the less likely it will be that your work needs a dramatic revision.

Often when we begin the editing and revising process, we discover that we may need to reorder our claims. The outline is a guide, but after spending considerable time with our research and in the heads of our audience, sometimes we find that an argument is stronger in another order. In addition, sentences often need to be reworded or restructured in order to be more clear and straightforward.

As you consider your work one final time, return to your introduction and conclusion. The body of your project is what stabilizes your argument — it is the life of your argument — but the introduction and conclusion are how you connect to your reader and in turn have them connect to your goals.


  • Ask a trusted source to read your work and give critical feedback
  • Decide if you need to revamp or revise your introduction or conclusion
  • Check for and eliminate redundancies
  • Remove jargon
  • Condense wordy sentences
  • Replace generic words (such as “things”) with concrete examples
  • Add examples and descriptions where needed to illustrate ideas
  • Read your work aloud (preferably to another person) so you can catch any oversights
  • Ensure you have included all the documentation/citations needed
  • Certify that all your sources are cited correctly
  • Run a grammar and spell check

Revising and editing are important steps in completing a strong draft for your intended audience. When you reread your piece (and have others offer peer feedback), you are able to revisit areas that may need to be strengthened. Writers often say a piece is never complete and could be revised countless times, but if you put time and energy into the revision process, you can get closer to assuring you have met your rhetorical goals.

Formatting is the last step of the writing process and is usually as simple as following the formatting rules and expectations for the layout of the project or looking more carefully at the expectations of that particular mode of delivery. For example, if you look on The Atlantic ’s website, each article is formatted with the same font, size, and spacing.


Each mode of delivery has its own expectations, but in general here are some details to consider:

  • Does the project meet the minimum length requirements?
  • Is the text you include legible and consistent?
  • Are your paragraphs indented or separated from other paragraphs using white space?
  • Are all graphics and images high quality and without pixilation?
  • If writing an essay, are your margins correct?
  • What accessibility edits do you need to make?
  • Are there any other requirements of the project you need to consider?

Formatting generates consistency when work is displayed on the same platform. Formatting creates continuity. Formatting is the last polish before you share your work with the world. While this last step is simple, don’t minimize its significance. Remember the rhetorical situation? While our work might be airtight ― strong thesis, intentional organization, powerful sources, poetic conclusion ― if you haven’t formatted the work to look good, you may have already lost your audience.

  • Know what is required of you
  • Answer any questions you still have
  • Evaluate your rhetorical situation
  • Determine the best mode of delivery for your intended audience
  • Conduct preliminary research
  • Consider the pathos, ethos, logos and kairos of your piece
  • Develop your research question 
  • Understand what makes a source reliable
  • Get more help with citations by reading “ Finding the Right Spiderman: An Introduction to Reference and Citation Formats “
  • Use Google Scholar
  • Use your library databases
  • Consider other types of field research
  • Develop a working thesis 
  • Organize material and create an outline
  • Start writing!
  • Use your outline to guide you
  • Cite your sources based on the rhetorical situation
  • Have a trusted source read and offer critical feedback
  • Read through your work aloud (preferably to another person)
  • Use tool like Grammarly and Citation Machine to help you catch errors and cite sources
  • Return to the body of your essay and look for any places you may need to add additional research and data to strengthen your points and arguments
  • Look for sentences and sections that may need to be reordered or reworded
  • Revise your introduction and conclusion to be as powerful as possible
  • Format your project based on the requirements of the piece or use your own formatting considering the mode of delivery and/or rhetorical situation

Once you understand the importance of each one of these steps and have practiced them, you may begin to feel comfortable creating your own writing process. That’s great! These steps, when followed in sequential order, will aid in your success as a writer, and over time you can allow yourself to try new ways of crafting out of order. The writing process doesn’t have one face, but limitless faces. Once you understand the rules of writing you are set free to play with them intentionally.

Open English @ SLCC Copyright © 2016 by Simone Flanigan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Understanding the four stages of the creative process

There’s a lot that science can teach us about what goes into the creative process—and how each one of us can optimize our own.

outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

How do great artists and innovators come up with their most brilliant ideas ? And by what kind of alchemical process are they able to bring those ideas to life? 

I have eagerly sought the answers to these questions over the past decade of my career as a psychology writer. My fascination with the lives and minds of brilliant artists and innovators has led me on a quest to discover what makes us creative , where ideas come from, and how they come to life. But even after writing an entire book on the science of creativity and designing a creative personality test , there are more questions than answers in my mind. 

Decades of research have yet to uncover the unique spark of creative genius. Creativity is as perplexing to us today as it was to the ancients, who cast creative genius in the realm of the supernatural and declared it the work of the muses.  

What the science does show is that creative people are complex and contradictory. Their creative processes tend to be chaotic and nonlinear—which seems to mirror what’s going on in their brains. Contrary to the “right-brain myth,” creativity doesn’t just involve a single brain region or even a single side of the brain. Instead, the creative process draws on the whole brain. It’s a dynamic interplay of many diverse brain regions, thinking styles, emotions, and unconscious and conscious processing systems coming together in unusual and unexpected ways. 

