Utilize writing process to develop your book

Many writers will tell you “there’s no system” to writing a book. They’re right in that the craft of writing can’t be reduced to an assembly line production, at least not unless you wish to churn out cookie-cutter stories and ultimately be incredibly dissatisfied with your passion.

But there is a system of five basic steps – brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, formatting – that all writers essentially follow every time they work on a story or a nonfiction book. How much time writers spend on each step and how frequently they switch back and forth between them is entirely unique to each individual, however. It even can change for an author with each story written.

Being aware of these five steps can allow you to better reflect on your own writing techniques and to pinpoint how you might possibly improve upon them. Sometimes when stuck on a story, you’ve skipped or not done enough work on one or more of these steps, so an understanding of them can help you break through your block. Other times, these steps can provide a template to help you start and develop a great story idea that you love but feel ill-equipped to turn into a short story, a novel, or a nonfiction book.

Indeed, arguably one of the biggest mistakes aspiring authors make is denying that these steps are necessary or that they even exist. These writers often say they don’t use or need outlines, that they write “from the seat of their pants.” Yet, they are following the process by brainstorming and outlining the manuscript in their head a split second before they commit their thoughts to paper. The more successful of these writers have internalized certain basic principles of writing – the novelist might always follow the five parts of a plot or ensure their protagonist always is in conflict while trying to solve a goal – and their imagination is enough to carry them. With very few exceptions, though, such writing tends to require significant amounts of revision, another step, by the way, in the writing process.