The writing process - prewriting

This page has information and advice about the prewriting stage of the writing process.

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Prewriting is the first stage of the writing process, and includes all the things you do before you are ready to write out the first version of your text.

If your teacher is setting the writing assignment, make sure that you understand exactly what you have to do. Otherwise, the best way to start is to ask yourself the questions listed below.

What shall I write about?

This is a question about the topic or theme of your writing. If you choose something that moves you in some way, your writing is more likely to be interesting to the reader.

Why do I want to write about it?

This is a question about the purpose of your writing, and it is linked to the first question. Here are some of the possible purposes you may have for a piece of work:

  • to explain
  • to inform/instruct
  • to describe
  • to narrate
  • to persuade
  • to move
  • to amuse/entertain

What kind of writing shall I do?

This is a question about the genre of your work. Here are some of the genres you could choose from:

  • short story
  • poem
  • letter
  • narrative
  • news story
  • essay
  • book/film review
  • report
  • biography

Who am I writing it for?

This is a question about the audience for your writing. For example: Will it be posted on a bulletin board? Do you want to publish it in a school magazine or on an internet blog? Is it a letter addressed to the leader of the student council?

Pre-writing activities

When you have answered these questions, you are ready to start planning your writing. Depending on your topic, you can collect ideas and make notes by doing one or more of the following activities:

  • thinking/brainstorming
  • reading and researching
  • observing
  • interviewing
  • discussing
  • imagining/fantasizing
  • note-taking


The final task of the prewriting stage is to organize your ideas and notes into a logical order. You may find it helpful to write an outline or use some kind of chart or table to organize the information you have collected. You are now ready for the next stage of the writing process: composing.

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