The Writing Process

Last night I logged in on Facebook and one of the first posts I read was from a former student, celebrating the fact she had just completed her first essay of the school year.

As I read her post, I wondered what her topic was and if anything I had taught her had helped her complete the assignment. Which prompts me to consider, what do I hope my students remember from my writing lessons?

One thing I hope made an impression on them is my deep love and passion for writing. I know not all students shared it, which is no criticism of them. Each individual is gifted in unique ways, and I understand my passion for writing is one of the things that makes me unique. Different students have different gifts. (Another of my former students is writing and recording his own music cd!)

But what did I teach that I hope would be a help to every one of them?

It’s hard to narrow the possibilities down to just one thing. However, today, I hope what I taught them about the writing process will remain with them and assist them for many years to come.

I studied to become a teacher after nearly twenty years as a parent and writer. I’d always intended to be a teacher, but I had also wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so teaching had to wait.

When I returned to study education, language arts education in particular, I was delighted to find teachers were training students in the writing process.

No one had ever taught me a coherent writing process, not in my K-12 years or four years at UC Berkeley as an English major. Different teachers had talked about different parts of it, but no one had presented a full-fledged model that my fellow students and I could use. As a result, I had to develop a process of my own.

Therefore I was delighted to discover schools were now teaching young people the writing process, and that my writing process nearly mirrored what was being taught!

Writing, in some form or another, can hardly be avoided in our culture. From analysis and reports at work to messages to loved ones, or posting on social networks, we all need to write some time. So what are the principles I taught my students?

First, think about what you want to say. During this pre-write stage, jot down ideas and gather information. Organize the ideas and information you plan to use it.

Second, write a rough draft. Do not worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation, just get your ideas down on paper in sentence, and possibly, though not necessarily, paragraph form.

For any project of importance, set your rough draft aside for a day or so then move on to the revision stage. Read what you have written. Consider where you have done a good job conveying your thoughts and ideas. Consider, also, areas where your writing may seem less clear. You can rethink the order in which you presented your material. You can move things around, add, and delete.

When you are pretty comfortable with the presentation of your writing, do an edit. Go over it carefully to correct for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Finally, comes the “publishing” stage. Make a clean, final copy of your writing following whatever standards or guidelines may apply to the type of writing you are doing.

Ta-dah! You are done. Share your writing with others.

Depending on the project, you may spend more or less time in any of the various steps of the process. One thing you can count on, however, having a process will make whatever you attempt to write more manageable and guarantee you present your best effort with the final product.