Follow a ‘process’ when writing your book

When writing, you probably follow a process – that is, you go through a series of steps from the proverbial germ of an idea to (hopefully!) its publication.

The general steps include:
• Brainstorming – This is where you come up with the idea. It is that first mad scribble of notes about your characters, their conflicts, the setting the story will occur.
• Outlining – Getting down to work, you develop a scene-by-scene plan for what will occur in the story. It may be a classic outline with Roman numerals, a synopsis of each scene, or notes nicely divided onto little 3×5 cards.
• Drafting – Next, the outline is fleshed out into actual written scenes from the start of the story to its end. You may write several drafts of a story.
• Revising – This ranges from correcting typos to rewriting whole scenes. With each revision, you create a new draft of the story.
• Final form – After several drafts, you will arrive at a “final” version. This typically is the one that is published in a book or magazine.

Of course, very few people actually follow these steps in a precise, military drill order. You’re probably brainstorming as you’re outlining, trying to figure out what is the best climax to your story. You’re probably revising as drafting, correcting typos and rewriting poor lines of dialogue penned the day before. You’re probably creating a new outline for a scene when revising, as you decide the interaction between the characters just doesn’t work.

Recognizing these steps and knowing where you are with them as writing can be useful. Why? Because it:
• Forces you to think about what you writing, which typically means a more complex and sophisticated work – Only a novice will sit down at the coffee shop, write for a few hours, and think he’s come away with a perfect, ready to publish story (though sometimes a true genius does this!). Writing typically involves a lot of mental sweat.
• Saves you time – For example, if you outline first, you don’t have to start all over when your unplanned first draft turns out to be a structural mess. If you brainstorm first, you won’t sit at the coffee shop people watching for hours on end because you can’t think of something to write.
• Prevents rejection – If you write a first draft in final form and send it off to a magazine editor or publisher, chances are you’ll be rejected because your story is flawed in a number of ways that you haven’t taken the time to address. If it isn’t rejected, you’re either darn lucky or a literary genius.