Prewriting

Prewriting is a stage in the invention process wherein the writer, speaker, knowledge worker . . . prepares to write. It’s the thinking about a topic the writer does before starting to write. Prewriting is the liminal space between thinking about working on a project and actually engaging in the work.

During prewriting, writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . engage in informal research. They may jot down notes on what they write on post their reviews on social media sites like Goodreads.


Compositionists, the subject matter experts who study composing and creativity, conceptualize prewriting as a stage of composing in which people prepare to write. This stage could be compared to the practice field for athletes, where people do stretches and strengthening exercises.

Writers differ in how frequently or deeply they engage in prewriting. When a topic is new to a writer or emotionally challenging, they may need to engage in additional exploratory thinking.

Prewriting vs Invention

Prewriting and Invention are overlapping concepts: In the classical rhetoric, the rhetor was presumed to be embedded in a particular situation where a call to write has been pitched: an exigency, a problem has arisen. In this scenario, the rhetor’s next move is to find the available modes of persuasion.

Prewriting, however, presupposes a different situation: During prewriting, the rhetor isn’t so much looking for the available means of persuasion as they are looking to educate themselves about a topic and to come up with a plan for composing a work.