My Writing Process

I hesitate to even bring up the subject of writing process because it is such a varied and personal routine (or lack thereof) for every writer. Yet, in every interview with a writer there is always a question about a writer’s process. Writers want to know how other successful writers have gotten their stories down, as if it is the process that is the magical key to “making it” rather than the story and characters and skill, and some good luck.

Even though I don’t try to copy another writer’s process, I am still curious to learn how they conduct their writing life, and I’m sure readers are also interested in learning how writers have put together a world that has amazed them and taken over their lives for a short time.

My writing process is a bit different than most I’ve read, so I thought I’d share it just for fun.

The steps:

  1. I write copious unorganized notes and type and organize them until I’ve come to a point where I feel comfortable with the plot and characters—like it’s all come alive.
  2. I make a basic outline (yes—an outline) of the plot, usually broken into three parts: beginning, middle, and end.
  3. Before I start writing the actual scenes. I take out my pocket notebook and do a detailed breakdown of it—what will happen when, the characters involved, and their feelings, etc.
  4. Then I finally write the scene (by pen, in a notebook), and repeat number 3 before starting the next scene.
  5. Revisions don’t come until it’s been typed—I won’t get into my process for those here.

Obviously, I’m a planner. I know a lot of writers like things to unfold as they go along, but that doesn’t work so well for me. Writing using this process for me is like unwrapping a package that has been securely packed to safely send its fragile contents overseas. Each outline gets deeper into the story and reveals more of the story to me, so when I finally get down to the “real” writing I have gotten all the technical details out of the way so I can explore the language, character nuances, descriptions, the way dialogue sounds, etc. Outlining, in its own way, is still writing the story, even if it’s not yet in narrative form.

When I know what’s going on in the scene the words flow so much more easily. If I do start a scene before I’m ready then I feel lost and then I stall and stagger—completely unable to get into the story. I guess that when I write the book part I want to do more than just get some general ideas on the paper. I want to start bringing it to life.

Writing about the scene beforehand through outlining and making notes helps me visualize what’s happening—I need to have a picture of everything in my head so I can feel comfortable bringing it to life with my words. By the time I’ve done this I’m usually dying to write the actual scene; I’m excited to bring it to life—not burned out by over-exploring it. (With all the revisions to eventually come I’d better not be sick of it yet!)

There are sometimes scenes that I already have fully visualized before I start the outline, in those cases I feel comfortable skipping some steps because I don’t need them, but there are other times when I have to spend extra time working on a scene before I feel ready to write it. I feel like I’m trying to unlock what a scene is really about and find the special parts that will make it special to me, and hopefully, therefore, special to a reader.

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