A Writer’s Three-Week Trajectory

material adapted from Dr. Gregory Fraser’s handout,

“Three-Week, Twelve-Step Writing Trajectory”


Because writing is an “unruly” process, I urge you to set up a schedule using this trajectory that will help you navigate this process and give you plenty of time to reach your full potential on each assignment.



  1. Receive the assignment

Ä  Know the assignment: its guidelines, expectations for length, form, etc.

Ä  Ask questions!

  1. Try to settle on a driving question or “problem,” asking yourself:

Ä  Is this question or query well sized for the length of the assignment?

Ä  Does this question truly interest me, and will it continue to interest me over the next few weeks?

Ä  Will this question drive me to deeper levels of critical inquiry? Consider the strategy of moving from more “obvious” to more complex responses to your driving question

  1. Revisit the text with your question(s) in mind

Ä  The text might lead you to new insights in your analytical inquiry

Ä  Keep the all-important “questioning mentality” alive—be open to new directions

  1. Respond to your driving question(s)

Ä  Brainstorm responses on paper

Ä  Research, when necessary and appropriate to the assignment (key idea: your research should complement, not control, your thinking)

Ä  Respond to your driving question in the form of a thesis statement (key idea: remember, the thesis idea may take more than one sentence to establish, sometimes even more than a paragraph or more … keeping length requirements in mind)—refer to “Thesis Construction” online handout for assessment “protocols”



  1. Compose a draft

Ä  You might do this in multiple stages, composing an outline first, or body paragraphs before you write the introduction … whatever works for you.

Ä  Continue to ask questions as you write (see “Questioning as We Write” online handout)

  1. Get an outside assessment of your draft

Ä  Commentary from your instructor or the Writing Center

Ä  In-class peer review



  1. Revise and then Polish

Ä  Revise your writing based on the feedback you’ve received

Ä  Revisit those areas that could be more persuasive

Ä  Keep pushing yourself to raise local-level questions that might stimulate new ideas

Ä  Finally, polish the essay: revise for style, clarity, and mechanics


Remember that our trajectory is “recursive.” If you run into obstacles or find opportunities for revision along the way, you may need or want to return to previous steps in the process. In other words, steps on this trajectory can “recur.”