My (General) Writing Process

The writing process. Everyone has a different way of tackling it, and we all tend to get frustrated at one point or another during it. I wanted to do a quick write up on my general process of coming up with story ideas, sorting them into plot outlines, and ultimately writing. I don’t always follow this method, but I try to!

Step 1: The Idea

My ideas usually come from seeing something cool, or based on one object or concept. I think things like, ‘what if I wrote a story on a planet without a sun’ after seeing the sun or looking at plants in the daylight. ‘I want a story with a girl with bubblegum pink lipstick’ I think, seeing someone wearing bright pink lipstick on the street. Or even, ‘Robin Hood is good, what if it was gayer?’ as I watch a movie featuring the old thief himself.

At this stage we are talking the most basic bare bones of a story, the tiny spark that launches a million thoughts and threads. Innocent, and barely formed, and usually pretty mediocre. But that’s where the rest of the process comes in!

Step 2: Thinking

I dwell on my ideas a LOT in my head. I sit there and come up with characters, little details or scenarios, twists and turns. I do not write these down. I should. But I don’t. This makes it super frustrating later on when I need to remember everything, but it’s a process, so I can learn from my mistakes. Maybe.

Step 3: Research Ahoy!

During my thinking I’ll have come up with some items I want to include that I won’t know a lot about, ranging from food, to climate, to just general knowledge I haven’t encountered in my life. I go hunting on websites and for research papers (that aren’t too jargon-y), and, of course, books themselves. I gather details in browser tabs and documents, saving reference images that fit my goal aesthetic or character appearances. This makes up my base of my worldbuilding that sits alongside the plot in my head!

Step 4: Writing an Outline

Ah, synthesis time. I combine my ideas I’ve come up with, the research I’ve done, and my fun characters together in a story outline that’s written down—typically typed, but I’ll do small notes by hand, too. I write these very casually, divided by major plot points or chapters. I keep them light as they’re a guide for me, and I want to reread something enjoyable. I hash out some dialogue at this stage, too. My outlines often have full conversations in them as well as plot details.

It doesn’t need to be firm or overly detailed—so long as I won’t forget the scene’s goal, it all works for me. Getting it down and finished is the important part.

Step 5: Writing the Actual Story

This part is long, sometimes painful, but always super fun. I write on Scrivener now, though I used to on Word, and both programs I like to arrange in a certain way so I can access everything at once. This is even easier with Scrivener where I can pull up my research and plot outline beside my draft in the same window. It fits my process exactly.

I don’t always write every day—there’s a bit too much going on for me, and I need a break to keep myself from being overworked. When I do write, my starting goal is 400 words, but I often do 1000+ a session before stopping. It’s a good pace, and I work away at it and try and appreciate the progress over the setbacks.

I usually write chronologically, i.e. starting from Chapter One and moving sequentially through. I might change this as I work on ‘Swan Song’, as it’s a longer project, so we will see what happens and what I like best!

Step 6: Endless Edits

Okay, not really endless. I usually do between 2-5 full edits on a short story. I do a few touchups as I write for consistency, but nothing major. This is where I dig deep, fixing plot points, dialogue, cutting and reorganizing scenes, trying to lower my word count… only to make it longer. Hey, at least I try! By the end of it I have a lovely story I’m proud of, ready to show the world, or send a gift off to some close friends.

What’s your process like? Feel free to comment below, or talk to me on my Twitter!

-ashe mocaw

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