Tuesday 18 January 2011


On her Blog: Life, the Universe and Writing, Shallee McArthur is hosting a What's Your Process BlogfestI'm looking forward to reading how other people approach the process of writing. :)

I found the process of writing evolved.
This was how I used to see planning a novel.

My process was simple and linear.

I have a much more twisty kind-of-process now.

These turn up in unlikely places: a wall with crumbling mortar or a stain in the plaster; the man who barges by; the kids who push into the centre of anything and the ones who hang back; seeing or reading a re-working of an old story with an unexpected twist and - clichéd but true – from dreams. I carry two kinds of note books around with me: Brief and Extended ideas.
Characters and setting
My process reflects a visual approach: I look for images I can be inspired by the characters, and the settings, grow from pictures. For protagonists and antagonists alike, I select character traits and an improvement journey.
I’m a big Mind Map fan. I write the idea in the middle of a page then collect ideas; at this point they branch out in any directions. I select where I want to go with the story
I plan the over-all desired outcome for my character and the obstacles they will face. For every chapter I plan an outcome and an obstacle.
Hook and voice
I work on the hook and the voice for the novel – experimenting with the opening up to about the 250-word mark

I’d love to be able to write every day – free from interruptions. I need blocks of time, hours, when I get immersed in the creating the story. Music can help to keep concentration levels high it can play a part in helping me create the right mood or tonal quality in the writing. Quite often, I work in total silence – apart from the uneven ticking. First draft. This is when I write. I don’t switch off my grammar, spelling and punctuation keys – and my internal editor gnaws like eye teeth – but I set word  targets and write. Writing is organic and, even though I have a plan, I will go with a new direction if necessary. During the first draft process, some chapters may be short and unfinished. When events unfold, I go back to flesh out skinny chapters. Especially when I realise it is the place to add details and foreshadowing.

This is where prior knowledge (planning) combines with hindsight. By checking the chapter against the outcome, I look for ways to make the obstacles higher – to create more internal or external tension. I turn up the conflict: if the stake can be raised on the way up and twisted on the way down this is when I make sure it has been done.
A.R.R.R!!! (Adding, Rearranging, Removing, Replacing) I’m a planner but I get caught by the need for revision. Global alterations. Picking sections up and moving them around.  Editing is when the revision gets in-depth. Line by line - one paragraph at a time – I weed out repetition keeping a Thesaurus handy.  I use Find to spot weak words and cut out the deadwood. The aim is to make every sentence stronger. This goes for grammar errors and spotting spell-checker over-sights: I proof read until my eyes bleed.
After I’ve done the writing and revisions, the Writers’ Circle, Beta Buddies or anyone prepared to read with a critical eye, become essential. By this point, I have lost all perspective – usually, I hate every word – but because I’m a rational person I look for readers outside my maelstrom. I’m desperate for feedback so I can think and start the post-writing rewriting all over again ;)


Experimenting with genre and audience is an important part of my writing process. I write chronologically so my next challenge is to write an manuscript that isn't.

Have you found your writing process evolved?   What challenge have you decided to conqueror next?


  1. I'm definitely in the ARRR phase right now. Hating every word. Just blogged about it, hoping to rid myself of the pain. It's the hardest part of writing. The one bright light, though, is that I also compile a revised chapter outline. I include a timeline, and update all my character traits and motivations. Really helps me when it comes to writing my synopsis.

  2. Your process is sound and works well for what I've seen of your writing, which by the way your MS is next on my list for crit.

  3. ARRR is right. :)

    It's been so interesting reading everyone's process. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi JD
    Good luck with the writing. Getting a second opinion is important when it all seems bleak.
    The time line part is so important - I plan with a calendar all the time too. :)

    Hi Summer
    Thank you :) Ooohhh! I'm excited - I have high hope for this one - again *head-shakes

    Hi Karen
    It is a great acronym - it makes me laugh because I always get to that shouting and head banging point during the revisions process.
    I'm looking forward to reading the other Blog posts too. :)

  5. Hi,

    Definite plotter, then! ;)


  6. Love the ARRR thing. I do a lot of that along the way too.

  7. Oh yes, my process keeps evolving. On the next novel, I will attempt to write the 1st draft much faster.

  8. I love the ARRR acronym-- it really sums up the revision process. I love mind mapping too, though I tend to be a little rigid with it. I'll have to try one where I'm a little more free with my ideas! Thanks for sharing.

