I've always felt that the writing process as it is usually taught (brainstorming, organizing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) does not truly reflect the actual process of writing. We treat writing like a list of steps to be checked off when done. As I was writing pieces and papers about the writing process and how important it was, I realized that I wasn't using the writing process as it is traditionally taught.
So, I've revamped it to make it less linear and more messy. I may have more revisions on this piece (see how messy writing is!), but here are my thoughts in the most final form I can muster as this point.
Topic and Idea Development
In this first stage, the writer needs to first figure out what he is writing about. This is selecting a topic. As he starts to form his topic, he is also developing the ideas that may or may not be including in the writing piece. This concurrent process - selecting topics and developing ideas - help in selecting the best topic. After all, he would not select a topic for which he could not come up with any ideas for. In this way, the writer may go back and forth between selecting a topic and develping ideas until a final topic is selected. When the final topic is selected (and this is not to say that a writer couldn't - at any stage in the whole process - change his mind and begin a new topic), he then begins to develp ideas and organize them into what may make a decent structure considering the form and content of the writing piece. The writer moves onto the next stage of the Messy Writing Process when he feels that he has the ideas and organization that allow him to begin drafting. This stage may or may not involve writing any of these thoughts down. Personally, this stage usually occurs mentally and only when I feel that I have my ideas develped and organized enough to draft do I start to write my thoughts down. Students must be taught different methods for topic selection, idea development, and organization -- and be allowed to use the methods that work best for them. Our jobs as writing teachers is to simply give them a tool box - this may mean having them practice different techniques, but the choice is up to them which ones they use for their writing process.
Writing and Revising
Continued Idea Development and (Re)Organization
Proofreading and Adding Style
This stage is the most non-linear and messy of them all. ALL of these steps occur in all different order - depending on the writer, the task, and the context of the task. By no means, should the above list be considered 'steps'. These occur in the most messy of fashions. All through the process, the writer continues to develop ideas and organize his thoughts. He may develop more ideas as (1) part of the natural writing process - as he writes, something else comes to mind - and (2) as a deliberate brainstorming when he reaches a wall or feels he needs to push his thoughts. Just like the Topic and Idea Develpment stage, this continued idea develpment may occur mentally or physically (on paper). Drafting is simply the act of putting thoughts down on paper in sentence and paragraph form. Again, continued idea development may occur as a natural part of this process (too often, students shut off the voice in their head that gives them new ideas because it is not in their prescribed outline). Writers may also (Re)Organize their thoughts as they draft. (Re)Organizing means that writers change their original organization or a new organization develops organically as part of the drafting process. Soliciting feedback could mean two things: (1) bouncing ideas off other people or discussing a topic (this is, in reality, an idea development technique), and (2) giving someone else a draft for their opinions. These opinions may or may not be used in revising, which is changing words already written down in the drafting stage. A writer may, after getting feedback, go back to the drawing board completely rip up a draft and recommence idea development. All during this process, the writer is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating word choices and use of language. In this stage, the ideas are of the utmost concern and should be the first priority, but it is 'okay' (and completely natural) for a writer to be drafting/revising and proofreading and adding style to the writing. The latter is particularly important.
As teachers, we have made the biggest mistake in making this stage of the process linear. In writing conferences with students, I've commented on a particular paragraph that needs to have more depth and development and I suggest some brainstorming. They look at me like I'm crazy and say, "But I already brainstormed!" This stage is a constant barrage of develping ideas, getting feedback, evaluating what's been written, writing, re-writing, and scratching out. In an attempt to teach students that writing is a process (certainly, a valuable lesson), we've completely screwed the process up. We've tried to make it clean and 'teachable', but we've come up with a process that probably hinders students more than it helps. Writing is messy. That's okay. Good writers are messy writers.
Proofreading and Adding Style
In this stage, the writer is nearing completion of the piece. He has stopped the revising and soliciting of feedback. He is now just putting the finishing touches on the piece, making sure that the i's are dotted and the t's crossed. He may add some style changes here and there, but he is probably not going to revise whole chunks of text. This is a step that writing students often skip entirely. When they are finished revising based on feedback, they rarely go back and read it as a reader, not as the writer of the piece. They don't stop and take the time to see if the piece is 'clean' and 'enjoyable'. This is an important step, and we need to give students the tools to complete this step. The work done during this step could make the difference between and 'okay' piece of writing and a fantastic one.