I have a close friend who likes to write but rarely finishes anything. Recently he asked me about my writing process and suggested I do a blog entry about it. On the chance that it may help others, or may interest some (I like to hear about other writers’ processes), I’ll explain it as best I can.
Depending on how long I have been thinking about the story, I’ll either do a rough outline (if I haven’t been thinking about it very long) or I won’t. An outline can be helpful in remembering characters’ names, details, etc., as well as specific plot points you may forget. But I don’t like to always do outlines, as part of the thrill of writing for me is the spontaneity, the ability to think of something even while writing and working it into the story.
Once I have a plot and characters, I start writing. The most important facet of my writing process is I write everything longhand, preferably with a fountain pen. I’ve found that when writing on a computer first, the ideas and my prose don’t come out as well as I like, but if I write longhand, I can write everything that is racing through my mind and edit it later when I type it up. The writing process for me is all about the flowing of ideas and words.
It’s not an original thought to say that creative writing can sometimes feel like you’re just an archaeologist uncovering something that has already been written–not in the plagiarism sense, but in the sense that what you’re writing was always meant to be yours to write.
Once I have the manuscript written longhand, I type it up. This may seem like doubling the amount of work you have to do, but I’ve found that it’s worked for me. The longhand writing should be focused on only writing. The typing-up stage should focus more on editing, making sure there are no plot holes, etc.
After I type it up, I generally leave the story alone for about six weeks to allow my mind to clear. I think this is important because it allows you to come back to the story as more a reader, rather than the creator: Aspects of the story may make sense to you, but to the reader there may be something missing because you forgot to incorporate it. So allowing your mind to clear can give you a different perspective so you can identify anything that’s missing.
After this phase, I send it to my girlfriend (who’s also a writer) to read. She’s a voracious reader unafraid of a challenge, so I respect her opinion very much. She reads and edits it for grammatical mistakes, as well as pointing out parts that don’t make sense or making suggestions that she’d include if she were the writer.
Once this phase is complete, I start on the publishing track.
From the time I write the first word to the final edit I make in the final draft, I’d say a story takes me about three months altogether. I should point out, however, that the vast majority of my works are novellas, which I never intend to write, but I write until I feel I’ve told the story I want and it’s been told as best as I can.
I will say, though, that my longest novel, Regression, at about 115,000 words (whereas my other works have been between 30,000 and 60,000), took me about a month to write longhand. This was a freak occurrence for me, as I had had the story in mind since 2012 and only wrote in 2015. There was a period of about a week in the summer when I stayed up all night writing.
The time it takes you to write something or complete something doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. Remember you’re not on deadline to anyone, it’s your baby and needs to be nursed to become what you want. Try often, try hard, but don’t destroy your own confidence.
Remember that the story is yours to tell and always was meant to be told by you.