The Writing Process: Two Things to Keep in Mind


PenWriting. When it comes right down to it, there are as many ways to do it as there are writers who do it. Which begs the question: is there any right way or wrong way to write?

Well, no . . . and yes.

We’re not going to go into a bunch of detail here. What we are going to do is share two basic tips that will help you hone a process that works for you.

Tip One: Write Linearly

This one’s pretty simple: write your story from start to finish, beginning to end, without jumping around.

Every writer gets great ideas smack dab in the middle of writing. So what do you do when that happens? Do you stop what you’re doing and write the new thing instead? Many do—all the time. And then they find it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pick the momentum back up.

To keep yourself moving, have a folder called “revision notes.” Rather than jumping back to something you wish you wrote, or hopping forward to a great idea you have, place the idea in a “notes folder” so you don’t forget it. Then keep writing. You’ll stay focused on where you are and will maintain your momentum, and all the while those savory ideas will be waiting in a folder for you to address later.

Tip Two: Wait to Rewrite until You’re Done

Never do a major rewrite before a book is done.

Okay, okay . . . you can do tiny little rewrites of a paragraph or two while you’re in the process. That’s normal. In fact, that’s desirable.

We’re not talking about those. We’re talking about a major rewrite. Many beginners spin their gears rewriting and rewriting only to find they need to rewrite yet again after they’ve finished their manuscript.

Here’s why you should wait: You need to wait to see the “whole picture” so the flaws jump out in places that need rewriting. When you know how your book ends, it’s easy to see how every piece fits into it. How every little nuance adds or subtracts from the plot. How what a character does in one chapter informs what she does in a later one. Only when you’ve finished the book can you go back and evaluate.

Now you have two solid tips on the writing process. I often like to give bonuses, so here are some tips on how to become a better writer:

ReadingRead, read, read!
Study the work of authors whose fiction you love and respect and admire—and try to figure out what it is about that author’s fiction that works and why. Find someone whose work and style turns you on—then emulate it!

Write, write, write!
Write! And keep writing. And write some more. Rejected? So what? Write another book. Rejected again? Who cares? Write two this time.

When you're finished with a book, let it sit and rest for a while (and by “a while,” I mean more than a week). Come back to it and read it aloud to yourself. Chances are very good that you’ll find things you want to fix, improve, change.

Once your book has “aged” a bit, seek someone else’s opinion—someone who can mention parts that were unbelievable, parts where the story left him cold, sections where she was pulled into the story.

Above all, remember that fiction must intrigue and entertain.
That’s why you’re writing: you want someone to love what you’ve done.

Tony Venables of Ad Hoc wrote, “The ultimate fatal mistake is thinking that people should read what you write simply because you write it. Writers need to understand that they have to earn their audience, to make their audience feel it’s worthwhile to read their work. This does not mean pandering to populist ideas or sugar-coating what you have to say—it means choosing not to be boring.”

(Photos: top,; bottom, Pinterest)



"Kathy writes compellingly and swiftly, has an eye for detail, and possesses an uncanny sense for how to shape a story to make it pulsate with energy."
 —Taylor Halverson


"Kathy Jenkins has honed her editing skills with such precision and excellence that today she is viewed by many (including me) as the best editor on the planet. No matter how many times I have read and reworked a manuscript, Kathy improves my writing with meticulous care and good will."
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"Kathy has been so helpful to me in bringing my manuscripts to fruition, encouraging me to work diligently on my writing craft. She makes every author better in every way."
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