The Writing Process.

the writing process

By Ali Hale

 

Whether you know it or not, there’s a process to writing – which many writers follow naturally. If you’re just getting started as a writer, though, or if you always find it a struggle to produce an essay, short story or blog, following the writing process will help.

I’m going to explain what each stage of the writing process involves, and I’ll offer some tips for each section that will help out if you’re still feeling stuck!

1. Prewriting

Have you ever sat staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank document on your computer screen? You might have skipped the vital first stage of the writing process: prewriting. This covers everything you do before starting your rough draft. As a minimum, prewriting means coming up with an idea!

Ideas and Inspiration

Ideas are all around you. If you want to write but you don’t have any ideas, try:

  • Using a writing prompt to get you started.
  • Writing about incidents from your daily life, or childhood.
  • Keeping a notebook of ideas – jotting down those thoughts that occur throughout the day.
  • Creating a vivid character, and then writing about him/her.

See also How to Generate Hundreds of Writing Ideas.

Tip: Once you have an idea, you need to expand on it. Don’t make the mistake of jumping straight into your writing – you’ll end up with a badly structured piece.

Building on Your Idea

These are a couple of popular methods you can use to add flesh to the bones of your idea:

  • Free writing: Open a new document or start a new page, and write everything that comes into your head about your chosen topic. Don’t stop to edit, even if you make mistakes.
  • Brainstorming: Write the idea or topic in the center of your page. Jot down ideas that arise from it – sub-topics or directions you could take with the article.

Once you’ve done one or both of these, you need to select what’s going into your first draft.

Planning and Structure

Some pieces of writing will require more planning than others. Typically, longer pieces and academic papers need a lot of thought at this stage.

First, decide which ideas you’ll use. During your free writing and brainstorming, you’ll have come up with lots of thoughts. Some belong in this piece of writing: others can be kept for another time.

Then, decide how to order those ideas. Try to have a logical progression. Sometimes, your topic will make this easy: in this article, for instance, it made sense to take each step of the writing process in order. For a short story, try the eight-point story arc.

2. Writing

Sit down with your plan beside you, and start your first draft (also known as the rough draft or rough copy). At this stage, don’t think about word-count, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Don’t worry if you’ve gone off-topic, or if some sections of your plan don’t fit too well. Just keep writing!

If you’re a new writer, you might be surprised that professional authors go through multiple drafts before they’re happy with their work. This is a normal part of the writing process – no-one gets it right first time.

Some things that many writers find helpful when working on the first draft include:

  • Setting aside at least thirty minutes to concentrate: it’s hard to establish a writing flow if you’re just snatching a few minutes here and there.
  • Going somewhere without interruptions: a library or coffee shop can work well, if you don’t have anywhere quiet to write at home.
  • Switching off distracting programs: if you write your first draft onto a computer, you might find that turning off your Internet connection does wonders for your concentration levels! When I’m writing fiction, I like to use the free program Dark Room (you can find more about it on our collection of writing software).

You might write several drafts, especially if you’re working on fiction. Your subsequent drafts will probably merge elements of the writing stage and the revising stage.

Tip: Writing requires concentration and energy. If you’re a new writer, don’t try to write for hours without stopping. Instead, give yourself a time limit (like thirty minutes) to really focus – without checking your email!

3. Revising

Revising your work is about making “big picture” changes. You might remove whole sections, rewrite entire paragraphs, and add in information which you’ve realized the reader will need. Everyone needs to revise – even talented writers.

The revision stage is sometimes summed up with the A.R.R.R. (Adding, Rearranging, Removing, Replacing) approach:

Adding

What else does the reader need to know? If you haven’t met the required word-count, what areas could you expand on? This is a good point to go back to your prewriting notes – look for ideas which you didn’t use.

Rearranging

Even when you’ve planned your piece, sections may need rearranging. Perhaps as you wrote your essay, you found that the argument would flow better if you reordered your paragraphs. Maybe you’ve written a short story that drags in the middle but packs in too much at the end.

