The Writing Process

imgres-2“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: when you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”  –Elmore Leonard

I’ve taught writing in various capacities to hundreds of students, from 3rd graders to graduate students. There are numerous systems designed to teach kids how to write, all claiming to be “the way.” I prefer to teach the following paradigm, as it provides a fantastically solid foundation. This is a universal approach that works with all ages, so don’t hesitate to cut, paste and modify my words into a useful reference for yourself or your students. Good authors consciously or unconsciously use this basic process for everything they write. I hope it serves you!

SPECIAL NOTE: Philosophically speaking, when teaching writing I see it as my job to facilitate a love for writing first and foremost. Everything else will come later if a student learns to love and value the art of writing. On the other hand, if a student can write “in the box” perfectly, gets high scores of standardized tests, has perfect spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc. but has not developed a love for writing, as far as I’m concerned his/her teachers have done an appalling disservice.


Carefully consider who you writing for. Take your time to thoughtfully imagine your audience and how best to communicate with them.


What are you trying to make the reader feel, think or do? Refer back to your audience and purpose ideas throughout the writing process.

Step 1. PLAN (aka Pre-writing)

This is the most important part of the process and requires a bit of time. This is also the most underused part of the process. When people don’t plan thoughtfully, writing becomes disorganized and goes in too many directions. Use any of the following to plan: Brainstorms, think, imagine, visualize, lists, graphic organizers, outlines, webs, post its, talk it out with someone, talk ideas on an audio recorder, note cards or anything else that helps plan writing.

Step 2. DRAFT

Get it on paper in an organized manner. The focus is on expanding your “plan” ideas into sentences and paragraphs, NOT on perfection. Allow messy crossouts, eraser marks, arrows, markups, etc. all over the draft.

Step 3. REVISE

Polish your ideas, check that your purpose is being met. Authors revise many, many times.

Step 4. EDIT

Polish MUGS (mechanics, usage, grammar, spelling).


Aka “final draft.” Get it as perfect as possible. Neat, organized, ready for a reader to read. Make sure the paper fulfills your purpose for your audience. Add a cover page.


  1. Well written and thought out , add to this the idea that if the teacher has taught the student to love the art of writing as reading great authors , and the student is encouraged rather then critiqued and shamed in to thinking he is not good enough , he may accomplish much. Even Albret Einstein was not great in school but thankfully he did not go by the good opinion of other people. We really do need to start to think outside the box because the box has not taken us far enough as of late. Keep plugging away at this idea til the owners that be get an open mind.

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