Composing Process

The process through which the writer passes to produce an effective piece of writing varies with the writer and the writing task, but this summary describes the process through which most effective writers pass most of the time.


  • Collect. Effective writing requires an abundant inventory of specific, accurate information. Information is collected through reading, interviewing, observing, and remembering.

  • Connect. Meaning emerges as pieces of information connect and evolve into patterns. The writer plays with the relationships between pieces of information to discover as many patterns of meaning as possible.

  • Rehearse. Mentally and on paper, the writer uses writing to explore and move toward meaning. The writer rehearses titles, leads, partial drafts, sections of a potential piece, or sketches of a piece of writing to discover the voice and the form that will lead to meaning and effective communication.


  • Draft. The writer completes a discovery draft, usually written as fast as possible, often without notes, to find out what he/she knows and does not know, what works and does not work. The writer is particularly interested in what works, since most effective writing is built from extending and reinforcing the positive elements in what has been written.


  • Develop. The writer explores the subject by developing each point through definition, description, and documentation which show as well as tell the writer, and then the reader, what the piece of writing means. The writer usually needs to add information to understand the potential meaning of what has been written and often must restructure the successive drafts.

  • Clarify. The writer anticipates and answers the readers' questions. At this stage the writer cuts what is unnecessary and adds those spontaneous touches we call "style." These changes produce the illusion of easy writing that makes for easy reading.

  • Edit. The writer goes over the piece line by line, often reading aloud, to make sure that each word, each mark of punctuation, contributes to the effectiveness of the piece of writing.

[Adapted from Reigstad and McAndrew, Training Tutors for Writing Conferences (1984)]