I think of my writing as a living thing that needs nurturing to allow it to grow and develop. In this post I’ll discuss elements of my writing process.
Sometimes I let an idea, or a premise for a story roll around in my mind for a long time before writing a single word. When the idea’s almost infantile cries become more demanding, I make notes in a notebook and let it develop.
Writing can be and often is a solitary calling. But it’s vitally important I don’t become isolated. I always discuss my ideas with my husband in the first instance. He knows me and my style better than anyone. He tells me what he thinks and occasionally suggests something I’ve perhaps not thought of.
When I’m happy with the ideas, I type up the chapter framework as I see it at that time.
When I’m happy with the framework, or when the story’s metaphorical cries are becoming more persistent, I start writing. I always start with the first chapter, but from that point I’m not too concerned about doing things chronologically. Again, I listen to and observe the story in my mind and if a chapter, or even some part of one later on is demanding attention, I give it.
Writing this way helps battle the nightmare that is writer’s block. If the words aren’t flowing as freely as I’d like, but something else is, perhaps a section of dialog, I get that written.
While all my chapters are typed in individual documents, I don’t abandon the notebook. It’s an essential tool for a writer at all times, and I’ll jot ideas down as they come to mind.
When the initial very rough draft of a chapter is complete, I leave it overnight while going over what I’ve written in my mind. Is there anything I’ve inadvertently missed out? If there is, I’ll revisit the chapter and add it in as soon as possible. At that point I might also do some very basic edits, but only if I notice something immediately.
When I’m happy, before moving on to the next chapter, I make a note of the individual and cumulative word count. Similarly to how we nurture and watch our children grow and develop, I like to see how the story is growing, and it also helps during the editing process.
The editorial process can, and should be labor intensive. It should never be rushed. I always leave anything, even these blog posts, to rest for a while before beginning the edit. Depending on the length of the first draft, I don’t touch it for anywhere between a day, to a couple months, or even longer. By the time the first draft is complete I’m so familiar with the story, having been so immersed in it, I need a break to clear my mind. To spend time with my husband and family and anyone or anything else I’ve neglected.
When I’m ready to edit, usually when the story’s cries are becoming more persistent and demanding of my attention, I always start with what I think of as a pre-edit, or first phase. Using Diana Urban’s list of 43 Words you should cut from your writing, I find and replace, or delete them. The word list is extensive, so I go through each chapter in turn in 5 word blocks to make it easier. Yes, it means I’m going over each chapter multiple times, but I find it actually speeds the process up. When each block is complete, I note the revised word count. It is surprising how much the numbers change, even during this first phase.
I begin the true first edit by reading each chapter aloud, editing as I go. By reading this way, you pick up things that aren’t so obvious when reading silently. I repeat the step any number of times, but never less than twice, because it is so easy to miss something the first time. That is especially true, if, during the first read I’ve added in extra details. Then, the second read in effect becomes the first and so is vitally important.
This is when I check certain things for consistency, including for example the number of times a character uses a catchphrase. I go through each chapter highlighting them in the document and edit where necessary.
When I’m relatively happy with the draft, I print the whole thing. Similarly to reading aloud, it helps catch things I’d otherwise miss, because I’ve gotten so used to seeing the words on screen. By seeing the story in print, it’s almost as if I’m looking at it anew. I make notes on the printed copy, then go back to the electronic version and implement them.
When I’m happy with the manuscript, I move on to the next step. I’ll share that with you next week.
What’s Your Writing Process?
Our writing process is as individual as we are. Is yours similar or vastly different from mine? Or have you got any suggestions on how I can improve? Please leave me a comment and let me know.