But while we may never find the formula for creativity, there’s still a lot that science can teach us about what goes into the creative process—and how each one of us can optimize our own. 

Understanding your own creative process

One of the most illuminating things I’ve found is a popular four-stage model of the creative process developed in the 1920s. In his book The Art of Thought , British psychologist Graham Wallas outlined a theory of the creative process based on many years of observing and studying accounts of inventors and other creative types at work. 

The four stages of the creative process: 

Stage 1: preparation.

The creative process begins with preparation: gathering information and materials, identifying sources of inspiration, and acquiring knowledge about the project or problem at hand. This is often an internal process (thinking deeply to generate and engage with ideas) as well as an external one (going out into the world to gather the necessary data, resources, materials, and expertise). 

Stage 2: Incubation

Next, the ideas and information gathered in stage 1 marinate in the mind. As ideas slowly simmer, the work deepens and new connections are formed. During this period of germination, the artist takes their focus off the problem and allows the mind to rest. While the conscious mind wanders, the unconscious engages in what Einstein called “combinatory play”: taking diverse ideas and influences and finding new ways to bring them together. 

Stage 3: Illumination

Next comes the elusive aha moment. After a period of incubation, insights arise from the deeper layers of the mind and break through to conscious awareness, often in a dramatic way. It’s the sudden Eureka! that comes when you’re in the shower, taking a walk, or occupied with something completely unrelated. Seemingly out of nowhere, the solution presents itself. 

Stage 4: Verification

Following the aha moment, the words get written down, the vision is committed to paint or clay, the business plan is developed. Whatever ideas and insights arose in stage 3 are fleshed out and developed. The artist uses critical thinking and aesthetic judgment skills to hone and refine the work and then communicate its value to others. 

Of course, these stages don’t always play out in such an orderly, linear fashion. The creative process tends to look more like a zigzag or spiral than a straight line. The model certainly has its limitations, but it can offer a road map of sorts for our own creative journey, offering a direction, if not a destination. It can help us become more aware of where we’re at in our own process, where we need to go, and the mental processes that can help us get there. And when the process gets a little too messy, coming back to this framework can help us to recenter, realign, and chart the path ahead. 

For instance, if you can’t seem to get from incubation to illumination, the solution might be to go back to stage 1, gathering more resources and knowledge to find that missing element. Or perhaps, in the quest for productivity , you’ve made the all-too-common mistake of skipping straight to stage 4, pushing ahead with a half-baked idea before it’s fully marinated. In that case, carving out time and space for stage 2 may be the necessary detour. 

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How to optimize your creative process for ultimate success

But let’s dig a little deeper: As I’ve contemplated and applied the four-stage model in my own work, I’ve found within it a much more profound insight into the mysteries of creation.  

At its heart, any creative process is about discovering something new within ourselves and then bringing that something into the world for others to experience and enjoy. The work of the artist, the visionary, the innovator is to bridge their inner and outer worlds—taking something that only exists within their own mind and heart and soul and birthing it into concrete, tangible form (you know, not unlike that other kind of creative process). 

Any creative process is a dance between the inner and the outer; the unconscious and conscious mind; dreaming and doing; madness and method; solitary reflection and active collaboration. Psychologists describe it in simple terms of inspiration (coming up with ideas) and generation (bringing ideas to life). 

In the four-stage model, we can see how the internal and external elements of the creative process interact. stages 2 and 3 are all about inspiration: dreaming, reflecting, imagining, opening up to inspiration, and allowing the unconscious mind to do its work. Stages 1 and 4, meanwhile, are about generation: doing the external work of research, planning, execution, and collaboration. Through a dynamic dance of inspiration and generation, brilliant work comes to life. 

How does this help us in our own creative process? The more we master this balance, the more we can tap into our creative potential. We all have a preference for one side over the other, and by becoming more aware of our natural inclinations, we can learn how to optimize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses.  

More inward-focused, idea-generating types excel in stages 2 and 3: getting inspired and coming up with brilliant ideas. But they run the risk of getting stuck in their own heads and failing to materialize their brilliant ideas in the world. These thinkers and dreamers often need to bring more time and focus to stages 1 and 4 in order to keep their creative process on track. Balance inspiration with generation by creating the necessary structures to help you commit to action and put one foot in front of the other to make it happen—or just collaborate with a doer who you can outsource your ideas to! 

Doer types, on the other hand, shine in stages 1 and 4. They’re brilliant at getting things done, but they risk putting all their focus on productivity at the expense of the inner work and big-picture thinking that helps produce truly inspired work. When we bypass the critical work that occurs in the incubation stage, we miss out on our most original and groundbreaking ideas. If you’re a doer/generator, you can up-level your creative process by clearing out the space in your mind and your schedule to dream, imagine, reflect, and contemplate. 

