The Writing Process

Every piece of writing, no matter its style or format — poem, short story, travel article, science fiction novel — takes hard work and time to go from notion to concept to reality. Creativity gets the ball rolling, and then careful crafting enables you to produce a finished work that expresses clearly, dramatically, accurately, and with originality the story you want to tell. The seven steps of the writing process — getting ideas, planning, researching, organizing, drafting, editing, and evaluating — will take you from thinking about writing to producing a satisfying work of art. Keep in mind, though, that writing is usually not an A-B-C process. Most likely you'll find that you zigzag through the different steps on your way to creating a finished piece.

At every step along the way, and in every line and paragraph you write, you'll be making decisions that will affect the final outcome. These decisions will involve asking yourself a lot of questions: Would my character say this? How can I be sure this date is correct? This word isn't quite right — what would be a better one? Is this scene really necessary? How can I show that Alice is recalling a conversation with Georgia and Lexy while she's speaking with Nick and Alan?

At first all these decisions may seem overwhelming, but the more you write — and rewrite — the better feel you'll have for how to make them. Plus, reading works of other writers, and reading extensively in the format you've chosen, will help you understand how a good piece of writing is put together.

You'll also find that it can be difficult to keep going. At times you may have to coax, tease, or drag those thoughts and words from your imagination onto the page. As author Anne Lamott says, writers “will have days at the desk of frantic boredom, of angry hopelessness, of wanting to quit forever, and there will be days when it feels like they have caught and are riding a wave.” It can be incredibly frustrating. But the rewards of the writing life are waiting.

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