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The 7 Stages of ‘Writing’

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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.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Set A Quota, Meet The Quota

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Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t know what to kick start this year of blogging with if not for Zoey’s comment. Aside from my writing journey, Zoey has also asked about my writing process and how my average writing day looks like. Thank you for asking, Zoey! I’m more than happy to answer.

So, let me get right to it. When it comes to book projects, I go by the practice of ‘Set a quota, meet the quota‘. This is how I complete books within a set time frame. How do I go about it exactly? There are two ways.

The first is, A Book In A Month.

When I graduated from university, I spent the first month after graduation writing The Slave Prince. I told myself I would get a job after I was done. I gave myself 20 days to complete the book, and I did so by meeting the quota of one chapter a day.

My chapters for novels are a minimum of 2,500 words (more is welcomed, less is not). Without fail, I sat down in front of my laptop around 10pm every night and wrote until I met the word count. I didn’t go to sleep until I was done. I didn’t give myself an excuse to skip a day (unless it’s the weekend). And there was no such thing as a writer’s block, because I pushed through them. If I had to write a sucky chapter, I did it anyway – I knew I could edit it later. In 20 days, the novel was done.

These days, since having a day job, this isn’t something I can do unless I’m writing something short of a novel. My novellas and novelettes usually follow this A Book In A Month practice because of a shorter word quota, but not my novels. Which brings me to the second route: Two Chapters A Week.

Two Chapters A Week is exactly that. I write two chapters a week, usually on Tuesday and Friday. On Monday, I rough edit the chapter I wrote on the previous Friday. And on Thursday, I rough edit the chapter I wrote on Tuesday. Wednesday is kept empty just in case I haven’t prepped anything for this blog – sort of a last minute thing.

I would set the quota of 2,500 words or more and complete it before I go to bed. This was how I got Trails of the Wind (book one of my work-in-progress trilogy) done. I wrote Trails of the Wind between August to October last year, with a holiday break in Japan in between. Two Chapters A Week gets a novel done in around 3 months.

Again, there’s no such thing as a writer’s block. I MUST write on Tuesdays and Fridays. No excuses – fix horrible chapters later – just keep writing. I know that if I break my pattern, I risk never finishing the book, and that is something I will not do. It’s against my character to start something and not finish it. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t dropped books before – most of the time a result of not having a chapter list.

“What’s a chapter list?” you ask.

As a standard procedure prior to writing any book, no matter which direction I go, I spend a day or two mind-mapping and drafting out a chapter list (a.k.a a skeleton). I create a timeline where I write a few short sentences to describe each chapter. Most of the time, when I start writing, I deviate from the original plan. But I still create a chapter list, because it helps me to keep going. Should I feel lost in the middle of my writing, I can always look back at the chapter list and see if I should incorporate some of the ideas to push the story in the right direction. Since I impose no rule in following the chapter list by heart, it is simply there to keep me accountable – to help me finish the book. And there is no doubt that those short lines have been of great help.

So, there you have it! My writing process and how I go about it.

If you’re curious as to whether I participate in NaNoWriMo, my answer is ‘no’. My writing schedule always happens shortly before or after NaNoWriMo. With all the planning and writing, jumping on board would be too taxing. I also don’t want to hold on to an idea just for the sake of participating in NaNoWriMo. I prefer to write while inspiration is still fresh. Perhaps one day, my schedule will align and I’ll get to participate.

Now how about you? What is writing process like? Is your practice similar or do you have a different procedure? If you don’t have one, feel free to give my ‘Set a quota, meet the quota‘ a shot. It might work for you too 🙂

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I hope this post has been helpful. If there is something you would like me to write about, leave a comment below or send me an email. I’m not a writing prodigy nor do I have ample of experience, but I’m happy to share whatever niblets I own 🙂

Thank you for reading dear reader, and have a wonderful weekend. Oh, and to all who celebrates the Chinese (lunar) New Year, 新年快乐!

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in Writing Journey

 

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