A process is a series of actions that are followed to some desired end result. In order for the result to be successful, all steps must be followed. Cooking is a process and a recipe is the directions you follow to get a positive end result. If you are baking a cake and skip one of the ingredients or forget to bake the batter at the right temperature, you will not have a tasty or successful final result. This is true for writing too…writing is a process that involves multiple steps that must be completed to create an effective essay.
However, the writing process is more than a set of steps to follow in the right order. Some have broken down the act of writing into steps and tried to suggest a sequence to follow, but the act of writing doesn't follow a straight line. For instance, you may come to your real thesis as you write your conclusion (causing you to backtrack almost to the beginning in the writing process sequence). Writing is recursive; it doubles back upon itself and leaps ahead. If you correct a spelling error as you write your first draft, you have done a proofreading act (a later stage) while you are drafting (an early to middle stage).There are generally five recognized stages in the writing process:
1. Prewriting – in this stage, you plan what you are going to write. You choose your topic, identify your audience and purpose, brainstorm ideas, and organize your information.
2. Drafting – in this stage, you start with a working thesis and then write your ideas in sentences and paragraphs. You follow your prewriting plan to create a first draft of your essay.
3. Revising – This stage involves making changes that will improve your writing. You focus on large-scale elements of the essay, such as, overall organization or logical flow of support, effective thesis statement, interesting introduction and concluding paragraphs, well-developed body paragraphs with clear topic sentences, appropriate tone and style for intended audience and purpose, etc.
4. Editing and Proofreading – this is the stage of your essay where you polish your essay. You focus on smaller-scale yet important essay elements, such as, clarity in sentence structure, appropriate word choice, correct spelling and grammar, and accurate document format.
5. Publishing – in this final stage, you choose a way to present your work to an audience (often this is indicated by your instructor).
As already stated, these steps do NOT need to be completed in this exact order; frequently, in the writing process, you go back and forth between the different stages. A true visual representation of this process may be more circular than linear. It may look something like this example: