What’s your process?

WC signgs autographs at Lakewood Wherehouse.
Who would have thunk it that there’s a rapper named WC? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During one of my writing coach (WC) sessions, my WC says, “This is all crap. You have the bones, but nothing else. But DON’T PANIC. This must be part of your process.”

Okay, she didn’t say the ‘crap’ part, but the comment floored me nonetheless.


I don’t have a (friggin’) process. I’m floundering here, WC, help me!

But I know what she meant.

There are writers who craft a perfect first draft. You know, those gifted savants that pen a best seller at the age of twelve, and go on to a long and splendid career.

Then there’s the rest of us. We plod through draft after draft until we manage to pummel words into a story shape. We then fling it upon the world (or agent), hoping readers will see past the tangled mess to gaze upon the gem hidden beneath.

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

The thing is, the path one takes to finish a novel is as varied as everyone on this planet. Do you come up with the characters first, then the story? Do you have a plot and need characters to populate the parts? Do you write the ending, then figure out how everyone got there? Or do you start at the inception, when your main character is birthed? Do you write the back story first along with character sketches, magic rules, and other world-building features (politics, religion, etc)? Do you outline? Or just wing it?

All these things are part of the writing process. And it doesn’t end there. Once the draft is complete. There are re-writes, revisions, edits, proofing, formatting, and then (maybe) publishing. Phew! It is a wonder there are as many books out there, considering how much work is involved.

Regardless of how we get there, we all want to get published (traditional or self). But how? How do you know what is the right way to write?

I am nearing the end of a my third novel length-work. And I don’t have a clue what my process is. I do know that what I’ve done in the past did not work. But I’m also beginning to see that writing a crappy first draft is a necessary part of my process. For me, the trick is I can’t end it there. Once I’m finished with that first draft, it is not a matter of moving on to edits and minor plot revisions, but major re-writes are in order. Maybe in the future I can bypass the crappy-first-draft phase, maybe not. With the guidance of my WC, I can now see that my first draft is just that – a draft.

The bones are there. I just have to add the flesh and blood.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favored part?

14 thoughts on “What’s your process?

  1. If there were a way to write perfect copy first time out of the chute, surely I would have figured it out by now. The trick, if there is one, is to learn to love the way your own mind works. Or if not love it, then at least accept it. Sort of like renovating an old house. If you walk in the front door and all you can see is the mess and disrepair, the task will look too big, too daunting. If, however, you focus on the POTENTIAL, you can see what you have to do to reach it. If you can envision the beauty of restored wood floors, nicely painted walls, a gleaming staircase and new fixtures, well, then it’s a project you can get excited about doing. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but you tackle one task at a time, uncover the layers of grime and neglect, and reveal the marvels that have been there all along.

    1. Thanks, Jaye. I’m trying to focus on the potential. But someone let the sewer pipes back up and it is a tough slog to clean it all up. But I’ll do it!

  2. I wrote for YEARS before I found a process that works for me. Oddly enough, a friend and I were having this same conversation tonight. He is a very linear, discover as he writes and then revise writer. I need outlines, character profile sheets. I need to hand write everything before I type it. It’s insane and time consuming, but I have to do it in order to keep myself on a tight leash. Otherwise, I’ll go off on tangents that will upset everything I’ve done.

    1. I used to hand-write everything. Not sure if it help me or not, but glad you found what works for you. Like you said, it may take longer, but it *works*, and that’s all that matters.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I too am in the process of figuring out my process. I can tell you that the rewrite phase seems like purgatory. My crappy first draft was a breeze, first rewrite was challenging but I had an incredible amount of motivation and now, all of a sudden with the finish line (i.e., editing and minor revision) just beyond the horizon, I am really struggling to get through a second rewrite. I suppose part of my process is learning from others who have been through it all before, which is why I landed right here in the comment section to your post. No matter if the particulars differ, at the end of the day we all have a story to tell. Thanks for your insight and support, I’m ready to get back at it…!

    1. I’m glad it helped in any way. It is difficult getting past that final editing phase. I was on that track with my first novel, but realized it was all wrong and I had to start from scratch again. It actually helped me to outline an entire new novel (which I’m gonna write after I finish this one). When I went back to my first story, I could see if with fresher eyes.

      Also, my writing coach is showing me the way I’m not communicating what I want, and how I might do it better. That’s been helping too!

  4. Ah, yes, the process. The more I learn, the slower I write. I used to write down whatever occurred to me. Now, everything has to be planned, organized, orchestrated. It saves a lot of rewriting, it’s true. I just wish I knew when I was done, when I could say, that’s it, it’s as good as it can be. Stop picking at it.

    1. Ah, I’m still at the stage where I know it needs a lot of picking. If it feels good to you, maybe it is time to share it with some beta-readers?

      1. Funny you should mention that.

        I’ve been re-reading lately, books that have been in my library for years, and I recall enjoying. I’ll admit, I’ve become pickier since I started writing, and there are some I not longer find as enticing. But others hold up very well.

        I haven’t just been reading them. I’ve been trying to learn what makes these stories so enjoyable. And I can’t help but notice that much of the advice that flows around the critiquing groups contradicts what I see in published work, and what I feel works well.

        So yes, I’ve recently used beta readers, and they’ve offered some value, but I feel I’m still struggling, particularly with beginnings, that critical point where a reader is drawn in, or not, and where I feel that so much of the standard advice is suspect.

      2. Yes, I understand what you are saying. Some of my early stories that folks responded to are not very well written, but they had that spark, that *thing* that struck a cord with readers. Not sure how to get that *thing*. I guess you’ll just have to try it.

  5. The important thing is to write on a daily basis, what you know, how you can.The writing will improve by itself.

    I can tell you I hate editing the most. My eyes burn from staring at the screen, and my mind, it refuses to give up; and my heart, it wants to go out for a game or walk. Always, it is the mind that triumphs.

    1. I like nit-picking the work of others, but not my own. I have no idea where to put the commas. Or fix errant modifiers. Or decide when a number should be a number or not.

      But you are right, mind over matter will get the job done. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Ah, that Process. Bleh. I’m with you. My first draft is le shite.

    I’ve always called it a vomit draft for a reason, though it seems I still struggle to clean up that vomit.

    1. Well, I think the hard part is realizing that no one else is going to do it for you.

      I think your drafts are probably better than you think and once you get back to tackling it, you’ll see the good bits. Good luck!

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