There are five steps in the writing process:
As you read about the process, you might find yourself thinking that if you have to go through the entire process every time you write something, it will take you forever to write anything. However, the time required to complete each step varies depending on the nature of the project. For instance, if you are a subject matter expert, you might not have to spend any time on external research. If you write a particular type of document regularly, you might not have to spend much time on preparation; you might even have a template you fill in each time you write.
When writing an article, case study, media release, report or proposal, however, you will spend much more time preparing, researching and organizing. You might even have to produce a formal outline (an integral component of organization) for approval before you start to write. As you write, you might discover some gaps in your knowledge and have to conduct more research and incorporate new material into your outline. When you complete your first draft, you will probably spend considerable time revising to ensure that your writing is as clear, concise, and focused as it can be, and that all points covered in the work reinforce your purpose or reason for writing.
You might have to send your document to an editor or a superior, or even a committee, for feedback and approval. The person reviewing the work will most likely make suggestions and send it back to you for revision. That is to be expected and is all part of the writing process when someone has to approve your work before it goes out the door.
Effective and Efficient
Let’s say that following the writing process means you spend a bit more time producing a document. Allow me to ask you this: Would you rather take a little longer to write a document that achieves what you want to achieve, or take less time and not achieve your purpose? I presume you would rather do the former. If you do not achieve your purpose when you communicate, what’s the point of communicating?
Having said that, I believe that following the writing process will make you a more effective and efficient writer. Most of us get hung up on correct spelling and grammar before we even complete a first draft. That inhibits the process. Spelling and grammar count (although writers sometimes break the rules for effect). But spelling and grammar are the last elements of the process. Efficient writers spend time planning (preparation, research, and organization) before they write. They allocate time for editing (revising and proofreading) after they have written. This leads to producing effective documents—documents that achieve specific purposes. Or, as one University of Toronto study found:
Efficient writers spend 40% of their time planning (preparation, research and organization), 25% writing and 35% revising.
Less-efficient writers spend more time overall on projects and distribute their time differently: 20% planning, 60% writing (tinkering, writing, tinkering), and 20% revising, tinkering, revising.
Less efficient writers don’t plan what they want to write and end up with less satisfactory, or less effective, results. It may seem counterintuitive to say that you can become more efficient if you spend more time planning. However, the time you invest up front in preparation, research and organization pays dividends when it comes time to write.
Think of writing as a trip. If you plan your trip, you are less likely to get lost and more likely to arrive on time. That does not mean you cannot meander as you travel. You can. However, if you meander and your side trip takes you nowhere, you will find it easier to get back on track because you have a road map or, in the case of writing, a process that includes a detailed outline.
[The Writing Process is detailed in many of Paul Lima’s book on business and promotional writing, and writing articles, media releases and social media content. Read more about Paul’s books: http://www.paullima.com/books.%5D