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The 8-Step Writing Process

Posted on Monday, October 29, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Is your writing process cheating your readers?

By Peter P. Jacobi

I've been thinking about process.

A number of you, along with those who create copy for you, probably practice the "rush" process, at least some of the time. I know I do.

Rush results from one or the other of two emotional approaches to writing. One approach is to avoid writing your story by putting the task off until the last possible moment, which leads to your completing the assignment in a rush to meet the deadline. The other is to get the writing done as quickly as possible because you want to get it out of the way, leading you to rush the task, thereby freeing you to get on to other tasks.

Both approaches result from a non-desire to write. Both suggest writing is an obligation, a chore, rather than an opportunity, a welcomed activity. Both get in the way of effective writing.

I can understand the problem, because writing is an endeavor difficult to like because it's hard. For most of us, it's demanding, even grinding. So, we tell ourselves, "Just let me get it done as painlessly as possible" or "Let me put it off until tomorrow and not have to face the issue today."

I've done both, from time to time, because -- to be honest -- I don't like to write. I really, truly don't.

Instead, fortunately, across the years, I've come to love writing, a feeling that compels me to head for the notepad or typewriter or computer. Still, I falter. There are days and/or there are assignments that cause me to tell myself, "I really don't want to do this," which -- because I have to -- brings on the rush, either the get-it-done kind or the I'll-wait-to-get-it-done-tomorrow.

Either way, what we're doing is cheating ourselves and cheating our readers. We're probably doing a lousier job, which may take more editing and leave us dissatisfied, thus cheating ourselves. We're probably doing a lousier job, shaping a story that lacks completeness and refinement, thus cheating our readers.

All of the above occurs because either we momentarily forget or momentarily ignore what we know about writing: It's a process. A process requires time. It requires care and method. The writing process comes in eight parts, none of which should be overlooked.

Step 1


You need an idea, a subject that you feel needs to be done or that, for a legitimate reason, you want to do. Have an idea clearly in your mind before you move forward. Everything that follows will be easier because the right idea sets the right course.

Step 2


Think carefully about your reader and how, to best serve him or her, you should apply the idea and have it come to fruitful life. Make sure the idea fits the wants and/or needs of your reader.

Step 3

Tie Idea and Reader

Take an additional step; strive to tie idea and reader together, this by fashioning a concept, meaning a more specific subject, an idea narrowed into a circumscribed and focused topic, one you think is tailor-made for that reader of yours.

Step 4

Gather Information

Do your information gathering, your reporting, your researching, your observing, your experiencing, your interviewing. The more thoughtfully and thoroughly you gather, the more useful information you'll have to choose from, thereby potentially giving the reader a better, richer, more complete product.

Step 5


Study the material you've gathered. Determine content. Decide what to use and how to use it. Select in what's interesting and important and will develop the story's purpose. Select out what's not and won't.

Step 6


Design your article-to-be. Give it an architecture, a form, a shape, a structure. Work for sense of direction and informational flow.

Step 7


Only then at that point, write.

Step 8


Test what you've written for correctness, clarity, concision, cohesion, completeness, and communicative comfort. Test it with eyes and ears. Help yourself by reading the copy aloud, that way to better catch what's wrong or weak.

The process consists of eight steps.

--Don't skip.

--Don't shortchange.

--Don't rush.

Peter P. Jacobi is a Professor Emeritus at Indiana University. He is a writing and editing consultant for numerous associations and magazines, speech coach, and workshop leader for various institutions and corporations. He can be reached at 812-334-0063.

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