I have read a lot of articles online and taken a number of video courses. I am far from an accomplished expert, but I have spent a lot of time looking into what process works for me. I think that this can be broken down, for me, into a number of areas. In addition, this process is just at its start. I hope to continue to tweak and perfect what I’ve learned, which is exciting to me. Let’s dig into this 5 stage process.
Stage 1: Build Something Horrible
I think this is the stage that is potentially the hardest in some ways. People don’t want to be horrible at something they’ve worked really hard at. In addition, it is really troubling to start the process knowing you’re going to be horrible. However, there is a topic that I find absolutely fascinating in this stage. For the first time ever, you get to hear your voice. When I say voice, I don’t mean your actual throat voice. What I mean is your literary voice. When you write a book, you write it in a unique way, in a unique style. When you first start writing, you get to start hearing this for the first time. It’s like hearing the compilation of all the stories you’ve admired through the years. Or perhaps it’s a squeaky and high pitched type of thing, where you absolutely hate your voice. Either way, you don’t know the “sound” until you start building something.
Stage 2: Work with Others
This is the stage where you might be the most shy. Now that you’ve built something, it’s time for others to read it. That can include beta readers, friends/family, or even narrators. The biggest and most important part of this stage is honesty. Brutal and non-comforting feedback. Once you have this, you can start to change the parts that don’t work that come naturally to you. That’s right, for the first real time, you will start training. You move from believing you know how to write, to actually writing better. The more feedback and the more trial/error, the better you get. This is the practice that separates the normal from the great.
Stage 3: Sow Knowledge Finds
After you’ve gotten feedback on your own writing, you can now dig into all the various pieces of advice out there. It might be best to stick with advice from proven authors, since their advice will be more generic. If you get advice from non-proven authors, they may believe that small successes are key. One note, I am not a proven author. When I say proven author, I am saying someone professionally doing writing for a living. In addition, they can’t be subsided via another route. A lottery winner, who doesn’t need to work, isn’t the best source of what may work. You want to find someone who works hard and is turning that hard work into an actual livable wage. Once you have these sources, and you learn from them, you hear about way more than you could ever act on. These knowledge finds become seeds for finding your style. You go ahead and plant them, which means you try them out. After you try a number of them, you’ll get a sense of what works and doesn’t work. I think this is the most interesting stage, because of the excitement of what could happen.
Stage 4: Reap and Repeat
After you try out a number of ideas from known authors, you can see what works for you. After you work through a lot of these ideas, you’ll begin to see a trend. At this point, you should be trying out the ideas, getting feedback on your work, and seeing what makes your style work. You should be finding ways to leverage your practice to be bigger and better. However, it doesn’t stop there. Now that you have a sense of what may work, you can start looking outside of known experts to see what is working on the fringes. Ultimately, you want to continue to work on your process and style. The more you refine and leverage it, the better it becomes. One potential danger at this point is building too big of system. At this point, you may need to cut things that work, but don’t work as well as you want. You need to keep the most important stuff: such as stuff that makes it fun to write. After you cut and find new stuff enough, the final stage opens up.
Stage 5: Final Why
Now that you’ve dug through all the methods that work for you and what you know how to get better, the final stage appears. This stage is determine what drives you to continue this practice. What makes you want to continue to get better and better. The more you refine and focus on this, the better. This stage is extremely risky, which is why it’s towards the end of this process. At this stage, you may determine you don’t want to write. You may also determine you want to write for the rest of your life. The choice will be yours, but it may fuel a unique determination. You’ll face the final boss battle of your writing process and either come out with a loss or win. Knowing your why is the most important part of the writing process. It is also the most difficult to pin down.