But it got me to thinking about what other parts of the process we can agree on, or, even more interestingly, disagree on! Below, I’ve laid out some of the usual broad parts of the writing process, the general public opinion of them as best I can glean from writer’s forums, and how I feel about them myself.
Whether you’re with the consensus, with me, or somewhere else entirely, chime in in the comments and share what your favorite and least favorite parts are. And let me know if I’ve missed any!
General opinion (at least among genre authors):
But you know how you feel when you’re reading a book that goes on for chapters and chapters describing and demonstrating all the details of the world without anything actually happening? That’s how I feel when I spend too much time building the world. I want to get to the story. Often I jump into drafting with a half-formed universe in mind, fill in the holes where the story demands it, and spend much of the second draft adjusting to make sure it all makes sense together and adding extra bits of color where I feel the environment not coming across.
“Outlining is the easy warm-up level before the real writing.”
“Who needs an outline? Planning things smothers my creativity!”
Since one of these sides rejects outlining entirely, I’d estimate they average out to about two stars.
Are they fun? Not especially. Easy? No. Give me a chapter out of an outline I’ve already written over the outline itself any day. Trying to give a story its structure feels to me like trying to wrestle Jabba the Hutt into a shoebox. But when everything does finally fit, that’s when I feel like I have a future book on my hands rather than some vague notions, and that feels great. Plus, outlining gives me my first look at a lot of the scenes I’ll get to look forward to writing in the next step.
I don’t daydream worlds to the extent a lot of people do, but I do daydream scenes, and putting them on the page is the heart of writing for me. I’ve been known to get blocked on occasion, but if I’m working on a story I’m confident in, and I’ve made it through all the other steps and done them right, it’ll usually be rare and brief in this phase.
The next couple drafts:
“Oh no, now I have to mutilate my poor baby of a first draft!”
“Finally, the round of mistake-making is done! Now I get to make it good!” (This is my husband’s favorite part).
Three stars sound like about where they even out?
What I lack in susceptibility to writer’s block I make up for with editor’s block. That dreaded feeling of staring at a blank screen actually hits me more often when I’m staring at a full one. Reading my manuscript, realizing that it could be good but isn’t yet good, and not being able to pin down exactly what I have to do to make it good, is the single most difficult part of the process for me.
Personally, on top of feeling the need to defend its value, I also (sometimes) enjoy it.
The fact that I was trained in proofreading from an early age, have done it professionally, and am quite good at it certainly has something to do with this. Technical details are the easy part. This is the part with solid, written rules that I know, the part that I can tell I’m doing right, objectively and without doubt, even when I’m in a pit-of-artistic-despair sort of mood.
No, it’s not the most creative part, hence four stars instead of five, but it does give me a chance to read what I’ve written in its nearly finished form. Sometimes I’ve been over it so many times by this point that I can barely see the art anymore, another reason for only four stars, but the times when I can see it, the times when I look at something I’ve created and realize that I’m truly proud of it, those are some of the moments I live for, maybe as much as the initial first draft creating.
Synopsis and query letter:
“I get to goof off on Facebook professionally! I have the best job in the world!”
“I studied writing, not marketing. I’m not cut out for this stuff.”
Three stars meet in the middle.
But if I could, without consequences, spend less time than I do on promotion and more time on the fiction I’m in this for, would I? Yes, definitely.
What say you, fellow writers? What parts of the process do you simply survive, and which parts do you live for?