Removing

Sometimes, one of your ideas doesn’t work out. Perhaps you’ve gone over the word count, and you need to take out a few paragraphs. Maybe that funny story doesn’t really fit with the rest of your article.

Replacing

Would more vivid details help bring your piece to life? Do you need to look for stronger examples and quotations to support your argument? If a particular paragraph isn’t working, try rewriting it.

Tip: If you’re not sure what’s working and what isn’t, show your writing to someone else. This might be a writers’ circle, or just a friend who’s good with words. Ask them for feedback. It’s best if you can show your work to several people, so that you can get more than one opinion.

4. Editing

The editing stage is distinct from revision, and needs to be done after revising. Editing involves the close-up view of individual sentences and words. It needs to be done after you’ve made revisions on a big scale: or else you could agonize over a perfect sentence, only to end up cutting that whole paragraph from your piece.

When editing, go through your piece line by line, and make sure that each sentence, phrase and word is as strong as possible. Some things to check for are:

  • Have you used the same word too many times in one sentence or paragraph? Use a thesaurus to find alternatives.
  • Are any of your sentences hard to understand? Rewrite them to make your thoughts clear.
  • Which words could you cut to make a sentence stronger? Words like “just” “quite”, “very”, “really” and “generally” can often be removed.
  • Are your sentences grammatically correct? Keep a careful look out for problems like subject-verb agreement and staying consistent in your use of the past, present or future tense.
  • Is everything spelt correctly? Don’t trust your spell-checker – it won’t pick up every mistake. Proofread as many times as necessary.
  • Have you used punctuation marks correctly? Commas often cause difficulties. You might want to check out the Daily Writing Tips articles on punctuation.

Tip: Print out your work and edit on paper. Many writers find it easier to spot mistakes this way.

5. Publishing

The final step of the writing process is publishing. This means different things depending on the piece you’re working on.

Bloggers need to upload, format and post their piece of completed work.

Students need to produce a final copy of their work, in the correct format. This often means adding a bibliography, ensuring that citations are correct, and adding details such as your student reference number.

Journalists need to submit their piece (usually called “copy”) to an editor. Again, there will be a certain format for this.

Fiction writers may be sending their story to a magazine or competition. Check guidelines carefully, and make sure you follow them. If you’ve written a novel, look for an agent who represents your genre. (There are books like Writer’s Market, published each year, which can help you with this.)

Tip: Your piece of writing might never be published. That’s okay – many bestselling authors wrote lots of stories or articles before they got their first piece published. Nothing that you write is wasted, because it all contributes to your growth as a writer.

Conclusion

The five stages of the writing process are a framework for writing well and easily. You might want to bookmark this post so that you can come back to it each time you start on a new article, blog post, essay or story: use it as a checklist to help you.

If you have any tips about the writing process, or if you want to share your experiences, tell us in the comments!

 

Original post:http://www.dailywritingtips.com/the-writing-process/

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Writing And Editing: Five Problems to Avoid in Your First Novel

by http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/03/writing-editing-first-novel/

The first novel is definitely the hardest! You think you have internalized how a story works as a reader and then you discover there is so much more to learn.

writingIn this article, Natasa Lekic from New York Book Editors takes us through five problems that are common in first novels and how to avoid them.

The experience of writing your first draft can be a roller coaster.

However, once you write that final page, you’ll relate to Zadie Smith:

It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

For most first-time writers, this is followed by a straight dive into the publishing process.

After all, you did the work, now it’s time for your story to get out into the world – right?

Not yet. A crucial second phase is involved: the editing. Today, many novels go through an editor before they even reach a literary agent.

At the company I founded, NY Book Editors, we specialize in the editing phase, so we’ve worked with hundreds of first-time novelists. Our team of experienced editors—which has worked with authors ranging from Stephen King to Paulo Coelho to Haruki Murakami—say writers often stumble on the same things.

