While the writing process typically follows the same pattern, the behaviors observed will vary from person to person. According to Weaver et al., the writing process comprises five elements or topics: prewriting, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing (2). Here, the following topics are important: brainstorming, freewriting, creating an outline, writing the first draft, and editing. Each of these topics is relevant in the writing process, and each can have a significant effect on those who write. Provided below are five observations of actual writing behaviors, for each of the five topics identified above.
Prewriting is the very first, or preliminary, stage of writing. A young student who is prewriting his paper sits down and thinks of choosing the best topic (Weaver et al. 44). It looks as if he is inventing electricity; he seems extremely concentrated and focused on the task. Because prewriting should provide fluency and motivate effective writing, the student will take some time to identify the likeliest topics, subjects or problems that could guide the writing process (Joaquin et al. 157). Suddenly, he takes a pen and writes a few words. Then he turns to the laptop and types several words in his browser, as if trying to locate a suitable topic online. The student raises his head, looking at the ceiling, asking himself if he is ready to focus on any particular subject. He reads and reviews his past assignments to understand if they are good enough to guide the writing process. Reading and writing are the two components of the prewriting process (Weaver et al. 44). The student’s face is beaming: he has found a topic, and he is ready to proceed to writing.
Freewriting means that a person is writing something freely or at random, but in relation to a specific topic or subject (Weaver et al. 45). It is often conceptualized as a form of teaching or learning (Salas et al. 13). Freewriting behaviors were observed in a young female learner who was sitting in class. She was preparing to write an examination essay. She looked relaxed but focused. The overall impression was that she was taking the exercise as an opportunity and a form of academic leisure. She was alone in the classroom, and she had 30 minutes to complete the freewriting exercise. The learner took the pen and started to write. Her head was moving, as if she was rethinking the topic. She smiled, as if she enjoyed the process of freewriting. She whispered “yes” and “great”: an outside observer could tell that she was passionate about the new ideas and possibly expected that they would guide her writing during the exam. She finished writing within 5 minutes and had at least two sheets of paper filled with sentences.
Creating an Outline
Writing an outline is another step. It can have a significant impact on the quality of writing (Hung & Van 451). A student enters this stage with a set of developed ideas and some preliminary research, which certainly helps improve the paper outline. In this observation, the student is at home, developing an outline for his research project. The topic is unknown, but he had spent two days in a row brainstorming, freewriting, and doing preliminary research. The first thing to do is writing a thesis statement. The student is confused, because the thesis should be brief and concise, but the research conducted in the past two days is extensive. Developing a thesis statement that is brief but informative is a challenge. The young man types a few words. He takes a pause and continues. It takes 5 minutes to complete a thesis statement, which will be further revised and refined as the students finds additional information about the topic. Every time the student types the next element of the outline, such as introduction, the first topic sentence, the second topic sentence, and so on – he reviews the article he has managed to locate so far. The outline is very brief and general. It needs to be refined to reflect the complexity of the topic.
Writing the First Draft
Writing the first draft is always a responsible mission. It is the “empty stage”, as Weaver et al. call it (55). A student who is writing the first draft uses a well-developed outline and the articles he has located for his topic. He writes down an introduction, followed by a thesis statement, and stops. Here, he is to decide whether he wants to continue with the first paragraph or focus on the aspect of the paper he knows most about (Weaver et al. 55). After a period of silence, the student begins with the first paragraph, using the outline as a guide. He finished the first paragraph and takes a break. He decides that he has enough time to have a cup of tea, before he continues. He returns to the room and writes the second paragraph. The paper is due within 7 days. The student develops a schedule for writing, editing and revising that he will follow throughout the week. He is eager to follow the schedule to have the paper completed on time. He says that he does not want to miss the deadline, and although the subject is research-intensive, he is eager to complete a few paragraphs a day to stay on track with the project.
Editing and Revising
By the time the first draft is completed, the student has a few days to revise and edit the draft. Revision and reflection can take many forms, but both are inevitable dimensions of effective writing (Lindenman et al. 581). The purpose of revising is to review the ideas, and the purpose of editing is to review how well these ideas have been expressed (Weaver et al. 72). The learner returns to the draft after a two-day break. He thinks that he approaches the task with a “fresh” mind and can have a second look at the paper before it is submitted for grading. He is nervous and insists that no one disturbs him as he is writing. He pretends that he is a listener and reads the paper aloud. It is a preliminary stage, before the paper is edited and revised. When reading aloud, the student takes notes and outlines areas that he believes need further editing and proofreading. He uses question marks where he thinks the paper sounds vague and inconsistent. He believes that more research is needed to substantiate the topic. He takes another break before he is ready to revise the paper and submit it.
All behaviors observed in the writing process are unique. However, they also share common features. For example, most students use freewriting as an opportunity to elaborate on the topic. Outlining is also a popular activity. As for writing, drafting, editing and revising, steps and approaches may vary. Some students will rush to edit their papers before it is too late, while others will take some time to review and analyze their works. Either way, writing is a lengthy process that encompasses many stages, decisions and actions. Students can follow academic recommendations and ask for tutor advice to improve their writing behaviors and achieve better academic learning outcomes.