Although we’ve mentioned that writers often work recursively—that is, frequently switching between drafting, editing, proofreading, and so on—it is useful to break the writing process into different functions or activities. To that end, we have divided it into eight smaller processes: Planning and Prewriting, Collaborating, Researching, Drafting, Editing, Reviewing, Revising, and Publishing.
Prewriting and Organizing
Writers generally plan their documents in advance. This stage, often called “prewriting,” includes everything from making a tentative outline, brainstorming, or chatting with friends or peers about the topic. For some writers, the prewriting stage is mostly mental—they think about their projects, but do not write until they are ready to start the actual document. Others plan extensively and map out exactly how they want their document to look when it's finished.
This chapter describes common planning and prewriting strategies and should help you “hit the ground running” when starting out your writing projects.
Writers frequently require reliable information to support their documents. A writer’s personal opinions and experience are sufficient evidence for many types of documents, but audiences will often demand more. Seeking out the information required to support your writing is called “research,” and it comes in many forms.
One form of research is the interview, in which you call up or meet with someone who has information on the topic you are pursuing. Another type, “field research,” involves travel to places where the topic can be studied first-hand. You might also circulate a survey. These three examples are all part of what is called “primary research”—research you conduct yourself.
While many writing teachers assign primary research to their students in the process of writing a “research paper,” much of the research that writing at the college level asks you to do is “secondary research”—exploring other people's writing in the form of books, scholarly journals, newspapers, magazines, websites, and government documents.
This chapter describes different research strategies and provides you with the tools you’ll need to properly back up the claims you make in your writing.
Drafting means writing or adding to a piece of writing—composing it. It may seem like a straightforward process but can often be made difficult by writer’s block or other anxieties.
Revising and Editing
Revising is making the changes you or your reviewers determine are necessary during the writing process. Revising is hard work, but it’s probably some of the most valuable work you can do to become a better writer. Dive into the task with the willingness to wrestle with your writing and bring out the best in it, and you will learn why revising is often considered the “meat” of the writing process.
You can’t edit what hasn’t been written. That’s why editing comes after drafting. For our purposes, it’s important to distinguish between deciding what needs to be improved and actually making the changes. We’ll call the decision-making process “editing” and making the changes the “revising” process. Unlike publishers, who hire professional editors to work with their writers, student writers do most of their own editing, with occasional help from peer reviewers.
This chapter examines the revision and editing process and identifies some strategies that will help you improve your documents and reduce the likelihood of creating even bigger problems. This chapter will also cover proofreading, or carefully scanning a document for typos and other simple errors and provides strategies for improving your text.
Having other people review your writing is essential to producing the best piece you possibly can. We often don’t make the best readers of our own work because we are so close to it. Reviewers, on the other hand, bring valuable perspective we can’t get any other way. A reviewer is anyone who is willing to look at your work and provide feedback. You’re a reviewer, too—of others’ texts.
This chapter explains how to successfully review a document as well as how to make the most of the feedback you receive from other reviewers.
What’s the point of writing if no one will ever read it? Though some of us are content to write diaries or notes to ourselves, most writers desire for others to read and hopefully enjoy or benefit from their documents. This is where publishers come in: They help connect writers to readers. The Internet has introduced countless new ways for writers to publish their own documents electronically, but print publishing is still the preferred avenue for most professional writers. Of course, getting your documents accepted for publication can be a long and frustrating ordeal. We've all heard the stories of now-famous novelists who were rejected time and time again by unimaginative or overly-cautious publishers. In lower-level college classes, “publishing” is most likely to be in the form of submission to instructors. At the graduate level, however, many students do seek to publish their theses and dissertations.