I cannot count how many times I have been asked what my writing process is. It must be a writer’s most frequently asked question right up there with “Where do you get your inspiration from?” and “How do you spell (insert any word here)?” Because of this, I decided it would be worthwhile to compile a list of steps based on my own writing process and a few friends’ processes.
Please realize, these steps have been made with a longer, prose style type writing in mind but can also be applied to poetry, plays, academic writing, or anything else involving words.
Step One: Idea
To start writing, you must first have an idea of what to write about. Obviously. The unobvious part is where you obtain the idea. Inspiration can come from anything from a dream, to a lived experience, to a passing billboard. Sometimes ideas drift slowly, seeping into your brain in small waves of images and words. Other times, ideas creep up, grab you firmly, and yell “Write me now!” Regardless of how the idea presents itself, it’s a good idea to write it down.
Step One Point Five: Plan
This step can sometimes be skipped, and other times be labored over more than the actual writing. It really all depends on the author and the complexity of the story. Starting a plan can sometimes be as difficult or even more so than writing the story. It’s usually good to start with an outline of major events and a page of character bios. From there, fill in as many details as you deem necessary until you are comfortable enough to start writing.
Step Two: Write
The best and the worst part of the steps. On the one hand, your idea is realized! On the other hand, it will take countless hair pulling, pencil sharpening, teeth grinding, sweating, coffee consuming hours to make that idea real. Ok, so writing isn’t always that bad. A lot of the time, writing is fun! Either way, I find it best to sit down and write out the idea all the way through. Obviously, not every idea can be hammered out in one session at the computer but it is still best to write the story from beginning to end. Some writers like to go back and edit as they add more. I caution against that for the simple reason of many times you will get stuck trying to perfect the beginning and lose interest in finishing the story. If you have a hard time making yourself write all the way through, considering signing up for NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month takes place in November with the goal to complete a 50,000-word novel between 12:00 am November 1st and 11:59 pm November 30th.
Step Three: Read
You’ve sat down and slammed out 20,000 words of brilliance. Now is a good time to go back, read it, and add more if you wish.
Step Four: Edit
Some writers hate this step. More loathe it. Personally, this is my favorite step and I believe it is the most important. Anyone can write, but it takes a true artist to do it well. This is where editing comes in. Take a fine-toothed comb to your work. Start with spelling and grammar and work your way to tone. A professor once told me if a single word has no function in your writing then throw it out. Be your biggest critic and edit away!
Step Five: Use Your Friends
That’s what they’re there for! Use away! Hand them a copy and make them read and review it honestly. If your friends are only praising your work, you may be that great. Or you may want to consider giving your story to a mentor or joining a writing group.
Step Six: Repeat
Repeat Steps Three, Four and Five as many times and in whatever order you want until you are happy with your work. It may not ever be perfect, but it can be finished. When you’re comfortable, stick a fork in it and send it out to be published or frame it and hang it on the wall. Whichever you prefer.
Remember, these steps don’t work for everyone. But if you’re faced with a monster of an idea and aren’t sure of how to approach it, you can always try following them.