The Process

This seems like a boring topic, yet I get asked about it enough that I may be wrong. People want to know how I write.

We all have our processes. I've been writing for years, so I've developed a system. Hiatuses happen, I get rusty, and the process saves me as I ramp back into writing regularly.

There's no right or wrong in this. If what you do works, keep at it. If you want to see how someone else does it, here you go. And if you discover a little gem you can take with you, by all means. Writers unite.

This process works for essays, articles, and fiction—just slightly modified in the latter case when it's a long work.

Planning

Here's my spreadsheet for this blog:

ProcessPostSpreadsheet.JPG

I list planned posts, days they ran (or may run), their tags and categories, and the dates I posted them on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I try to balance topics, so that I don't have too many of any one subject in any given stretch. It's an editorial calendar of sorts.

I do a similar spreadsheet for the articles the team and I at FrogDog write on marketing and communications. And there's a spreadsheet for the novel I'm working on; it lists story segments, dates written, plot points, and so forth. Planning keeps me on track and on schedule for all my writing.

Outline

Before I write, I outline the scheduled item—but not in the high-school-English sense. In all caps, I note down ideas and snippets, which I then order and reorder to sketch what I'm going to say and how.

ProcessPostOutline.JPG

Outlining helps organize my thoughts before I start writing and gets me over the "great white blank page" hurdle.

Draft

Once I have my outline, I draft. I may write the piece linearly, starting from the beginning and heading to the end, or I may grab one segment of the outline that compels me the most, start there, and then write in pieces until I have a whole.

The first draft of an earlier post on this site. Again, if interested, you can compare the first draft to the finished post.

The first draft of an earlier post on this site. Again, if interested, you can compare the first draft to the finished post.

I find beginnings and endings the hardest—and they're where I tend to ramble most--so starting in the middle and writing the start and finish later helps thwart the fear and tendency.

Edit

Wouldn't it be nice if the first draft was rainbows and starlight and I didn't need to wordsmith it at all?

I could lie and say it is.

Nah. I'm too honest.

I may do a quick read-through after I finish my draft, to catch any major issues, but not usually. Typically, I close the Word document and let the piece sit as long as I can to still make my deadline. Before a deadline, I comb through it two or three times in document form and then at least once—and usually twice—in its final Web or print format. As a former professional editor, typos, punctuation, grammar, and unnecessary words drive me nuts.

So that's my process. What's yours?