The Writing Process: Thousands of Variations

When I typed in the search words The Writing Process, this page of Google results popped up . Take a moment and click on the link. You’ll be amazed. There are pages and pages of clever and beautiful graphic representations of these three words, The Writing Process. Obviously this writing thing has intrigued many more minds than mine. And at all ages, too.

My process is partially represented by the following images:

Often the imagining happens before the actual writing begins. My wall plaque reminds me how important it is to sit and stare out my window to transport into history and my characters’ lives. How is it that we can sit and be looking somewhere but not see what is before us? Instead we see the movie in our own head.

My iPad with notes on possible blog post topics, the necessary glass of water, a current chapter I’m revising, and the remnants of my healthy breakfast are all part of my writing process. The water keeps my brain going, my trainer once told me, and so it is always beside me at the computer.

Inside my closet, a road map for our trips to historic sites–doing the research becomes a day trip for my husband and me, extra computer paper, treasure boxes with pamphlets from historic sites we’ve visited, lots of books on writing (crucial to the process!), and binders holding printouts of all of my blog posts. While I love technology, there is a little part of me still that insists on holding the paper in my hand, just to be sure I don’t lose all my work. Besides, the printouts seem more like a book and that’s the goal, always.

When we travel I always take my laptop for those times in the evening when a couple of free hours mean writing. Beside it some research books on the Niagara area, character sheets I’m working on for book three in my Loyalist series, and my latest prize, a book of family history titled John Garner of Niagara. This is a wonderful gift from my nephew who received this from the author. Amazingly his title is John Garner of Niagara, and I drew my hero for The Loyalist’s Wife from a member of Butler’s Rangers, also John Garner. Today I am anxious to find out if this is the same person whose life I have fictionalized. So much fun.

The writing process for me is not so streamlined that I can put it into a cute drawing, even though I do follow the basics. Imagine, plot story and characters, write rough draft, revise and revise and revise, publish–these are my steps, but a drawing would have many little lines connecting sideline balloons to the main thrust.

What does your drawing resemble? Have you changed your process over the course of becoming a writer? Consider leaving a comment to augment my points and outline your own.

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18 thoughts on “The Writing Process: Thousands of Variations

  1. First, I want to say John Gardner, the writer, gave us the best book on writing I’ve ever read, which is “On Becoming a Novelist.” Also, his book, “On Moral Fiction,” is really good. “On Moral Fiction” drew outrage, so he must have done something right.
    I just finished a book which is for screenwriters, but speaks absolutely to novelists, and that is “Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc,” by Dara Marks. This book is about the necessity of change in protagonists, and how to plot that change.
    Finally, I, for years, was convinced if I didn’t have the same work habits other writers urge, I would not be able to produce. I would fail and wasn’t a real writer. But I have produced, despite long pauses in writing my novels; sometimes, days and months, sometimes years.
    The pauses have actually been good because when I returned to the work, I was forced to go back to the beginning to refresh myself and then saw everything that needed to be revised.
    I once revised a book for twenty years! (It’s done, thank God).
    Anyway, God bless us every one.

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    • What a river of good points flows from your comment, Julia. Thank you! I am most interested to hear about your ‘pauses’ as most writers say to write every day but I find life just gets in the way. Revising for 20 years sounds tough but Mitchell did it for 10 with Gone With the Wind and it worked for her. Thanks for your excellent words.

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    • History is amazing but frustrating as some of our questions cannot be answered because there is just not enough information. Also a lot of similar names were used and second names weren’t all that common, from what I can see. I do know that there is some suggestion that some of our Garners went back to the States so we probably do have relatives there.

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  2. For one novel, I made a collage for both main characters with pictures cut from magazines. Sometimes I use virtual avatars and settings to add details to descriptions. I’d say what’s changed for me is that I moved away from paper somewhat. I now save images in Word folders of things that are appropriate to my stories.

    Loved the look inside your workspace, Elaine! Looks like an inspirational space.

