My Personal Process

I’ve been busy finishing another story which I plan to submit to an anthology and some other potential markets. While typing, it got me thinking on the whole writing process.

Different writers have different (and equally effective) methods and there are a myriad of ways to complete a story from start to finish. The important thing is to finish it. The following is generally how I operate when writing a piece. Occasionally I may deviate from this process but for the most part, this has been most effective for me.

1. Outline

Perhaps more difficult than writing is the actual brainstorming.  Outlining helps me work out any potential plot problems early on. With the outline, I have a rough map of where the story is headed. The hardest thing for me is to write a story not having thought it through.

I also use the outline to work out the character arcs, internal conflicts and any potential subplots and storylines for the supporting characters. I don’t mind being meticulous with the outline because that will save me a lot of heartache and frustration in the long run.

2. Notate

If I have an awesome idea for a surprise twist, a great quote, or any other idea that will strengthen the story or make it more dynamic , I jot it down so I don’t forget.

3. Soundtrack

This is totally optional but sometimes if I’m really immersed in a story I will compile an iTunes playlist of songs which captures the mood and the theme of the piece. Music can express emotions and ideas that can’t be translated into words. I can’t tell you how many stories have been inspired by a song or rift.

4. Pencil & Pad

Don’t get me wrong, computers (specifically laptops) are the greatest invention for writers since the eraser. Unfortunately I’m not always in a place to work on my laptop. This is especially true at my day job. What I often do is carry a small notebook pad where I will outline and even scribble out the rough draft of the story. There’s also something visceral about writing with a pencil and paper. Perhaps it’s because my mind has gone through the story once but when I transfer the story to my laptop and edit it, the process seems a bit easier.

5. Rough Draft, As In Rough Draft

This is the part that makes or breaks potential writers. Many novice writers believe that their rough draft must be their final draft. At this stage of the game, they also become frustrated when their idea for the GREATEST STORY EVER transforms into THE WORST/DUMBEST IDEA EVER SPEWED. No longer on that euphoric high which writers get when they develop a new story idea (i.e. the honeymoon is over), they get frustrated and stop working. The trick is to continue writing from start to finish. Doesn’t matter how bad the prose is or how horrid the idea. That’s the point of a rough draft. It’s supposed to be a ROUGH DRAFT. That’s what editing and revising is for. But you can’t revise/edit/improve something when you have nothing to work with.

6. Revisions/Editing/Polishing

Once I’ve completed the story, I will walk away from it for a few days so when I return I can look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. If I’m under a tight deadline, it may be a few hours. If I’m under a really tight deadline, it may be a few seconds. More often than not, when I return to the story, I realize that it wasn’t as atrocious as I thought while writing it and while not perfect, I can work with it. For me, revising isn’t as difficult as completing the rough draft.

7. Save Often, Save Everywhere

Computers crash, memory sticks corrupt. One thing I’ve began doing (in addition to frequently saving my stories in multiple places) is saving different versions in increments as well as emailing the stories to myself. Paranoid? Maybe but last November I was working on a 30,000-word novel treatment which was lost when my USB drive died on me. Fortunately I had emailed it to myself on a daily basis so not much harm was done but imagine had I not been so cautious.

All in all, this method has worked for me. And that’s my process, what’s yours?

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