WFMAD Day 16 – The Bones of the Writing Process – Part 1

We suck at teaching writing.

We use beige, dust-covered words and arrange them in well-balanced, useless diagrams like this….


… and then we roll our eyes when students say they hate writing. We are idiots.

It’s time to rename the stages of writing. We’re writers, right? (Try saying that fast three times!) It’s our job to bring words to life.

These are the stages of my writing process:

  • Pondering
  • Mucking Around
  • Scribbling
  • Abandonment
  • Boiling Down The Bones
  • Chords
  • Singing
  • Storytelling

A little more interesting, don’t you think?


Pondering – You know how you can smell smoke before you realize that it’s smoke? There’s that moment when your nose twitches, before you are fully aware what's going on, then you lift your head, face into the wind and there it is – something is burning.

That’s what it feels like when I’m pondering an idea for a new book. I begin to notice things – articles, new songs, a hairstyle or a pair of decorated sneakers – and I find myself jotting them down. I might have a book idea or I might not. If I jump in too early and try to force a description of the characters or the major plot points, everything vanishes. I ponder until my ponderer is sore.

Mucking Around – When the idea takes solid shape – I know a bit about the character and I think I know a couple of the book’s important moments of conflict – I start jotting things down. I play a lot of “What if” games and start exploring the relationships my main character has with the other characters who have popped onto the page and are refusing to leave.

Scribbling – Other people would call this a “first draft.” It always starts out being so much fun, but after seventy pages or so it often bogs down because I don’t know enough about the characters yet. Some people take a sideways step at this point and make outlines. I’ve tried that. I always throw them out. I have to put my head down and plow my way to the end of the book. The only way out of the Deep Dark First Draft Forest is to write myself a path.

Abandonment – Yep, you read that write right. I abandon the book. I put it away for a couple of weeks and work on other projects. My subconscious needs time to process all the scribbling and sort through it. By the time I get to the end of that first draft I'm finally beginning to understand the world of the story. And that’s when the real fun begins… REVISION!!!

Which I’ll discuss tomorrow.


Non-fiction prompt – What are your favorite and most-hated parts of the writing process? Be specific and honest about what it feels like to be in your most-hated part.

Fiction prompt – Look at the grinning dog above. Why is she smiling like that? Who is she with? What is the setting? How old is she, what's her backstory? What happens next?

Fifteen minutes spent writing today could change your life.

scribble… scribble… scribble…

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