Most of us are able to think back to our early elementary school days when we were first introduced to the writing process. I am reminded of bubble diagrams, rough drafts with editing symbols that I can no longer recall, and using extra care and time to write as neat a final draft as I could. It was my first introduction to something that would become a lifetime passion.
Obviously, my writing process has grown since the days that I depended on bubble diagrams for my prewriting steps (though I still sometimes use them, but don’t tell anyone). As with all writers, I have found a process that works best for my writing style. Finding the process that best fits your writing style is the key to not only success, but enjoying each step.
There are no two writers have the same process or style, so there is no single catch all that works for everyone. So, what may work for me may not work for someone else. Even so, the process remains basically the same. The one exception are the savants that are able to sit in front of a computer with no preparation and simply tell a story. I am not one of those specialists however, and I take nearly as much time in my preparation and prewriting that I take in actually writing. That being said, let’s have a quick overview of the basic writing process.
Either love or hate it, prewriting to me is the most important step of the writing process. Without a solid understanding and planning of where your story will go, how can you tell your story? Skimping on this step will not only cause your writing to take more time, but you run the risk of story issues down the line. The key components of the prewriting step include character creation, plot timeline and at least a basic story outline.
First/Working (Rough) Draft
You have taken your idea and done all of your prep work, so now it is time to write. The basic principle of the first draft is to get your story down on paper. Though sentence structure and proper grammar are important, the most imperative factor here is transferring the story from your mind into a written product. Ensure that you use your outline to incorporate your plot points and the key elements that you have already outlined. At this point, don’t be all that concerned about word count.
This is where the magic happens. If you picture your first/working draft as a newly mined mineral, this is where it becomes a gem. The key here is to move slow and methodical. Every sentence and paragraph should be reworked and refined. If something does not read the way you intend it to, do not move on until it sounds perfect. This is also the point where you need to pay close attention to your word count, vivid descriptions and your character progression. By the time you are done, you should have a piece that not only tells your complete story, but also shines like the gem it is.
Editing and Proofreading
*Sigh* The process that no writer enjoys to face as no one likes to have spent months and in some cases years on a manuscript, to be told everything they have done wrong. It is difficult for a writer to edit their own work, as they are almost always too close to be objective. Something may sound perfectly good to you as the writer, but there may be some elements that were left out or do not make sense to the reader. As a writer, we have the story in our mind and know the whole picture. Every now and then, we leave elements out that are vital for the reader to see everything that we intend. This is why having an unbiased opinion is so imperative.
Now that all of the hard work is complete, it is time to incorporate the changes from the editing and proofreading process. Typically, unless a complete rewrite is needed, this should be a short process. After all, most of the exertion has been done by the editor and proofreader. Once you have all the changes made, you now have a final manuscript.
As I said above, this is just a quick overview of the complete writing process. In the following weeks, I will go more in-depth into each step and offer tips and advice in order to get the most out of each step of writing your story. In the meantime, keep your pens, pencils or computer keys going and write your hearts out.