Writing : three stages

Remember it is all about and for the reader.

Three stages to writing are

  • pre-writing,
  • writing and editing,
  • post-writing.

Under pre-writing you can place the following:

  • setting a goal,
  • research,
  • the plan,
  • review and
  • confirm the goal.

The writing and editing stage are what most people think about when they think about writing.  If outlines work for you, use them.  work from a suitable model (no one will care if you try to re-invent a wheel already around), ask a peer writer to review your work, ask someone who is a content expert on your subject to review your work, ask someone who matches the knowledge level of your audience to review it.  For your final rereading, try to wait at least twenty four hours, and work on other things to clear your over familiarity with the writing so you can see it with partly refreshed eyes.  Of course, if there is an inhouse style manual, follow it and check it in a separate rereading. Think of your reader through all these stages.


Post-writing is less certain. You might consider if any part of your final piece of finished writing can be recycled as a template, but the most important act is to reread your goal and check that your writing accomplishes what you set out to do.

Goal statement

What’s in your goal statement? It consists of just a few items: What is the purpose of your writing, who is your audience, how knowledgeable are they about your writing subject, after reading your writing is there something specific you want them to do and in what time-frame do you want them to do it. So your goal statement can be a short paragraph of several sentences. Take a little time thinking about it and some care in writng it. Keep it close to hand.  As you write you may want to reread it.

Deadline for completing your writing: one trick I advise you to use is a simple one.  Keep two deadlines firmly in your mind: your official hand over deadline and your private, for your eyes only, early deadline.  Aim for the second of these.  Despite your best intentions and the rigor of your time table planning, stuff happens to steal time from completing your writing piece on the day you have promised to deliver it. Set your private deadline at least three days early and if possible one full week (7 days) early from your official deadline.  Do try to get out of the habit of the stress of racing to finish, it is very bad for your health and not great for your writing.

Post-Writing and checking your goal:  Once everything is done and the work is ready on the day of your private deadline, pull out your goal statement.  Read it and consider if your writing piece fulfills it.  If not, dig back in and add or change what is needed to make them match.

Some Background

Somewhere at some time in a book on writing  I came across this three term handle for describing the writing process.  I wish I could recall where so I could cite that writer.  All the rest is distilled from my experience earning a living as a technical writer for 25 years.  It also applies to “creative writing”.  I have used it to complete several one act plays for a production at the Alumni Theatre of St. Michael’s  College at the University of Toronto a long time ago.  A play called Grass and Snow was ready before rehearsals and opening night, but only just.

A lot of ideawilliam_zinsser_on_writing_well.larges about writing can be found in books on the subject of writing.  Please buy some if not most at full price, but I used to haunt the remainder tables of independent
bookstores in Toronto.  Stores like Edwards had large remainder tables.  Often various business and writing books were set out.  Over the years I have purchased some fifty titles on the subject.  Some good, some bad.  Perhaps the best I came across was On Writing by William Zinsser.  Seek it out, you will be rewarded.


Above all else, give yourself enough time to do good work.

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