  9. I crazy glue my ass to the chair and keep writing until my session is done. Repeat process until my day off. Enjoy said day off and then back to crazy gluing my ass to the chair again.

  10. Hi Francine
    Guilty as charged. The only question is if I plan too much or a lot. ;)

    Hi Jennifer
    Yes. Reworking as you go along is the only way to remember to add that great idea you had and put in its foreshadowing in the early chapters. When I revise later I smooth out the joins. :)

    Hi M Pax
    That is exactly what I did. I found if the preparation was detailed then the speed of writing was faster. It also meant I could write for shorter periods, more regularly, with out producing chopping text.

    Hi Shallee
    If only I could claim the ARRR as all my own - it is only the level of desperation, and the framing, I can claim as mine ;)

    Hi Ivy
    Sticking with it and writing is important. It sounds like you have a great balance in your life.

  11. I like your diagrams. Simple yet in depth at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love the ARRR acronym - I love it! I also like the Mind Map idea. I'll have to try that. Thanks for sharing your process:)

  13. #1 is perfect. That's how my muse works. I'll see something flash by and there goes a story. My youngest son and I were stitting in a diner trying to count how many spies there might be. There are stories EVERYWHERE. I have a notebooks tucked away all over. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Hello and good writing. Not always balanced. As today, after writing it took me all afternoon to finish the dishes because I was also farting about the house, too.

    Most happy writing to you. Until next time.

  15. Hi Michelle
    That second picture encapsulates my writing process while I'm writing!

    Hi Melissa
    The Mind Map - concept mapping is a great tool - I have handouts from a course I attended that are my most useful writing tools for characterisations.

    Hi Lisa
    I have to dodge my Muse - she bombards me with ideas on an almost daily basis. Useful, if it were a lot less often ;)

    Hi Ivy
    Brussels sprouts? ;)
    I have visitors it makes writing and doing this Blogfest too far over the rude-border to do any actual writing.

  16. Oh, I understand. We had company a bit a go. Just for a day, but it does throw things off a bit, I find. I started my next manuscript. Not totally sure where I'll take it but I'm happy to have the other manuscript resting, and a new one started.

    Wishing you a Happy Writing Week.

  17. Hello,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. yes your comment from twitter did come through (never had anyone from twitter before).
    I say yes to carrying a note book (always). However I do envy the fact that you're able to start from a theme. I'm actually working on that this year through short stories.

  18. I labor over my work as I go... edit a lot. I skip around some to move the story along and head back to fill in, if need be, but I want to like what I am doing before I move on... and generally I do. I do what works for me. Trying to go back and edit things I've worked on generally means I don't edit nearly harshly enough. But that's just me. :)

  19. Oh my gosh, that diagram is awesome! I am a perpetual editor as I write, and then again at the end. I wish I could just let it free flow and focus on content first, but my inner editor manages to stay alive and kicking!

  20. I love mind maps too! They've been so helpful in planning twists etc. I enjoyed reading about your process.

  21. I love your evolving process. Liked the charts you posted too :)

  22. You have a great process. I am hearing a lot about mind maps. The charts you posted are very helpful. Thanks for sharing and your comment on my blog.

  23. Hi Ivy
    Starting a new manuscript is an exciting stage - good luck :)

    Hi Akoss
    The wonder of the interlinked - doesn't that sound like a great title for a book?! - *dibbed-it-it's mine ;) I'm glad my comment got through.Good luck with your short stories.

    Hi Danette
    An over-active internal editor can be a pain, at times. I think I could write faster if I could switch off the edit button better. It's one of my goals.

    The second one is very apt. That busy little diagram is a good portrayal of what is going on inside my head - even before the Betas make me think about my work again.

    Hi Kari Marie
    The mapping tool is very useful. I find lots of unusual directions to head in. It doesn't mean I have never followed the urge to take a turn off the planning. Planning is a help not a straight-jacket.

    Hi Lynda
    The whole writing process is one endless piece of evolution. :)

    Hi Rachna
    I'm glad you found the charts useful. Thank you.

  24. I have the same problem with writing every day. I try, but I also need at bare minimum an hour or I just can't get into the story. Several hours is even better, although if I have too long then I start to procrastinate and goof off.


  25. That mind-mapping thing actually sounds really cool, I may have to try it in future!