What's Your Writing Process?

Sunday, December 15, 2013
As a college composition instructor, I am very interested in learning about other people’s writing process. Many people, I’ve discovered, don’t have a good sense of their own writing process and often don’t realize that they can deviate from the standard, formal process to suit their own needs and styles. Writing is much less daunting, and you’re less likely to get writer’s block, when you formulate your own process and keep it in mind as you tackle an assignment or just-for-fun writing.

Here’s a run-down on the standard writing process, but consider whether you follow this process or not. And if you deviate from it, how or why do you do so?

Standard Writing Process
from collegeunbound.org

Brainstorming: Gather ideas, research, make a web, jot down notes, sketch a picture, free write, and talk to friends. Consider your intended audience and the purpose of your story. A student once told me, “I don’t brainstorm. I just like to sit and think about it for a while.” Well, guess what? That’s brainstorming! Sitting and staring at a blank computer screen CAN be productive.

Drafting: Take those brainstormed ideas and put them into full sentences and paragraphs. I tell my students, “Don’t worry if you think your drafts are terrible, because they’re supposed to be.” Drafts are messy and it’s OK. Some writers like to work with an outline created either before or after drafting. The trick with an outline, though, is to remain flexible; you might think of new ideas as you start to write. Then you’ll need to change the outline.

Revising: Mold and shape your draft. This is where the term “craft” comes in. It’s like you’re taking raw material, like a block of wood you just cut from a tree trunk, and sculpt it into a statue. You make larger changes to your draft, like adding and subtracting sections, reorganizing scenes, and making sure each part of the story relates to your intended audience and purpose. This is often the most time-intensive and laborious part of the writing process.

Proofreading: Re-read your story to check for mechanical and grammatical errors (which you shouldn’t worry about too much during the rest of the process – it could slow you down and block creativity), strengthen word choices, and format into a readable presentation. Consider aspects like line spacing and font.

Publishing/Evaluating: Send your story to an agent or an editor, post on your blog, or submit it to your teacher. Keep in mind, though, that depending on the editor, audience, or teacher, you may go through several more rounds of revision and proofreading until your piece is officially published. But that’s all just part of the process! 

Does this process sound familiar you? Which part of the process do you like best/least? Let us know!

Written by Anne Greenawalt: writer and composition instructor in Central Pennsylvania.


Anonymous said...

Anne--I actually like to revise. I like taking something rather "stinky" and transform it until it's smelling better.

leslie said...

I have the most trouble with the brainstorming aspect--simply because there are so many choices and directions a novel can go in. I also really like revising, and have many great techniques to end up with a polished, cohesive manuscript.

I'm offering these techniques from my blog now in an ebook, if anyone would like it! http://lesliemillerwordsmith.com

Margo Dill said...

Anne: This is some of what I share with kids in third through fifth grade when I do a school visit. My goal is to show them that I went through the same process to write my book that they are doing in their classroom. I also try to show that many people enjoy different stages--some love the writing. Others love the revising. It seems like NO KIDS love the revising part. :) They love seeing my galley with the marks from my editor, too. I try to show them EVERYBODY makes mistakes when writing! Thanks for this post.

Unknown said...

I like getting my ideas from reading history. My scenes come from facts. When I was writing "The Samurai's Lady" a few years ago I would write from early morning to about ten at night. Then I'd read over what I'd written at the start of the next day and revise (of course I'd be thinking about these changes as I did other things during short breaks from writing or when I needed to run errands).

LuAnn Schindler said...

Revision. Ugh. Yet, I think it's one, if not the most important parts of the process.

As a high school English teacher, it was difficult to teach, too. I could model to the moon and back with my work, but kids had a hard time with it.

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top