On Writing Process: The Essential Nine Phases (Part 2)

Part 2 of 3

When we last left off, we were considering how the key stages of observing, reading, and mulling (over) figured into the “Essential Nine Phase of the Writing Process.” Again, this multi-phased process acknowledges the key phases that writers pass through during the entirety of their writing process. The next three stages, drafting, revising, and rereading, are also key to the overall process.

Let’s take a look:


“…the phases of drafting, revising, and rereading form the heart of the writing process.”

4.  Drafting

In the beginning, there is the first draft. Few things are as pure.

This initial piece of writing is raw in the sense of being new and authentic. Ideally during this stage, the writer gets caught up in the writing itself. No overthinking. No doubting or judging. Just pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Pure unadulterated writing. The drafting phase is the free fall, the jump off. It is here that a writer lets loose and allows that blend of whatever imagination, memory, and intent are at work within their psyche.

Included in this mix is the reach towards genre, and whatever figures into the genre of your choosing. Maybe research, maybe form. So many famous writers have offered their take on the writing of the first draft. I adhere to the words of John Steinbeck, who recommended that writers simply, “write fast.” My take on this is to write as quickly as possible, without overthinking, so that the ideas flow before they fade and risk being lost. This doesn’t work for everyone. So, it is important that you experiment and pay attention to what works best for you in terms of getting down that initial flow of images, details, and insights.

5. Revising

Revising is akin to revisiting your first draft. Depending on your take on things, this phase can be one of the more enjoyable phases in your writing process. This is where you return, skim through, and work through your first draft forms.. You make revisions, add a line here or there, delete or develop a detail or image. It is during the revision phase when you’ll look for those openings within your writing that offer the chance to further delve in and explore, expand. It is here where the opportunity to develop an image, a character, a description makes itself available if, you are paying attention. Revision is a necessary and vital phase, so give yourself permission to dwell here in a mindful manner. As you revise you’ll revisit the original piece, your either add to what’s already there, or cut, cross out and delete for the purpose of developing a stronger working draft. It is here where you decide whether or not to commit to taking a draft further.

6.  Rereading

Rereading is the careful and mindful reading aloud of the original, slightly revised piece. This may take place in the form of a quick, subdued read, or a more energized reading. It may be something you do aloud in the company of only yourself or it may be an opportunity you share with a trusted writer friend or family member. However it plays out, the goal is to read the piece aloud for the purpose of listening to cadences and flow.

Where and how does your writing move? Does it stumble or falter? If so, you’ll recognize those areas as needing more work. Does it glide or roll? You’ll celebrate those areas and use their energy as you further revise other segments of the piece. Your editor’s eye and ear should be actively at work here. The rereading phase allows the writer to really listen to the cadence of things and whether or not the writing is as clear as is intended.

A common mistake many writers make is not recognizing that their intended idea may not be transferring as clearly as was intended, onto the page. This reading and rereading phase helps bring the writer's intention in line with the manner in which the words come across to a reader. Numerous, mindful readings and re-readings help with clarity and intent, no doubt.

To any writer, the phases of drafting, revisiting, rereading, form the heart of the writing process. It is here where the writer charts a beginning, a benchmark from which to start and a place from which to move forward. Hopefully as you move through your own writing process you will honor and allot ample time to thee essential phases of drafting, revisiting, and rereading. Your writing will only benefit from your commitment.

~Judith Lagana

Next: Refining, Finalizing, Sharing, Phases 7, 8, & 9 (Part 3 of 3)


Judith Lagana is the founder and co-editor of River Heron Review.
Visit her on
Instagram. Twitter, and her web site.

Why Writing (and Submitting) Poetry is Not for the Faint of Heart

You might not consider bravery a key character trait of most poets you know. Yet, it is.  Any poet who is writing regularly and submitting work to boot, is exhibiting a type of bravery that frankly, just does not get enough press.  So let’s talk.

As if it is not enough to write. As if it is not enough to independently craft, collaboratively workshop, and publicly read your work, if you even have access to, or are engaged in, such opportunities while “living the poet’s life."  The very act of writing poetry requires, what I consider, that seemingly magical blend of courage, commitment, time, and imagination. Couple this with the ability to tap into the details of the present moment or the perceptions from the past, and you have some brave writing taking place.  And we have not even touched upon what happens when lyricism, form, and craft are woven into the mix.

Once a poet has gotten to the point where they have generated a fair amount of work, it stands to reason that the next stage in the journey is to send out submissions to journals and contests.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Now chances are if you are reading this post, you may already be well-seasoned with the submission process, so maybe it is not a big deal to you. But it once was.

By this I mean that everyone is a beginner at some point. Everyone is new to the process of submitting work and being at the receiving end of either a rejection or an acceptance.  And when a poet is just beginning to send out their poetry, receiving a rejection can cause a range of reactions, from subtle disappointment to a stinging sense of dread. This is where resiliency comes in. To be a poet, you must be brave. But you must also be resilient.  Those of us who are further down the road in terms of experience in sending out work have learned to remain undeterred, no matter the number of rejections we receive. We have developed thick skins, take nothing personally, and just get on with things by moving ahead to the next submission deadline on our Duotrope favorite’s list.   

That’s not to say that if a poem is repeatedly rejected, we won’t taken another critical look at it.  But experience teaches us that rejection is part of the submissions game and is not always a commentary on our overall work or on ourselves.  In the interim, while we are waiting for editorial responses, we do what we must to further our own practice. We write. We study form and craft. We review our own work with a critical eye. We read the work of other poets. We become braver by further readying our work for future submissions.

Maybe you have had your fair share of acceptances and rejections and recognize the highs and lows of the submission process.  Maybe you understand that acceptances and rejections have to do with a variety of things including the quality of the poems you submit, the experience and expectations of the often multi-levels of readers who come into contact with your work, and the needs of the magazine.

Some journals publish based on the quality of each poem and the accompanying resume of the poet. Others, like RHR, read without knowing the identity of the poet, and judge solely on the quality of the work received.  Part of the submission process demands that poets do their homework and learn about the magazines to which are submitting work. Review the writer’s guidelines. Check out past issues, or, in the case of new magazines, read up on editorial mission statements and expectations. Then, oh, brave poet, make a decision regarding which magazine or journal would offer the best home for your work.  

Here is hoping that you have either a strong constitution or a supportive mentor offering encouragement when those initial rejections come through.  Because for most of us (self included), they will. But how awesome is it, regardless, that you are sending out work?  There is much value in being not only a skilled poet, but also a resilient one. And that is something if you have not yet learned through other areas of your life, you may very well learn by sending out your poetry and being rejected.  The acceptances come easy and are wonderful and are always a surprise. An acceptance is definitely something not to be taken for granted. But it is a rejection that will challenge you. The more seasoned you become in the submission process, the better you understand this.

So what is the message here? At this point in RHR's year, we have just closed our first submissions window. Robbin and I were both honored and taken by the quality and number of poems that were sent our way. We sent out our fair share of acceptances and rejections. But throughout our process, we were reminded that at the opposite end of every digital submission was a human being. A person who was brave in their approach to their work and who bravely honored us by submitting poetry to RHR. And in turn, we made decisions based on a thoughtful consideration of every poem. 

So we wish for each of you, as you move onward on your unique poet's journey, that you continue to be brave in your approach to your work and that you submit only to  journals and contests you deem worthy enough to offer your work a safe home.  Such is the responsibility of the brave and resilient poet. Again, it is not for the faint of heart. 

~Judith Lagana


“There is much value in being not only a skilled poet, but also a resilient one.”

from “Not for the Faint of Heart”