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    • Yes, I am lucky to have a space I love. I didn’t show the family pictures who are my inspiration. What a great idea to use avatars. Folks should check out your blog to see them in all their glory.

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  3. Working on writing my first fiction novel, so not sure on the process. So far, brainstormed and wrote down notes on general story idea as well as characters in a notebook. Next, I just started writing. Stopped after writing the introduction, because decided I needed a more concrete visual of the area my characters would be taking their journey in, so I got more creative. Using markers and crayons on a sheet of white posterboard, I drew the area and labeled names of the places. Thinking I need to make a cheat sheet of sorts with the names of the characters and the items they are carrying as I keep forgetting, then have to look back.

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  4. Hi Elaine.

    I also keep a running list of possible blog topics. I’m sure we all do. Instead of an ‘imagine’ plaque, I have a plaque with a phrase: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History.

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    • Ah, but you are so well-behaved when I see you, Sherry! I’m reading The Paris Wife about Hemingway’s Hadley and realize, too, there was a strong, intelligent, and vibrant woman behind the touted Hemingway, struggling to find her role, and her passion in addition to being married to ‘Papa’. We women like to support our ‘others’ and be well-behaved but some dare to step out and be great themselves. You go, girl!

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  5. A friend of mine has a word-image like your ‘imagine’ except that it says ‘write’. I very much want it.
    My ‘writing process’ (if you can call it that) is about as chaotic as they come. Bit of papers and printouts all over the place, a notebook in my purse, the image outside my window looks into my neighbour’s yard where she has a pine tree that must be fifty feet tall. If I’m able, I usually have my ipod on, but lately that has become rare. And it would also have to include my favourite books which always inspire me, as well as long walks letting ideas simmer. I don’t think I could ever streamline it into a flowchart. My husband tried to get me to use a program called Storyboard for my current WIP and after about an hour of getting frustrated with it, I turned back to my papers for working things out.

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    • You make me feel so much better, Em, as I have trouble doing a whole novel. I can get the history into a spreadsheet or some semblance of a flow chart but the fiction? Very hard. And then my characters often take over and send some great new idea into my head. Also, I love your friend’s wall plaque, too. Inspiration is what we all need. Maybe a wall plaque with that word would be good!

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  6. Your office looks so organized, mine is composed of piles, both vertical and horizontal. I’m learning how to pile into a folder or a binder instead of on a table. Always a process.

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    • I took the picture on a relatively good day. That long table that is part of my work space is a mixed blessing as it is just too convenient for me–or my husband–to put stuff there. But some days all I can do is something mind-numbing and then I tidy my workspace and get satisfaction from it. As for folders, I have hundreds, both on the computer, extra drives, USB sticks and actual filing cabinets full of folders. Do you ever wonder what would happen if you died and someone you love actually had to go through all your stuff? Keeps me tossing, for sure. Thanks for visiting, Jessica!

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  7. Elaine, I’ve never attempted to write a fiction novel or even a non-fiction book, though I admit I have many ideas for those. I decided to blog because it is much easier for me to get thoughts on paper that way versus the extensive dedication of a book. But maybe one day! Thanks for sharing your process.

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  8. Oh wow. I would never dare publish a picture of my desk. haha As I look around I realize what my job should be for the day. Books and binders open, one on top of the other. A half dozen notebooks with mostly illegible scribbles. Framed photos, Crayon coloured pictures (the grandkid’s, not mine) The hangings on the wall in front of the desk include, Best Friends Forever, Sister by Blood, Friend by Choice, and my favourite, When in doubt, add more wine. Not sure how that one found its way from the kitchen. Oh my, the clutter must go. I’ll start now. I always get something constructive from your blogs!!

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    • I forgot to mention the coffee mug given to me years ago which says “Elaine. She shines in beauty.” These days it’s mostly an inner beauty, if at all, but I still love that message. Keeps me trying to shine. BTW my desk is usually not so tidy as those pics suggest. Just so you know, Phyllis.

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