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Tools of the trade include pens, ink, and notebooks.

Some writers outline. Some writers fly by the seat of their pants. The key is finding what works for you. Here’s a general idea of my writing process. Feel free to use it, modify it, or just think it’s weird and stick to a process that you’re more comfortable with instead. 😉

  • The idea
    • Ideas can come from pretty much anywhere: real life, history, fictional stories, experiences.
    • They can come at inopportune times, such as during work or when trying to fall asleep at night.
    • My Dad would tell me, “Strike while the iron is hot.” Catch the idea as it comes by and jot it down somewhere so you won’t forget it.
    • Don’t worry about being neat or even making sense at this stage. Just get the idea out of your head and into words.
  • The raw draft
    • After working the idea out to a point where you have a general idea of where you’re going, such as a basic outline, it’s time to create the raw draft.
    • Draft the story from start to finish.
    • As with the idea stage, don’t worry about being neat or even consistent. If your character’s name changes in the middle of the manuscript, fix the beginning later.
    • To discourage backtracking and to encourage pressing forward, I like to use a pen and paper at this stage, but a computer is also beneficial because you’re going to have to type the story up eventually.
  • The rough draft
    • If you wrote longhand for the raw draft, now’s a good time to bring your manuscript into a digital format.
    • Fix the story’s problems. Now’s a good time to patch plot holes and make the story consistent, such as fixing your character’s name if you changed it midway through the raw draft.
    • You’re not ready for sentence-level edits just yet, though, so while you can fix comma or spelling errors if you notice them, don’t make a fuss over the grammar or focus on editing your story on the sentence level.
  • Edits
    • Continue to polish your story by making multiple passes through it and correcting problems.
    • Different stories may require different amounts of editing.
    • Know when you’ve hit a wall and need to start collecting feedback. If you notice yourself getting stuck on a lot of trivial matters and come to a point of diminishing return, that could be a sign that you’ve gone as far as you can go on your own and that it’s time to start getting fresh eyes on your manuscript.
    • Even if you know that the story will change after you get feedback, I still feel that it’s polite to try to omit as many grammar and spelling errors as you can before sending it off to first readers.
  • Feedback from critique group/first reader
    • Send your manuscript to your critique group/first reader.
    • Consider feedback and revise accordingly.
  • “Done”
    • Are you satisfied with your work?
    • Is a deadline looming?
    • It’s hard to define “done,” so set deadlines for yourself and stick to them.
  • Send to a publisher
    • Find a publisher that’s a good fit for your work. Sometimes finding the publisher might be your first step, and then you tailor your work to fit the publisher.
    • Be certain to review the publisher’s guidelines to format your manuscript correctly. Some publishers also specify that you shouldn’t send the same manuscript to another publisher until you receive a response from them.
    • Publishers may respond within a period of days or months. Depending on the publisher, you might not even receive a response at all unless they are interested in accepting your work.
    • I have a document to help me keep track of the manuscripts I’ve sent out. I record when I’ve sent them, where I’ve sent them, and the responses I’ve received.
  • Wait and write more
    • While you’re waiting to hear back from the publisher, start working on your next story. Because publication can take a long time, it’s good to have multiple manuscripts in progress at the same time and in various stages of the process.

Please feel free to share about your own writing process in the comments. Best wishes and happy writing!