Here are the common issues writers deal with in their first outing:

1. Where’s the conflict?

Stories must have some form of tension, or conflict, at all times. First novels often start with long descriptions of place or character. The exposition may be beautiful, but prose is never enough to keep your reader interested.

Take even a quiet novel, such as national bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In the opening scene, it’s an ordinary morning in Harold and Maureen’s household, but something seems wrong.

He’s sitting at breakfast, she’s vacuuming, and then, “The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter.”

The letter is for Harold. As he absentmindedly reacts to Maureen’s request for the jam, she says:

“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”

Harold discovers that the letter is from an old friend, letting him know she has cancer. Maureen changes her tone. She says she’s sorry to hear the news and tries to make a positive remark about the weather.

It seems she’s not just a crabby old woman. Her attitude is more complex than that.

On the surface, we’re reading about an ordinary breakfast and the delivery of a letter. But from the beginning, the reader can see there’s much more going on. This is what keeps us interested.

As an author, you know the central conflict of your story, the main arc, but remember it’s built up gradually through every little scene.

Your novel should never become a catalog of events. Instead, it should always include tension and conflict, which continue to engage the reader. This is the engine that drives your story forward.

2. Are your characters interesting?

As a reader or a movie goer, how frustrating is it when a character doesn’t turn out to be more than they seem? It means the writer didn’t have any insight into the inner life of this person or their world.

When a character has depth, we want to spend time with them – regardless of whether they’re good or evil, sympathetic or not – we’re drawn to their story and compelled to find out more.

One effective way to make sure your character is rich and multi-dimensional is to write their backstory.

This backstory is written outside your novel, and it should tell the character’s individual story—where they come from, what drives them and why—along with details about their life.

You can think of it as a mini history, and ask yourself what you might write if you were doing it for a family member or friend. You might include details about where they were born and who their relatives are, along with defining moments in their life, and tidbits about what they like or dislike.

In other words, you would include the big things, along with quirks that make them unique.

You might scratch your head and wonder why this is necessary. It’s not going to be in the book after all. Who cares about their backstory?

Jenna Blum in The Author at Work explains:

“Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg showed in fiction—your reader will see only what is above the water—but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg. And that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.”

The intimate understanding you have of your character will bury its way into your novel without you even noticing it. The reader, however, will be able to tell the difference.

3. Is your prose too beautiful?

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

Georges Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.” Simenon went on to say that he learned, after working with one editor, that sometimes style can overwhelm a writer’s content.

He explained:

“When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

Or, as one of our editors put it, overuse of things like descriptors can bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning of a sentence and continue reading.

4. Has someone else read your manuscript?

Every writer should reread their own work and self-edit repeatedly – until they feel they’ve done everything they can for their manuscript. But at a certain point, a writer losses the ability to look over their own work honestly and objectively.

When he was younger, one of our editors completed a Master’s Thesis. Once he felt it was as good as he could possibly make it, he sent it to a friend to edit.

The document was returned in a sea of red marks. The most distressing edits, however, pointed out sections in which he had left out entire sentences.

“I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and so when I read it, I wasn’t reading the words on the page. I was reading what should have been there. My brain was filling in the gaps.

If I hadn’t had that person read it, I would have turned in something that in no way represented what I meant.

There comes a time when your writing is just too familiar to you. It all makes sense to you, so you can no longer see the flaws.”

That’s when a beta reader or a professional editor can really help. They’re approaching the manuscript for the first time, and they’re going to pick up on things you would never have noticed.

5. Be original

I know what you’re thinking—this is from Captain Obvious! But unless you have a masterful command of how to write in your genre, you run the risk of being predictable.

Consider Adele Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.; it’s about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman and has been compared to the work of Jane Austen. However, unlike Austen’s work, Waldman’s novel is written from the point-of-view of a man.

At its core, the story is familiar. There’s nothing original about the concept of this book, which became a national bestseller. However, because Waldman took the unconventional approach of telling this tale in the first person from the perspective of the man, she made something old feel wholly new.

