My Writing Process

Let me start by saying I don’t believe there is a “right way” to write. What works for me may not work for you. I don’t believe there is a single rule that must apply to every writer, except that if you write, you’re a writer. That’s it.

But writing is rarely that simple, is it? I found that reading about other authors’ writing process has helped me as a writer for two reasons:

  1. It gives me new ideas to try out, that sometimes improve my process.
  2. When I read about someone who has a similar process to my own, especially if I feel that my process is atypical, it makes me feel validated as a writer.

So here are a few things about my writing process that I hope will help you put words on the page. I will warn you, my process is probably contradictory to a lot of the writing advice you see out there.

I Don’t Write Every Day

Now, if you do write every day, please don’t stop on my account. But don’t feel like you are a failure if you cannot feasibly write daily. The common advice is to treat writing like a job. We take time off from our jobs, right? You get weekends, sick days and vacation days. So allow yourself time for a break.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to bring a notebook on vacation to jot down ideas. That’s the fun of it though. I don’t have to interrupt my vacation to sit down and write something. I let the experiences inspire me and I take note. When I get back, I usually have new ideas I’ve been pondering throughout the trip that I can start working on.

Speaking of treating writing like a career…with no other career do we say that if you don’t do it every day then you can’t call yourself one. Are teachers still teachers during summer vacation, or must they give up the label? If a soccer star takes a day off, do they have to return their medals? You are still a writer if you take a day off!

I also don’t write daily because I do have other priorities in my life. You must absolutely make writing a priority if you want to succeed at it. But it is ok to acknowledge that it is not the only priority, and for some of us, it’s not even the first. My writing time is usually when my husband is asleep or at work. I do try to save the one day a week we have off together to spend time with him. This is my “writing weekend”.

Jerry B. Jenkins is a very prolific and famous author. He admitted that his family is the #1 priority, and would never write when his children were home and awake. Instead, he stayed up late and sacrificed TV. Try listing your priorities and find ways to give up things that are below writing, not above it.

I Don’t Set a Word Count Goal

I find that some days I can write more than others. Some days the words just come easier. All writers have experienced this. I still try to sit myself down at my writing desk and write something on those hard days. However, I’ve found that if I set a specific word count goal, and the words don’t flow that day, I begin to feel guilty. This usually stops me from coming to the keyboard the next day. I don’t handle failure well. Can you relate, writer friend? 

Instead, I try to set a time goal. As long as I show up and do my best to work on my writing, it is a successful day! If at some point the next words don’t come; I work on research, editing, anything, during the time I set aside. The key is not to beat yourself up if 1,000 beautiful words don’t pour out of you every day. Guilt will kill your muse most effectively. Which brings me to my next point…

I Reward Myself

Make sure to end your writing session on an encouraging note, so you will want to come back the next day. What will motivate you more? Ending by saying “I only wrote 300 words today” and thinking that you’re a failure, or ending by saying “I sat down and wrote today!” and thinking that you are a writer? For me, it’s always the latter. 

I also like to do a little something to acknowledge that I completed a writing session. This can be as simple as putting a word count sticker in my planner (or writing it in your favorite color if you don’t have stickers). Looking back and seeing the stickers filling my planner is encouraging to me. Besides, who doesn’t love stickers?! You can also eat a little piece of candy or save a favorite beverage to only drink when you are writing. Sometimes I have a special blend of coffee for my weekend writing sessions. Think of a little reward that will motivate you and make writing exciting!

I Write Out of Order

If you’re like me, you often struggle with the beginning of a story. There’s so much pressure on crafting the perfect opening! Or maybe you wrote the first few chapters/pages and you’re stuck in the middle. When this happens, I like to think of a scene I’m excited to write: an epic fight scene, the first time a character meets their love interest, the first glimpse of magic. Jump ahead and write that scene, even if you don’t know what comes before it. This gets me pumped to continue. Write the scenes you are most passionate about when you feel your motivation flagging.

I also feel it’s easier to connect the dots between a few sporadic scenes than overwhelming yourself with how to get from where you are all the way to the end. To be honest, when I first read this tip my perfectionist side was appalled. It had never occurred to me that I could write out of order. I encourage you to try it the next time you’re stuck, even if the thought makes you break out in a sweat. 

My First Draft Lacks Detail

My first draft is usually just getting down the bones of the story. It also tends to be dialogue-heavy. If I stop to think about the details of the surroundings during an action scene or the characters’ gestures during a conversation, I feel like it interrupts my flow. I try to write what comes to me and it is often lacking all the details. If I let my critiquing brain come in during the first dump, I think it hinders my creativity. I go back later and allow myself to “sit” in each scene and see where I can add to it. Stephen King gives similar advice in On Writing. “I most often see chances to add the grace-notes and ornamental touches after my basic storytelling job is done.” Try out not editing or thinking too hard about the details during the first draft of a chapter to see if this works for you.

Try Something New

I encourage you to try at least one new approach to your writing process. Just remember, if my process doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. Comment below to let me know how it goes, or share your unique process!

To read WTF’s writing process click here.

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6 thoughts on “My Writing Process

    • Author gravatar

      There were so many amazing points in this. I, too, don’t write every day and I absolutely hate the idea of word count. When inspiration strikes I can write pages upon pages and not break a sweat. What I love to do is I think of a scene and write it out. You mentioned about skipping scenes and writing what comes to your mind at that time, but just like you my perfectionist self is a little bewildered. I have heard of this thing before but I’m too nervous to try it out. I don’t know whether I should or not. But, since it worked out for you, I will give it a try.
      Also, the thing about dialogues and no details. I have felt myself getting lost in dialogues and I tend to miss description but I feel like adding description and dialogues help me a lot. It’s like I’m the character and I write what my character sees at that very moment. It helps me get in the mood.
      This was an amazing post. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ❤

      • Author gravatar

        Thank you! I am so glad you liked it! It’s nice to find someone who can relate ❤ I get lost in the dialogue too and I think that’s great. I also had heard many times about writing out of order before I finally tried it. I hope it helps you, but if you hate it that’s ok too. I would love to hear how it works out for you.

    • Author gravatar

      This is a really wonderful article. Thank you for sharing this with the world!!!

    • […] If you missed Clever’s writing process, read it here. […]

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