The Recursive Writing Process

The Recursive Writing Process Video

Author Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

But how do you go about writing an essay, a story, or a novel? How do you even get started? One method of writing that can help is the recursive writing process.

The recursive writing process can be broken down into four simple steps:

  1. Prewriting
  2. Drafting
  3. Revising
  4. Editing

Because this process is recursive, you can revisit old steps after you’ve moved on to the editing process.


Prewriting happens before a single word goes on the page. This includes things like choosing a topic. Are you going to write about something you know personally? Are you writing about a historical event? Maybe your topic is fictional!

Whatever you choose to write about, you will need to do some brainstorming. How long will it be? What format will it be in? Will you have dialogue, or will it be a research paper with citations?

Every type of writing requires different preparation. For a research paper, you might need to find online sources, peer-reviewed journals, or even interviews of experts on the topic. A science-fiction story might need research into how things like lasers and spacecraft work. Historical fiction might have you looking into styles of dress and manners of that time period.

Using an outline will help you break down and organize the different parts of your paper. There may be changes as you go along, but an outline helps you visualize your writing as a whole so it doesn’t end up choppy and confusing for the reader to follow.


Once you finish your outline, it’s time to write your first draft. When you start writing, you do not have to start with the intro. Sometimes it is easier and better to start in the middle of your paper and add the intro in later.

You can break down your middle into different points or different sources. Having one paragraph per source is usually the way to go. This makes it easy for the reader to pay attention to each source individually while still being aware of how all the sources come together to make sense of the overall topic.


Once your first draft is complete, you’ll need to start revising. Revising is the point at which you start polishing up your work. You should start to cut things out of your work and add clarity to it. Sentences that go nowhere, unneeded descriptions, and repetitive words need to be removed. If ideas can be condensed from a paragraph to a sentence, do it! Unless you have a mandatory word count, less with clarity is much better than more with repetition.

It can be very helpful to have a friend read your paper during this stage. Does everything make sense to them? Can they give you a summary of what you wrote about easily, or is there too much going on for them to grasp it all? If your reader can’t summarize what you wrote, then they typically did not understand what you wrote.


Editing is making your writing polished and ready to be presented. Now is the time to use spell check, grammar check, and even search for improperly used words that often get overlooked.

Check over your citation use, and make sure each separate idea gets its own paragraph. Also, check your use of transition words!

Editing is the last step; you should not worry about editing your paper until everything else is ready to go.

This is when you correct any tiny mistakes you may have missed and add your title. Chapter headings, bibliographies, and all additional pages should be added in the editing process if they have not been created yet. If you have guidelines you need to follow, such as font size, margin width, and spacing this is also the time to give those a final look over.

Once your paper is edited, you’re done! These four steps of the recursive writing process seem easy once you get to the end, but they are a huge help when you are getting started. So whether you are writing an essay for school or working on the next bestselling novel, you can use the recursive writing process to make your writing flow.

Thanks so much for watching. See you next time and, as always, happy studying!


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: July 27, 2023