By seeking a balance of these opposing forces, we can bring some order to the chaos of the creative process. And as we become dreamers who do and doers who dream, we empower ourselves to share more of our creative gifts with the world. 

WeWork’s space products including  On Demand ,  All Access , and  dedicated spaces  help businesses of all sizes solve their biggest challenges.

Carolyn Gregoire is a writer and creative consultant living in Brooklyn. She is the co-author of  Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind  and the creator of the Creative Types personality test. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, TIME, Harvard Business Review, and other publications.

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  5. Introduction to Creative Writing

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    Step 1: Plan for Success Step 2: Sizzling Starts Step 3: Tightening Tension Step 4: Dynamic Dialogue Step 5: Show, Don't Tell Step 6: Ban the Boring Step 7: Exciting Endings/Ending with Impact Check out each of the Seven Steps below and see how to help students create an engaging story in any form - written, spoken or visual.

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    Making Phase of writing: Drafting and Elaboration Revision Phase of writing: Clarification and Correction Why writers fail to finish and publish their books Three phases of the writing process A linear vs. erratic approach to writing Motivation and Exhilaration to write Skills and mindsets for each writing phase Focusing your mind F-R-E-E Writing

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    Urgently hiring jobs View more jobs on Indeed What is creative writing? Creative writing is any type of writing that requires imagination or invention to express an idea uniquely. Creative writing often focuses on the development of narrative, poetry or drama, but it can also include nonfiction writing in a professional setting.

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    Focus a clear eye on yourself to ensure you plant the natural stages of the writing process into your daily discipline. Creative writing courses mimic these stages, especially long-term or residential courses where the focus is solely on writing, and you are not studying other subjects. If you are not on such a course formally, then you must ...

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    This article provides a comprehensive, research-based introduction to the major steps, or strategies, that writers work through as they endeavor to communicate with audiences.. Since the 1960s, the writing process has been defined to be a series of steps, stages, or strategies. Most simply, the writing process is conceptualized as four major steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing.

  13. The Creative Journey: The 7 Steps of the Creative Process

    Step 1: Creative Ideation ‍ The creative process begins with an idea. ‍ Your ideas come from what you've seen, heard, and experienced, so encourage new ideas by setting aside time each day to daydream, and to look for new trends and inspiration online, in new places, and through new experiences. ‍

  14. The Creative Writing Process

    The creative writing process refers to the steps involved in producing a piece of writing, from conceptualizing the idea to revising and polishing the final draft. ... Drafting: Putting the ideas and outline into written form, focusing on getting the story down on paper without worrying too much about perfection. Revising: Going back over the ...

  15. Stages of the Writing Process

    Stages of the Writing Process. Writing can't be done without going through certain stages. All writers go through their own unique writing processes before they make their final drafts. Usually, writers start with choosing topics and brainstorming, and then they may outline their papers, and compose sentences and paragraphs to make a rough draft.

  16. How to Write a Good Article (7-Step Content Writing Process)

    Often, the keywords for the project will be in the idea, and I already have a vague idea of the length and format: article, ebook, training program, etc. Step 2. Working title. I may or may not start with a title. But I usually plug in something, even if I know it's likely to change.

  17. Steps of the Writing Process

    Although experienced writers eventually customize their own personal writing processes, nearly all successful writers-from students to professionals-use some form of this writing process, of which there are five steps: These are the five steps in the writing process: Prewriting. Outlining. Drafting. Revising. Editing.

  18. The Creative Writing Process: How to Write a Novel from Start ...

    Sep 28, 2022. --. The creative writing process is the method used by writers to create fiction, stories, poetry, blog post or novels. It can be broadly defined as the steps taken by a creative ...

  19. 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story

    The only requirement is that you find the groove that works for you. If you start outlining and begin to feel the technique isn't working for you, rather than denouncing outlines entirely, consider how you might adjust the process to better suit your personality and creative style.) 1. Craft your premise.

  20. outline the seven steps of the creative writing process

    One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing is to start with a blank writing page.... To create a project outline, identify the major tasks needed to accomplish the project, and break down the smaller tasks required to complete the larger ones. ... · Step 3 - Let the information bubble · Step 4 - Eureka! Let the ideas flow ...

  21. The Writing Process: 5 Practical Steps

    Organize material and create an outline; Draft Start writing! Use your outline to guide you; Cite your sources based on the rhetorical situation; Revise & Edit Have a trusted source read and offer critical feedback; Read through your work aloud (preferably to another person) Use tool like Grammarly and Citation Machine to help you catch errors ...

  22. How to Write an Outline in 5 Steps, with Examples

    1. explain basic structure of outline. 2. reiterate how outlines help with paragraph order. B. Alphanumeric system. 1. introduce the alphanumeric system. a. bullet list of each line in alphanumeric system. C. Content written in blurbs. 1. exceptions for sharing with teams. D. Outline indentation.

  23. Understanding the four stages of the creative process

    Stage 1: Preparation The creative process begins with preparation: gathering information and materials, identifying sources of inspiration, and acquiring knowledge about the project or problem at hand.