Shout out to da-AL at https://happinessbetweentails.com for saying she would like to read a post about my writing process. Please take some time to read her work! It makes me happy to engage with people like da-AL who takes their time to comment on people’s work. And so, if you are so inclined, what kind of writing-, book-, or literature-related post would you like to see on my site? Comment below with your suggestions, and remember to like this post and follow Writings By Ender.
Writing about the process of writing feels strange, and it makes me feel naked in that by writing about it I am revealing parts of myself to you. Should I feel this way? The answer is, hesitantly, yes. The very nature of writing is an act of vulnerability. So, if by talking about my writing process I am exposing myself to you, then I hope that through what follows you can come to a better understanding of me, as both Austin and the voice of Writings By Ender.
If I were to do a full itemized list of my process we would get to the point where no one would bother reading to the end. I am, therefore, consolidating the steps into four stages that I hope will enlighten you into the decisions I take in each step. The stages of my writing process are: Preparation, Writing/Development, Editing, and Post-Writing.
This first step is, perhaps, the most difficult to pin down. It is for me, and perhaps to many other writers, the most elusive when it comes time for enumeration, and yet there’s a quality about it that simply makes logical sense. The preparation stage is taking two concepts and smashing them together with as much force as possible to see what remains of those two entities. Stated another way, preparation involves thinking of two concepts, life and death, sickness and health, light and dark, dusk and dawn, fire and water, growth and decay, and/or etc., and combining them by listing their differences and similarities. Within this process I discover content worth writing about. It is this exact process that helped me write many of the short stories on Writings By Ender.
Having an overall feel for the concepts of which I’m dealing, I’m left to convey that in plot structure and characters. This is another point of challenge. How do you go from lofty concept to conveying that same weight within plot and character? It is both never easy, and never perfect. I grasp for a semblance of structure, by choosing what entities portray what parts of my concept, will my character depict decay and the plot structure reflect the growth concept? Or maybe the other way around is more original? Then there are the added layers of supplementary characters and subplots which also serve roles within conveying the concept, if the work is large enough to convey them. On whole, this process is the one that is most frustrating.,
Why did I add developing into the same point as writing? No matter how static and certain you think your plotting is, the work will inevitably take a life of its own, and it is the writer’s job help the work take the shape it wants once that has happened. There is no point in sticking to what you had plotted once it’s diverged. Your character will thank you. If you are writing a short work —a short story, or poem— I find that it is often best to work it out all at once than to do it over multiple days. This isn’t to say that if you do it all at once, it will be the best work you’ve produced, but it will often contain, via the nature of its creation, a degree of oneness. Some work, however, will require you to do the opposite, regardless of length. This is the work that gains in its content as you segment the idea more. This is also expected. The goal is to know which method will work best for the story you are telling.
Editing is a must, and I’m embarrassed to admit I used to be writer who would write and submit on the first draft. I was reluctant to include editing in a separate stage because I now view it as a part of writing rather than something separate. All great works that we’ve read, that have moved or inspired us, are the products of both great writing and great editing. Or, in other words, great writing demands great editing.
I carry out my editing on multiple levels, and they happen to reflect the types of editing in the publishing world. They are: content editing, copy editing, and proofreading. I proud myself in the content editing phase, where I strive to connect with the overall meaning of my work, and to subtract and add material based on that meaning. At this phase of editing I don’t care if I’ve spelled something wrong —even though I often fix it anyway. The focus is making sure each part fits the nature of the story. Copy editing and proofreading are a bit more simple, but not necessarily easy. Copy editing is the fixing of grammar, spelling mistakes, and other such necessities, and the proofreading stage is checking for quality to ensure it is good-to-go for publishing.
I dealt with post-writing in my last post but I’ll do you the favor of summarizing it here. Post-writing is the process of first relaxing a brief stint — a day or two — and then identifying the shortcomings and strengths of the work you just completed. This is done with the intention of fortifying your weaknesses through practice. This is the analytic and reflective portion of writing that gets ignored often. It is in this process, however, that there is the most room for growth, because the mistakes are still fresh and the path through to the other side of your weakness is much more clear. To reiterate, this is about grappling with your weaknesses, be it with grammar, characterization, determining chronology of your scenes, etc..
My process is not as streamlined as I’m making it sound, of course, and no one’s process is exactly this rigid. Listing my steps this way makes distinct the process that, for me, is much more fluid and interwoven. Does this invalidate the steps above? Not in the least bit. Instead it illuminates a dynamic process which by its essence is hard to pin down, and by the multitude of us writers shining light in this way we will eventually discover something that resembles pure truth.