So, for a while now you’ve been hearing me bang on about why you should view writing as a process. And I bet you’ve been wondering (at least some of the time) what this process should look like.
Good news: there ain’t no should. Back in the sun-dappled world of my schooldays, teachers were fond of telling us to rough out a plan in list form before we started composing our essays. But I always thought this advice was nuts, because I never knew what I was going to write until I’d actually got the words out there on the paper. I still don’t.
That’s why my writing process tends to look something like this:
You’ll observe that it’s quite messy. When I’m writing fiction or poetry it’s even messier, with lots of going back and forth between stages. And that’s perfectly okay, because iteration and reiteration is how any piece of writing gets to be good.
No doubt you’ve also noticed that I don’t start by doing research, but by doing a brain dump (after I’ve fretted for a while and engaged in displacement activities such as stationery buying, of course). This helps me establish what I do and don’t already know about a topic, and enables me to target my research efficiently. And there’s quite a bit of coffee drinking and going for walks, too.
I love my process. It differs depending on what I’m writing, but I embrace its complexity and always look for ways of improving each component. Being process-aware in this way means I very rarely end up like this.
So if you want to be a better writer, map your process. See if you can’t make yours messier than mine.