The above image source is: The Essential 5-Step Writing Process for All Writers (creately.com).
I felt this was a decent outline of the way writers approach their work. It also made me realise that the closest fit to my writing process is the 6 step process, albeit in my own way.
Step 1: Get the story “out of my head”
I write the story, using Microsoft Word (as I’m a speed typist, this is the tool I find works best for me). I don’t stop to edit, correct, adjust, or anything like that. I simply type, occasionally stopping to think about how I want to proceed with the next section, but that’s rare. I’m mostly just putting the story that is in my head into the written word. The editing, correcting, adjusting, etc are all things which I’ll fix up later. The idea here is to simply get the story into the written format. This way I can see what the general story is, rather than attempting to write it all within my mind… yikes!
Some might say that I’m skipping Step 1 and going straight to Step 2, but I believe it’s better to describe it as a mix of the two. The reality is, this is what works for me and, to do it another way, isn’t a match for who I am as an individual. I’d never get any writing done!
Whilst I’m “bashing out” the story, I do stop to make notes regarding:
- Characters: Physical aspects, age, personality traits, relationships, etc.
- Time-line: What’s happening when – With a section for major events and another for minor events.
Note: “Bashing out”: To bash on a keyboard is an old school reference to a time, with the old keyboards, when you’re typing fast and need to make sure that you pressed the key, so you “bashed it”.
Step 2: Drafting
Once I’ve effectively written the story, it’s on its way to a first draft, but there’s still a lot of work to do before the first draft is completed.
The things I’m reviewing at this step are:
- The timeline (arc of the story).
- The various characters and how they all relate to each other and the role each of them bring to the story.
- The depth to the major characters (protagonist and main supporting characters, as well as the villain of the story).
- I consider if another character would be better suited to play a support role versus one of the others.
- I think about the overall balance of each character and whether they are needed at all, or if I need an additional character.
Once I’ve considered the overall story (the arc and the characters), I take what I bashed out in my first step and add/swap around/adjust as I feel is necessary to bring the story to life.
Step 3: Beta reader
I have a beta reader read my story and provide feedback. It’s important to me that they tell me both the aspects that they liked (so that I keep that) and the sections/concepts/other points which they felt didn’t work or make sense. It might be that they didn’t like something because I hadn’t written it well enough and therefore it’s ambiguous. All these issues need fixing – clearly. As a writer, I know what I’m intending with the words I’ve written, but sometimes I can’t see that I’m not getting that across in the story, and I need someone to tell me how they’re reading it to know why it’s simply not working.
This step also gives me an opportunity to “step away” from the story, and I think this is an important thing to do. Leave the story for a month, and then come back to it. Why? Well, when I re-read my story, together with the notes from the beta reader, l see a ton of things which I just couldn’t see before. It helps me to come back to my story and see it with “fresh eyes”. I find it also helps me to detach from anything that isn’t contributing to moving the story forward and I’m better able to cut out sections that just don’t work. I find it much harder to do this when I’ve just written it as it’s still my “baby” then.
Step 4: The rewrite
Well, parts of it anyway. This is when I make sure that what I’ve written is moving the story forward. That what it will be interpreted the way I intend it to be, and that the characters are written in a way that sticks to their persona, and I’m not having them do or say something which isn’t in line with how they’ve been written elsewhere.
Another thing I watch for is that I haven’t accidentally used the incorrect character name anywhere. This is an annoying thing for a reader, and I know how annoying it is because I’ve read a few books which have missed this during an edit. An edit should pick up that a section/paragraph/speech is clearly a different character to what is noted. This is an easy error to avoid too, so I make sure I have my character names straight!
Step 5: Professional manuscript appraisal
Yes, this costs money. However, it’s an important part of the process. These people are trained to know what to look for, and how to explain it to you, the writer, so that you can make your story even better.
As a writer, I want to make sure my stories are as good as they can be. So, I am a major fan of employing the services of professional editors. This is another opportunity to step back for a few weeks. (I can’t stress enough the importance of fresh eyes.)
Once I get the manuscript appraisal back from my editors, I’m busy nutting things out so that the arc of my story, and other aspects, are improved.
Step 6: The professional line-edit – number 1
Again, this will cost money, but it’s completely worth it!
I go through the editors’ notes, and I never disregard any of their points. What ever they have noted, it’s for a reason, so I pay attention (and learn).
Sometimes I feel like, “how can I do that though… it doesn’t work in the story”. This is when I walk away from writing and let it brew in my mind. Eventually, I have a light bulb moment, and I’ve an approach to the story which will achieve what the editor has made a remark on. It might not fit what they were saying exactly, but it does resolve their comment. It could be that I haven’t expressed something well enough, so it’s come across differently to what I intended and so some rewording is required. But, in the end, there’s usually something else that is needed. It’s up to me, as the writer, to figure that out. After all, it’s my story!
It’s around this time that I arrange for the cover to start being drafted. I employ the services of an illustrator for my novels, as I prefer the professional and unique illustrations they provide.
Step 7: The professional line-edit – number 2
Yes… more money, I know, but believe me, it’s totally worth it!
Hopefully, there won’t be too much at this stage of the editing process as most issues should have been resolved by now. This is more to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I go through the editor’s points and make sure of it.
Step8: Internal Layouts and eBook formats
I either do this myself, or employ someone else to do it. It depends on what is happening in my life at the time. I design/organise the paperback/hardcover internal layout, as well as the various formats required for the different eBook platforms.
The illustrator is hopefully also in the process of finalising the book cover illustration.
Step 9: To the printers!
- Sending the files to the printers (internal layout plus the cover) to run 100 copies.
- Loading up the eBook files across the various platforms.
Step 10: Celebrate
I’ve completed my book and it’s out there!
Step 11: Marketing/Advertising
Oh yeah – an important one – I need to market my book. If I don’t – how on earth is anyone going to know that I’ve got this awesome book out there which they simply must read?