One of the things that I used to struggle with was knowing where to start or what to do next in my writing. So, I did a lot of research to figure out what other writers do. I experimented a bit and found what works best for me. Obviously, every writer is different, so every writing process will be different. That’s totally okay and even encouraged. Make it your own.
In this first stage of writing, I focus on planning everything out. This means figuring out what the purpose and audience will be, doing character research, world building, etc. Then I like to create an outline of major events only. I normally write each event on a notecard and lay them out to view them. While they are laid out, I can rearrange them as I feel necessary. Once I figure out the order of major events, I fill in the small events. Basically, I jot down a description of what will take place in each scene. Now, you can do this by scene, chapter, or parts. It’s really up to you. I prefer to do scenes because with all the scenes laid out separately, I can locate them quicker within the document for editing/revision purposes later in my process.
In this stage, I just write. I don’t focus on much else because, let’s face it, the first draft is almost always crap. So, I like to just put everything down on the paper, regardless of if I love it or not (I can edit/revise/cut it later). While I do try to keep the voice and tense in check, I don’t let myself get bogged down by this. To me, the first draft is the most difficult because it’s the first time I’m telling myself the story. So, just being able to get it out of my head and onto something tangible is my main goal.
At this point, I reach out to friends, old teachers, family members (who I know will be honest) and I ask them to read my first draft and give me some constructive criticism. Now, this is a tricky part of the process because there will be a lot of errors in your first draft (as it should). Don’t let the amount of feedback/suggestions for change freak you out or make you feel incompetent. Also, be sure to pick people that you know won’t be extremely rude about your manuscript. I like to find out the preferences of the people I ask first. If I know they don’t like Young Adult Dystopian books, then my YA Dystopian first draft is probably not what I want them to critique because 1). If they don’t like it, they probably haven’t read much of it, and 2). If they don’t like the genre, they are more likely to give uninterested comments. That doesn’t really help you. You need to know what works, as well as what doesn’t.
Once you’ve received some feedback from people you trust, apply it. That’s what this stage is for. Now, just because someone has suggested you change something, doesn’t mean you have to change it. Use your best judgement. If the main character being in a love triangle is crucial to your story and your critiquer suggests that you remove it, I probably wouldn’t (at least not right away). I would ask why they believe it shouldn’t be included in the story. Maybe it needs to be rewritten to include more/less drama? So, just take everything with a grain of salt, but remember, you did ask these people for their opinions because you trust what they have to say.
*You may need to do this several times. Each time you revise, ask others for feedback.
During this stage, there are two main steps: 1. Macro-editing, and 2. Micro-editing. In Macro-editing, you (or your editor) are going through your work, and closely looking at all the big things. These are story related elements like plot, character arcs, world-building, etc. If there are any errors or revisions that need to be made, you will correct them before moving on to step 2 of this process.
Step 2 is Micro-editing. This means going through and taking care of all the small things like grammar, word choice, basically doing a line by line edit to your paper. It’s very time consuming and extremely boring but it is so important! I’ve seen a lot of published books with misspelled words or even words that weren’t even supposed to be included. It just throws off the entire reading process when your sentences don’t flow smoothly, so make sure to take the necessary time to properly edit your work.
This is my favorite stage, but also the most scary and intimidating. You never know how people are going to react to your work. That’s just a risk you take when you share things with the world. There will be people who absolutely hate it and they aren’t afraid to let you know. There will be people who love it and ask for more. But none of that matters. What matters is that you created something from nothing. When you publish your work, you are showing others that it is possible to achieve goals if you work hard and refuse to give up. That’s worth more than anything (unless you are writing because you only want to get rich, in which case, I hope you’re amazing at what you do).
- Take a break
Once my work is published, I take a small break before starting the next project. This allows me time to enjoy some of the books on my TBR pile or catch up on my favorite T.V shows. I don’t think of it as being lazy or rewarding myself in any way. I think of it as a way to make sure I don’t get burnt out. Yes, I love writing, but I also love pizza. That doesn’t mean I want it all day every day. Also, reading other works will only help you become a better writer because you can see what other authors have done and decide if you like it or not. It’s my kind of professional development.
This was just a brief overview of the steps I go through within my entire writing process from start to finish. I will be posting more in depth articles about each stage later. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, leave them in the comments.
Please, let me know what your process is. You can comment it below or create a post about it. If you create a new post about it, please link this post so I can see it! I love hearing from all of you.
Thanks for reading,