Having a woman write a romance from the perspective of a brilliant young man gives rise to psychological observations that make the book feel revelatory.

In your genre, ask yourself how your story differs from other books. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre (Nathaniel P. is, after all, a novel about relationships), you also need to surprise them.

Keep in mind that fans of sci-fi read a lot of sci-fi, fans of chick lit read a lot of chick lit, and so on. They’ve seen many variations of the same story. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, but a fresh voice or a new approach to a tried and true formula will delight the reader.

As a bonus, if you’ve done this well, it will also be much easier to describe your novel to readers. Everyone gets excited by discovering a fresh approach to a genre they know well.

 The last piece of advice is – don’t stress!

Writing a novel is an immense undertaking. By taking the time to craft your story, your unique perspective of the world, you’re embarking on a difficult but endlessly rewarding journey.

When you make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every author you’ve ever admired (alright, alright except Shakespeare) has lagged here and there, learned from their hiccups, and gone on to write the books that shake you to your core.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your craft. You’ll get there.

5 Secret Tips To Writing A Successful Short Story

From Writer’s Relief staff:

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. But the secret to successfully getting a short story published is to add something special to your storytelling mix…something that captures the attention of editors and readers alike. While there are no hard and fast rules for creating a great short story, here are a few industry secrets that will help your writing stand out:

Identify The Heart Of Your Story. Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message. Considering that the most marketable short stories tend to be 3,500 words or less, you’ll need to make every sentence count. If you over-stuff your plot by including too many distractions, your story will feel overloaded and underdeveloped.

See Things Differently. Experiment with your short story’s POV. A unique, unexpected voice can provide the most compelling, focused experience of the central story. Just be careful that you don’t inadvertently give the story to a nonessential character. Narrating the story line through a character who’s not central to the action is a common mistake many new authors make, often with confusing or convoluted results.

Opposites Attract. Elements that work against your character’s central desire will keep the reader intrigued and prevent your story from getting stuck. You can also try approaching your core idea from an unusual direction. Dialogue, setting, and characterization are all areas that will benefit from an unexpected twist.

Craft A Strong Title. This can be one of the most difficult—but one of the most important—parts of writing your story. How do you find inspiration for a great title? Have friends read your story and note which words or phrases strike them or stand out. These excerpts from your text just might hold the perfect title. Try to stay away from one- or two-word titles, which can seem to editors as taking the easy way out.

Shorter Is Sweeter. Resist the urge to go on and on. With a shorter short story, you will have more markets available to you and thus a better chance of getting published. Here at Writer’s Relief, our submission strategists and clients have noticed that editors consistently prefer short stories that are under 3,500 words over longer ones.

Use these simple tips to polish your prose and assess any potential short story shortcomings. With these insider guidelines, you can increase the odds of your short story being selected for the pages of a literary journal. That’s the best ending any author could devise—or even better, a great beginning to your future success!

Original post:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/short-story-tips-_n_3947152.html

Writing And Editing: Five Problems to Avoid in Your First Novel

by http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/09/03/writing-editing-first-novel/

The first novel is definitely the hardest! You think you have internalized how a story works as a reader and then you discover there is so much more to learn.

writingIn this article, Natasa Lekic from New York Book Editors takes us through five problems that are common in first novels and how to avoid them.

The experience of writing your first draft can be a roller coaster.

However, once you write that final page, you’ll relate to Zadie Smith:

It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”

For most first-time writers, this is followed by a straight dive into the publishing process.

After all, you did the work, now it’s time for your story to get out into the world – right?

Not yet. A crucial second phase is involved: the editing. Today, many novels go through an editor before they even reach a literary agent.

At the company I founded, NY Book Editors, we specialize in the editing phase, so we’ve worked with hundreds of first-time novelists. Our team of experienced editors—which has worked with authors ranging from Stephen King to Paulo Coelho to Haruki Murakami—say writers often stumble on the same things.

