Train for the Writing Race Using the 6 Stages to Writing Success

 It used to be when I wrote something, I felt like my words would start to race ahead of my thoughts, going off in a direction I didn’t intend.  Suddenly, I was n a whole new territory.  I wasn’t sure how I got there and I didn’t know where to go next.

 So I had two options.  First, I could keep going and see where I ended up. Sometimes that worked really well.  By the end of the document, some real gems started to shine, and sometimes I even felt proud of what I had accomplished.  But usually, other people described it as unorganized or confusing. 

And often when I tried this approach, I just got stuck.  Nothing came up, and I get frustrated.  So I put the thing to the side and left it there, sometimes for a really long time.  

My other option was to turn around and revisit some of the things I just said, hoping to find that wrong turn when my thoughts started to eclipse my words.  I wanted to recapture that thought and get back on track.  But all too often, the magic was gone.  I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say in the first place.  And again, that piece would end up in the to-do pile (the one that never gets done).

What I’ve learned is that jumping into the writing race is like trying to run a marathon without any training.  You might get off to a good start, but you’re not likely to cross the finish line. 

Thankfully, there are 6 distinct stages to the writing process.  And if you spend time training at each stage, the race is run before you know it.  Those 6 stages are:

Brainstorming—a free wheeling process of discovering the things you’d like to say.

Arranging—putting those things in an order that makes sense.

Selecting—deciding whether to add or subtract any ideas from that list.

Crafting—putting those ideas into language that’s technical or funny or beautiful.

Revising—checking to see that the whole piece flows.

Editing—dotting the t’s i’s and crossing the t’s. 

The stages are kind of fluid.  For example, when you’re selecting, you might have to go back and brainstorm.  Or when you’re revising, you might need to rearrange.  But in a single session, you should just concentrate on one stage, much like runners who spend one workout building endurance and then another strengthening their calves. 

 Writers who train extensively in each of these stages soon discover that they can run through the entire writing race quite quickly.  At least that’s happened for me.  And while I still have a pretty big to-do pile, at least less of it is in that discouraging, half-finished mess.  

Questions?  Feedback?  Leave me a comment, or send me a Tweet @CorpWritingPro


  1. You and your readers might be interested in the “Flowers Paradigm” of how to write more effectively.

    Dr. Betty S. Flowers, a faculty member of the University of Texas English Department, developed this paradigm. She broke down the writing process into four sequential steps based on a “character” or personality that we all have: Madman, Architect, Carpenter, and Judge.

    Christopher Balmford in Clarity No. 43 (May 1999) describes the four characters or personalities as:

    Madman – brainstorms, takes notes; enthusiastic, experimental, and creative.

    Architect – reviews the information the Madman has collected and creates an outline.

    Carpenter – fleshes out the structure by writing the text and producing the drafts.

    Judge – edits and reviews the drafts.

    Each character or personality must not interrupt the others; for example, the Judge must not interrupt the Madman.

    You can read more about the Flowers Paradigm from Bryan Garner’s online book “Garner on Language and Writing”.

    • I love it! Thank you for sharing it here. I’m adding Garner’s book to my reading list.
      Flowers’ paradigm has more personality than my own model, but the intent is the same. Break the process into separate stages, and work on each one with a dedicated energy.

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