The Writing Process, A Refresher

Here is a description of the writing process for those of you who may be new to writing. Let it help guide you through your writing from germination to birth.

brainstorming concept - arrows representing ideas, inputs and feedbacks sketch on a napkin with a cup of coffee on table


             May your journey be more joyous than laborious.    

The process of writing has a defined order designed to help you write in a way that will lead to productive writing sessions.

1. The Pre-Writing Stage.  Percolating, Brainstorming, Mind mapping/clustering, Free Writing, and  Outlining.

Percolating is my necessary addition to the writing process. Before I write anything I go through this stage. (When something percolates it is gradually moving through something like  the decadent juices of ground coffee beans effusing through the hot water turning it deliciously dark and flavorful). I take time, need time to let my thoughts percolate. It may take minutes, days or even weeks for the idea/ideas to gel before I am ready to write them down. One of my favorite places to let this happen is while swimming, walking, or doing housework. Soaking in the tub is an ideal place as well.  Brainstorming happens when you have an idea, jot it down and then write whatever comes to mind surrounding that idea. You may write words, phrases or short paragraphs. Brainstorming often leads to mind mapping or clustering.


Mind mapping of different shape template

Mind mapping or clustering taking what you have written and put it into a visual form by diagramming and linking your like ideas together. It starts with creating a circle in the middle of the paper that holds your main idea. Then, you draw lines, like spokes on a bicycle wheel, outward that will lead to your other broad categories. Continue the process of drawing out more lines leading to sub-categories. You can keep going until all of your ideas are laid out in these circles. The goal is to reveal how your ideas are linked. (I don’t use this one at; it has never worked for me. I end up taking pictures)

    Free-writing is simply, to write.  Put pen, pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard and write, continuously. It is important that you keep going! No stopping to see what have or worry about spelling! That defeats the purpose. In free writing, you want to let yourself go so that your unconscious will unleash itself upon your page, free of harsh judgment and criticism from your inner critic. It takes some practice but once you get going this can be a lot of fun. You write whatever comes to mind. It is a good activity to do as a warm up to your regular writing schedule.

Outlining. By the time you get here, you will have a good idea of where you are going with your story, memoir, etc. It is in a linear form. Remember your school days? You start with a Roman numeral one and state the main fact/idea, go to the next line, indenting and beginning that with a) followed by a sub idea or fact and so on until you are ready for Roman numeral two, which may be your second chapter, scene, or event. You continue until you have the whole thing planned out on paper.

Two terms you may or may not be familiar with, pantsers and planners. Pantsers fly or write, by the seat of their pants. They don’t plan anything, they just write. Planners, on the other hand, use outlines; they plan. There is something to be said for both styles. A good goal is to be a little of both. Find the middle way between pantsing and planning.


2. The Writing Stage AKA ROUGH DRAFT. You have done your pre-writing, percolating, brainstorming, mind mapping, and outlining. Now you are ready to settle down and WRITE.  Before you panic, let yourself off of the hook. This is your Rough Draft you are about to begin. That means no worries about spelling, grammar, or word count. Here you want to get the work down! That is what matters. Nothing else. Sit down, have your notes and outline out and write.

3. The Revision Stage. Your Rough Draft is finished! Yay! Take a moment to celebrate, have some chocolate, a glass of wine whatever you prefer to celebrate this moment. Okay, back to work! Now you can check your word count. Do you have the required amount for your book, story, script, or memoir?

        Your average Novel requires about 60,000-100,000 words.

        Science Fiction runs 90,000-150,00

        Romance Novels run 50,000-100,000

        Historical Fiction run 100,000

        Crime, Mystery, Thriller run 70,000-90,000

        Young Adult Novels run  50,000-80,000

        Short Stories run 1,000-5,000 but there are those that run         5,000-10,000

        Flash Fiction runs 500 words

        Novellas run 10,000-40,000

    (For your non-fiction categories you really need to study your particular area as they can vary quite a bit).

    Okay, now you have your word counts down, get back to revising. Look over your manuscript, taking your time. Does it flow well? Are things the way they should be sequential? How is the pacing? Do you have all of your elements? (Check the story ARC). Re-work what needs to be re-worked. Cut out and add what you need to fix.

4. The Editing Stage.  Once your piece has been revised to your satisfaction, it is time to Edit. Check spelling, grammar, usage.

    Once you think it is finished, set it aside for a few days, maybe even a week. Then pull it out and go through it again. When you have it as good as you can get it, get send it out to be edited by another person. Someone you can trust. My suggestion for this piece is to have them check spelling, grammar, and usage. You don’t want it going to a publisher or to be self-published without at the very least checking these basics. When all is good here, move on to your final stage.

5. Publish It! Send it out to a traditional house or self-publish.

Ready to get published
Ready to get published


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