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The writing process

Learn more about aspects of the writing process to help you stay motivated and on track with your writing.

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Welcome to the writing process

How does writing work? What really happens between finding a reason to write and completing and submitting your writing to someone else for them to read, or evaluate, or respond to?

As it happens, although there are some common elements involved in nearly everyone's writing, you are better placed than others to know the most about how you write. So rather than answering the question "How do you write?" or telling you everything you need to do when you write, this guide introduces several tools and strategies to address specific challenges, each of which may differ from writer to writer, or may even depend on the unique circumstances and difficulties involved in individual writing projects (Chase, 1987, p. 30).

For example, because writing an email and writing a thesis have different standards and goals, the challenges or "problems" writers have to "solve" in each case will not be the same, and the common elements involved in both projects--such as writing grammatically correct sentences--may not have the same emphasis and may not even be completed in the same order (Flower & Hayes, 1977, p. 450). 

In other words, you may not find yourself completing all the steps in this guide with every assignment in the exact order they are listed here, and that's okay. You already have methods and strategies as a writer that are part of who you are and how you write; in this guide, we're aiming to help you learn more about yourself as a writer and provide suggestions that will complement what already works for you.

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Chase, G. (1987). Problem-solving in the Writing Center: From theory to practice. The Writing Center Journal, 7(2), 29-35. 

Flower, L., & Hayes, J. (1977). Problem-solving strategies and the writing process. College English. 39(4), 449-461.

Flower, L., & Hayes, J. (1981). A cognitive process theory of writing. College Composition and Communication. 32(4), 365-387.

What's in this guide?

The sections in this guide outline strategies in the order that may be most relevant at different points in the writing process, from starting to finishing your paper. However, the strategies in each section may be relevant at almost any point while you are writing, depending on your needs and what you might find challenging during your writing process. For example, if you are working on a very large project, the specific learning outcome of Completing Major Writing Projects may be more important to you than exploring the tools under Generating Ideas since you will likely have already developed the main focus of your project. 

Topics Learning outcomes
Understanding your needs Increase your self-awareness in order to identify your strengths and challenges in your own writing process.
Determining expectations Learn how to identify and act on specific assignment deliverables in assignment descriptions.
Setting goals Improve productivity in your writing process with intentional goal setting.
Generating ideas

Draw on your reflections, questions, and creative strategies for inspiration and ideas.

Making progress

Identify, understand, and overcome barriers to motivation and progress when writing gets tough.

Finishing on time

Strategically manage time constraints in order to finish writing tasks on schedule.

Share your knowledge Explore suggestions from other writers and contribute your own tips!

If you are interested in understanding and following recommended methods and steps involved in the academic writing process, many of these are covered in Developing your Essay, as well as in How to Write A Graduate-Level Essay and How to Write an Undergraduate-Level Essay. If you are interested in figuring out how you write, how you can make the most out of your own writing strategies, and you are curious about the writing process in general, the next sections describe some of the methods those experienced writers use in order to write successfully. By learning from and using some of these strategies, you will have more options available to try out the next time you are working on a writing project.