Here are the common issues writers deal with in their first outing:

1. Where’s the conflict?

Stories must have some form of tension, or conflict, at all times. First novels often start with long descriptions of place or character. The exposition may be beautiful, but prose is never enough to keep your reader interested.

Take even a quiet novel, such as national bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. In the opening scene, it’s an ordinary morning in Harold and Maureen’s household, but something seems wrong.

He’s sitting at breakfast, she’s vacuuming, and then, “The vacuum tumbled into silence, and his wife appeared, looking cross, with a letter.”

The letter is for Harold. As he absentmindedly reacts to Maureen’s request for the jam, she says:

“That’s the marmalade, Harold. Jam is red. If you look at things before you pick them up, you’ll find it helps.”

Harold discovers that the letter is from an old friend, letting him know she has cancer. Maureen changes her tone. She says she’s sorry to hear the news and tries to make a positive remark about the weather.

It seems she’s not just a crabby old woman. Her attitude is more complex than that.

On the surface, we’re reading about an ordinary breakfast and the delivery of a letter. But from the beginning, the reader can see there’s much more going on. This is what keeps us interested.

As an author, you know the central conflict of your story, the main arc, but remember it’s built up gradually through every little scene.

Your novel should never become a catalog of events. Instead, it should always include tension and conflict, which continue to engage the reader. This is the engine that drives your story forward.

2. Are your characters interesting?

As a reader or a movie goer, how frustrating is it when a character doesn’t turn out to be more than they seem? It means the writer didn’t have any insight into the inner life of this person or their world.

When a character has depth, we want to spend time with them – regardless of whether they’re good or evil, sympathetic or not – we’re drawn to their story and compelled to find out more.

One effective way to make sure your character is rich and multi-dimensional is to write their backstory.

This backstory is written outside your novel, and it should tell the character’s individual story—where they come from, what drives them and why—along with details about their life.

You can think of it as a mini history, and ask yourself what you might write if you were doing it for a family member or friend. You might include details about where they were born and who their relatives are, along with defining moments in their life, and tidbits about what they like or dislike.

In other words, you would include the big things, along with quirks that make them unique.

You might scratch your head and wonder why this is necessary. It’s not going to be in the book after all. Who cares about their backstory?

Jenna Blum in The Author at Work explains:

“Hemingway said that only the tip of the iceberg showed in fiction—your reader will see only what is above the water—but the knowledge that you have about your character that never makes it into the story acts as the bulk of the iceberg. And that is what gives your story weight and gravitas.”

The intimate understanding you have of your character will bury its way into your novel without you even noticing it. The reader, however, will be able to tell the difference.

3. Is your prose too beautiful?

Some authors believe good language should be showy. However, using unnecessary words in an effort to be literary or write more beautifully, is a common error first-time authors make.

Georges Simenon, a Belgian author, once pointed to a sentence and said: “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it.” Simenon went on to say that he learned, after working with one editor, that sometimes style can overwhelm a writer’s content.

He explained:

“When you come across such a gorgeous sentence in a paragraph, it stands out and disrupts the even tone of your narrative. It’s as if you’ve paved a road and had a rose bush spurt up in the center. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t belong there and it impedes the flow of the narrative.”

Or, as one of our editors put it, overuse of things like descriptors can bog down a narrative and make it more difficult for a reader to quickly grasp the meaning of a sentence and continue reading.

4. Has someone else read your manuscript?

Every writer should reread their own work and self-edit repeatedly – until they feel they’ve done everything they can for their manuscript. But at a certain point, a writer losses the ability to look over their own work honestly and objectively.

When he was younger, one of our editors completed a Master’s Thesis. Once he felt it was as good as he could possibly make it, he sent it to a friend to edit.

The document was returned in a sea of red marks. The most distressing edits, however, pointed out sections in which he had left out entire sentences.

“I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and so when I read it, I wasn’t reading the words on the page. I was reading what should have been there. My brain was filling in the gaps.

