Writing Journey

The 7 Stages of ‘Writing’


Or should I say, The 7 Stages of ‘What did I get myself into?’

Those who think writing a novel is a single phase operation, I believe it is my duty to inform you that it isn’t. Oh, how I wish it was. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Alas, this arduous truth should not be withheld. Hence, I’ve decided to write this post and share my 7 stages of writing.

Disclaimer: My process isn’t benched at 7. Often times I go beyond when working on a novel. Sometimes I go under when working on a short story. But as my standard guide, 7 is a wonderful number. Do note that these stages do not include planning, and most certainly excludes professional editing.

1. Word Vomit

Mean Girls, anyone? My first stage of writing is vomiting everything in my head onto a word document. It’s just me, getting the story out, while trying to be as creative as I can. However, creative writing isn’t my goal. This stage is about telling, or should I say ‘reporting’, the story as it is. I do build the universe, I do develop the characters, but only as much as it is required to complete the story. Then, once my head is figuratively empty, I move to stage 2.

2. Rewrite

This is where I get creative. I research, google, and expand my imagination to paint vivid worlds and mold believable characters. I endeavour to be as ‘literary’ as I can, one paragraph at a time. Yes, one paragraph at a time – I rewrite every single paragraph. And yes, I detest this stage. If I could skip it, I gladly would. But I can’t, of course. Nobody wants to read word vomit.

3. Line Edit

Once I’ve heaved a sigh of relief, after completing stage 2, it’s time for line editing. I read aloud, test the pacing, check for errors, and split lengthy sentences. I scour for problematic areas. And as an extra step, I send the manuscript to beta readers.

4. Rewrite… Again? Again.

There’ll be areas in my writing that bug me excessively. So in this phase, I rewrite those paragraphs, dialogues, and sentences that rob me of my sleep. I also catch repetitive words in each chapter and find alternatives for them. And while doing all of that, I request feedback from my beta readers.

5. Line Edit… Again? Again.

Since I rewrote, I need to re-line edit. It’s back to reading aloud, testing the flow and pacing, and making minor changes if required.

6. Proofing

Before proofing, I usually take a break. And by break, I mean working on another story (either a new one or an existing one – it doesn’t matter). I try my best to clean my palate of the current work, and only return to it a month or so later. Fingers-crossed, my brain wouldn’t default to autocorrect upon my proofing. Though, let’s be honest, there’ll be mistakes I’ll overlook. Hence, stage 7.

7. Audio Proofing

Depending on the work, I sometimes run audio proofing twice using different voices. I alternate between tssreader.com and speechninja.co. Audio proofing helps me catch what I’ve missed, while testing the tempo as if read by a reader. It’s not a full proof stage in cleaning a manuscript, but it does call out errors. Despite it taking a while, it’s worth the time.

So, there you have it – my 7 stages.

Like I said above, this is just a guide for me to follow. The Slave Prince has gone over 10 stages, with multiple rewrites. Trails of the Wind has been audio proofed 3 times. Whereas most of my stories below a 1.5k word count are only rewritten once.

Also, the stages differ from author to author. I know of authors whose stage 1 is carefully executed requiring fewer rewrites after, and of those who’ve lost count of their rounds. It depends on the individual. But, we can all agree on one thing: no story should be published straight from the head.

If you’re new to writing, I hope this doesn’t scare you. Draw strength from your passion and dream, and you’ll find yourself doing your very best. Writing may seem laborious, but if it’s what you love, you will do it. Heck, you have to do it. It’s your life! And you’ll embrace whatever it encompasses.

Original Works

What If… I Nailed That Audition

what if

Around the age of 7 or 8, I did my first TV advertisement. It is nothing to really boast about as it was just me sitting on a merry-go-round and waving happily at the camera. But even though it was no big deal, it flipped a happy switch in my brain and I really wanted to do it again.

So, after that advertisement I went for another audition. This was a children’s milk ad that required me to do a little more acting. I remember being extremely nervous, but I gave it my best and soon forgotten I even auditioned. I was just a fickle minded kid after all.

A few days later, my mother told me I got the part. I was so excited as I have always wanted to be an actress, and now my dream was sort of coming true! When I got the simple script, I ran lines with my baby brother and practiced in front of the mirror. All of that excessive preparation eventually paid off when the day of the shoot arrived.

It was such an easy role, yet I felt like I had accomplished something big. And honestly, I did. Ever since that little role, I have gone for countless auditions and secured a role in most of them. I went from food advertisements to public service announcements and eventually TV dramas.

I was a child actor, playing small roles yet having tons of fun. But the fun soon became work when the film industry started picking up in my country. I began acting in a couple of films in my teenage years, and after a while I decided to move to the greener film industry in Singapore.

Stopping high school altogether, I went to my neighbouring country for a couple of auditions. When I landed a role, I stayed with my aunt and did not return home till the film was a wrap. After my first film received high ratings in both my country and Singapore, I was called for radio and newspaper interviews. Yes, I was rather famous.

But my acting career did not stop there. When my name started floating around, I was called for different auditions for different TV dramas and films. I was so busy that I rarely went home and I only saw my family once a month. Of course, I talked to them over the phone but I ended up spending more time with my extended family than my immediate family. It’s strange, I know.

After a few years in Singapore, I began contemplating of leaving. And, it didn’t take me long before I decided to go a little further. With the money I had, I travelled to different countries with the arrangement of my manager. She got me auditions in Hong Kong, China, Korea, and Japan. I picked up new languages, and surprisingly made it on screen for a few commercials and TV dramas. But soon, I got bored with the Asia scene and I told my manager to get me to Hollywood.

It was not as hard as I had expected it would be, and I did pretty well in the western world. I made a lot of ‘friends’ and contacts, but I didn’t really have anyone to connect with. I was also away from home so much that when I return for visits, my brother was like a stranger to me. Gifts couldn’t buy his affection, and it was always awkward talking to my parents.

Being I never attended high school and I was out of church when I left Malaysia, I lost contact with my childhood friends. I don’t even know where they are right now or what they are doing. Thinking about this now, I honestly really don’t know how to feel.

If I was a fan, following my career since it started, I would be so envious. I have everything; a house, a car, and money to see the world! Yet me being me, I would rather be back home with real friends and family.

I also recently realized that I enjoy writing, but work has made it impossible for me to do so. Where do I find the time to write when all I do is act? Sure, red carpets, interviews, and all the attention I once wanted was flooding in, but am I really happy?

Sometimes, I feel so tired and have an urge to escape. But somehow it never seems possible. It’s like I’m trapped without enough will power to find a way out. It has finally come to this; I don’t know if I want to be here or not.

Maybe, if I failed my audition for the milk advertisement, things would have been different. I would have probably gone to high school and university, and I would have written more. I would also have real friends and an ordinary job, but I would probably be happier.

But that is all just what if, and sadly, I will never really know.


Whether it is passing the bar exam or going to art school, each of us could have done something different and we often wonder what if we did. For me, it was that audition.

After writing this story, I personally felt that where I am today is much better than where I could have been. By writing this little ‘make belief’ story, I find myself thankful that I did not nail that audition. But, that is just me.

Do you have a pivotal moment in your life where you always look back and think ‘what if?’. Write it down and come up with a crazy story. You will either find yourself happy with life or more driven to achieve that dream life. Either way, it’s a good evaluation 🙂

© 2013 Jeyna Grace

(For more short stories, click HERE)