In this startling report, scientists declare that there is no "scientific method." Scientists do not strictly follow a process in their exploration of the natural world because some experiments may be too expensive, too difficult for current technology, unethical, or various other problems. In fact, the report asserts that some scientists just disrupt a system to see what happens: curiosity wins the day.
Instead, says Heidi Schweingruber, deputy director of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council, in Washington, D.C., kids should be studying "Practices of science"-- "or the many ways in which scientists study problems."
Hurrah! Science is finally on our side, because there isn't a strict "writing process" either. Instead, writing a novel is a messy route toward something that falls within the continuum of what we traditionally call a novel. We can talk about the need for prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and then publication all we want, but it is only partly true. I do believe in the writing process; I even wrote the Wikipedia.org entry on prewriting, which has been viewed 7338 times in the last 90 days. But I don't believe you can definitively say you must follow these steps in this order. It's a much messier process.
When I teach a Novel Revision Retreat, I talk about strategies of writing, much like the "principles of science." Writers trying to create a character might list character qualities, do a freewrite of description, tape record dialogue, flip through catalogs looking for a model face, sit in a McDonalds and listen for the "right" voice, manipulate sentence length and vocabulary choices in search of a character's voice, type with a blacked-out, powered-off computer screen the better to "hear" the character's voice, or any number of other strategies.
Once, when my daughter was in fifth grade, she wrote a great essay. The teacher promptly asked her to write down the exact steps she took to write that essay. Sigh. Not helpful. It's not the ORDER of the steps that matter, it's the particular strategies and riffs on them that matter. You will NEVER follow exactly the same steps for two pieces of writing.
Instead, pay attention to the strategies you use. Do you like lists? Do you like free writes? Do you like sitting in a noisy place and writing? Find habits of writing that tie you into your creativity and work to make those habits yours. Don't be so tied to them that it becomes obsessive/compulsive; rather, work to find comfortable habits within which you can experiment and play with the assurance that your work will get done.
The article on scientific method also says, "Scientists also recognize something that few students do: Mistakes and unexpected results can be blessings in disguise." Yes, even the practice of science is messy and sometimes, it's a blooper that reveals something new, fresh, exciting. If scientists can embrace a messy process, it's an open door for us to have a blast with our writing process.
Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at CommonCoreStandards.com