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  • Writer's pictureDavid Berger

My Writing Process—Maybe yours?

Just like everyone's fingerprints are different, so is everyone's writing process. I can certainly suggest methodologies, but only you know if they'll work for you. One of the best ways to figure things out is simply trial and error. But I will give you the benefit of my experience, and it can take you wherever it needs to.

First, you need an IDEA. Just a kernel of a thought is enough to get started. I'm assuming that you have already figured out what writing genre you want to do. If not, then that's your first step.

My focus tends to be in the fantasy genre, largely Greek mythology. An immense part of my process revolves around the idea of RESEARCH. I do hours and hours of research just to make sure I have all the information I could possibly need to get started. Even then, the research isn't always conclusive. I use a variety of sources as well. I wish I could say there was a clean and easy way to organize all of this information, but sometimes it just boils down to writing everything down and sorting through it afterwards. I have many files that are just notes.

Once I have information to work from, I then figure out a basic storyline. This is a very simple version of the plot and doesn't include all of the different subplots. It's basically an OUTLINE. I'll say this repeatedly: everything is subject to change. Some people ask me if I use any particular software to do this, but I use a combination of Google Docs and Microsoft Word. There is software available for writers; one is called Scrivener. Every tool comes down to trial and error and if you want to pay for something. From the basic outline, I then do sub-outlines in order to figure out different plots and possibilities for the story. If you're using a three act structure for a novel, then you might want to use Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheet.

The next part of the process sounds a bit simplistic, but just START WRITING. The only way you'll know what you need to do next is to put words to the page. Yes, it's going to be word vomit. Even if it sounds good up front, you know that you are going to be making changes as well as proofreading for mistakes. All first drafts are shitty first drafts.

There will also be times where you will be writing from the seat of your pants because you'll think better on the fly. That’s called being a “panster.” The first method was “plotter.” If you’re like me, you’re a bit of both—that makes you bi-textual.

Both methods have their advantages. You'll just have to figure out through experience what works best for you. I say, go with the flow.

You'll be tempted, once you have something written down, to go back and make changes. Resist that urge for as long as possible. If you spend your time editing what you've written, you won't be writing anything new. There will be time to go back and correct things. If you haven't worked on your project for a little while, you'll want to reread a few paragraphs toward the end, just to get your mind back to the moment. If you notice any glaring mistakes, then fix them. Otherwise, leave them alone for now.

Once you have started this process, you're going to find yourself going back to some of the original methods like research and outlining. Writing isn't really a linear process at all. The sooner you accept that, the better off you'll be. The entire experience will be haphazard and convoluted. Like I said in the beginning, every experience is different for every writer. There are “how to be a writer” books out there. Feel free to explore those if you want. Just don’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if what the book says isn’t working for you. Focus on what does work.

After you have finished a substantial amount of writing, whether it be a chapter or a few chapters, then you can go back and reread what you've written to see if there's anything that needs to be altered. This would be a good time to use that thesaurus. Just don't overdo it. Make sure that everything you are writing is pertinent to telling your story, setting up the conflict, exploring character, or developing setting. I can talk about things like info dumps or showing versus telling in another blog post; just continue getting your story out of your head and onto the document.

If you're writing something on a larger scale, like a novel, you will probably want to find one or two people to be beta readers. These are people who are interested in the genre and will give you feedback not only on story structure and development, but also glaring errors or mistakes that need to be fixed. If you have beta readers, you will want to make sure to give them explicit instructions as to what you want them to read for. Select people who will be constructively critical and not just tell you everything looks great. The key to finding good beta readers is to find honest people. Sometimes, your friends won’t be the best at that because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Constructive criticism can sometimes be painful to hear, but it’s necessary for your growth as a writer.

If you've reached this point of the blog post, I think I've given you enough to digest for now. I can get into more specifics when it comes to other parts of the process tied to fiction writing. Please email me if you have questions. Happy writing!

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