If I hadn’t had that person read it, I would have turned in something that in no way represented what I meant.

There comes a time when your writing is just too familiar to you. It all makes sense to you, so you can no longer see the flaws.”

That’s when a beta reader or a professional editor can really help. They’re approaching the manuscript for the first time, and they’re going to pick up on things you would never have noticed.

5. Be original

I know what you’re thinking—this is from Captain Obvious! But unless you have a masterful command of how to write in your genre, you run the risk of being predictable.

Consider Adele Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.; it’s about the romantic relationship between a man and a woman and has been compared to the work of Jane Austen. However, unlike Austen’s work, Waldman’s novel is written from the point-of-view of a man.

At its core, the story is familiar. There’s nothing original about the concept of this book, which became a national bestseller. However, because Waldman took the unconventional approach of telling this tale in the first person from the perspective of the man, she made something old feel wholly new.

Having a woman write a romance from the perspective of a brilliant young man gives rise to psychological observations that make the book feel revelatory.

In your genre, ask yourself how your story differs from other books. Even though you need to meet your reader’s expectations for their genre (Nathaniel P. is, after all, a novel about relationships), you also need to surprise them.

Keep in mind that fans of sci-fi read a lot of sci-fi, fans of chick lit read a lot of chick lit, and so on. They’ve seen many variations of the same story. You don’t need to recreate the wheel, but a fresh voice or a new approach to a tried and true formula will delight the reader.

As a bonus, if you’ve done this well, it will also be much easier to describe your novel to readers. Everyone gets excited by discovering a fresh approach to a genre they know well.

 The last piece of advice is – don’t stress!

Writing a novel is an immense undertaking. By taking the time to craft your story, your unique perspective of the world, you’re embarking on a difficult but endlessly rewarding journey.

When you make mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every author you’ve ever admired (alright, alright except Shakespeare) has lagged here and there, learned from their hiccups, and gone on to write the books that shake you to your core.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and your craft. You’ll get there.

5 Secret Tips To Writing A Successful Short Story

From Writer’s Relief staff:

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. But the secret to successfully getting a short story published is to add something special to your storytelling mix…something that captures the attention of editors and readers alike. While there are no hard and fast rules for creating a great short story, here are a few industry secrets that will help your writing stand out:

Identify The Heart Of Your Story. Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message. Considering that the most marketable short stories tend to be 3,500 words or less, you’ll need to make every sentence count. If you over-stuff your plot by including too many distractions, your story will feel overloaded and underdeveloped.

See Things Differently. Experiment with your short story’s POV. A unique, unexpected voice can provide the most compelling, focused experience of the central story. Just be careful that you don’t inadvertently give the story to a nonessential character. Narrating the story line through a character who’s not central to the action is a common mistake many new authors make, often with confusing or convoluted results.

Opposites Attract. Elements that work against your character’s central desire will keep the reader intrigued and prevent your story from getting stuck. You can also try approaching your core idea from an unusual direction. Dialogue, setting, and characterization are all areas that will benefit from an unexpected twist.

Craft A Strong Title. This can be one of the most difficult—but one of the most important—parts of writing your story. How do you find inspiration for a great title? Have friends read your story and note which words or phrases strike them or stand out. These excerpts from your text just might hold the perfect title. Try to stay away from one- or two-word titles, which can seem to editors as taking the easy way out.

Shorter Is Sweeter. Resist the urge to go on and on. With a shorter short story, you will have more markets available to you and thus a better chance of getting published. Here at Writer’s Relief, our submission strategists and clients have noticed that editors consistently prefer short stories that are under 3,500 words over longer ones.

Use these simple tips to polish your prose and assess any potential short story shortcomings. With these insider guidelines, you can increase the odds of your short story being selected for the pages of a literary journal. That’s the best ending any author could devise—or even better, a great beginning to your future success!

Original post:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/18/short-story-tips-_n_3947152.html