NOVELS: often begin with a dream, a fantasy exploration and the “what if”

 1. Begin with character- who is she, what marks her as different, what are her attributes and what is her story? Rancher,      businesswoman, artist,healer, psychic? What is her challenge: survival, search for meaning, helping others?
 2.Who threatens, challenges or supports her? Protagonist? Can I see him, it?
 3.Setting/s? Where and how does it impact the character/s? Do I know the setting, draw on own experience..yes.

      POETRY:  often springs from an experience with great emotional impact (nature, family member’s illness, death) but also comes from stories told to me (The Apple Factory), out of my experience(White Girl, Black Heart,) or tidbits of historical research (Pancho’s Sister.)

 1. From idea, get words on paper, rough or smooth, with energy/emotion behind them.   “Mother said the Arizona Territory was good for only two things: tame Indians and wild children. Me and William Ebert were her wild children and Geronimo was our Indian.”
 2. Research for Content: could journalist John Reed have been in El Paso and meet Jo in the spring of 1914? Yes, he’d just come back from Mexico and following Villa and Carranza.
 3. Setting: Have I been there, what’s in my journal, what other place do I have personal knowledge of that will fit the story?  Without first- hand knowledge, go to museums, internet and library research for displays, books, news articles, photos.  Be open to serendipity: as when Jo’s stopping the Ford story showed up in Bisbee Museum and what did the Tiffany Studio look like in 1898 since it no longer exists?
 4. Because it is historical, what is the timeline?  I plot out  the story arc with sensitivity to what was happening in the world, area to incorporate later.
 5. Write, rewrite, research, read aloud, write some more, stay open to critique, rewrite/rebuff and write again.
 6. Get frustrated, let it rest, go at it again.
 7. Get Writer’s Block, kick the imaginary cat, turn to another format (Short Story,Poem, Essay) , write in longhand, journal over it, write again.
 8. Along the way, rest on my laurels…perfect dialogue, gorgeously conveyed setting, strong plot twist, praise from others.(ahem…)

Throughout all this, I attend writers organizational meetings, gather with writer friends, take on writerly tasks (ie, coordinating contests, participating on panels,)  keep up on Face Book, Blog, follow others’ blogs, find my personal Max Perkins and attend conferences. I do all for the purpose of honing my skills and making connections to aid the writing process and move me toward publication.





Filed under Writing

16 responses to “THE WRITING PROCESS

  1. I have just started writing. So I have only few experiences but here are the process I found effective. (So far, I only write reviews, diary and the like)

    1. Focused Freewriting
    2. Refine, Reread
    3. Rest
    4. Research
    5. Refine, Reread
    6. Submit

  2. Hello MagicOfIceCream…great name!
    Thanks for sharing your very succinct thoughts. Short and to the point.

  3. Very informative post, Arletta. It helps to break down the strategies.
    Here’s an excerpt from a blog post, “Crossing That Bridge: Facing the Troll that Lurks Beneath,” about the battle I face between insatiable longing and self-defeating doubt whenever I begin to write:
    “I realize that inner naysayer seeks my attention with its warnings (“This bridge could collapse–it may not hold the weight–you might not make it across–better to stay back!”) in a misguided attempt to protect the frightened part of me that seeks comfort in security rather than risk. But nobody ever wrote or published anything without risking.”
    To read the whole post, go to

  4. Hi Nicole,
    I enjoyed the full post on your site and it reminded me of a real bridge that played a part in my life. It was an old, slats-missing swinging bridge across a creek, set in the hills and glades of Mendocino County. Each crossing started with risk and ended in relief and a bit of completed writing. Thanks for taking me back to that time and place when the “inner critic” had to be fought regularly…and still has to be, especially when querying.

  5. Having just self-published my first collection of poetry, the chapbook, UNDERTOW, my process has been one of excitement. I’ve been waking up very early in the morning and journaling all my ideas. The house is very quiet and thoughts come to me. I’m not sure how long this will last, but I hope to make it a habit.

  6. Congratulations, Barbara, on your waking process…a great time to journal as Julia Cameron taught us in THE ARTIST’S WAY…and congrats about UNDERTOW. Where are we to find UNDERTOW?

  7. You can find UNDERTOW at the Redwood Writer’s author’s table at our next meeting of the Redwood Writer’s Club. I will bring copies and sign. Or go to the contact page of my website, Thank you for asking Arletta!

  8. I’ll be there April 10 at the Flamingo, 2:30-5:00 to collect my copy and autograph!

  9. My writing process works very well when I participate in National Novel Writers Month each November. However the rest of the year I have a hard time making my backside stay put in the chair.
    Maybe I should give myself that 50,000 word goal each month.

  10. Good grief, Robin, I hope you are joking! Can’t imagine putting out 50,000 words in any month and that’s why I haven’t attempted Nanowrimo…and, too, doing historical fiction means lots of research as I go which also bogs me down….

  11. My writing process is to start free-form, or with a writing prompt, and write without stopping until I come to a natural ending or pause. This usually is 20-30 minutes, but can be as long as 2 hours. That gives me my raw material.
    Then I type up what I have written, making basic grammer changes as I go. I name the chapter / story and call it version one.

    Finally I make a version two and find a time to edit it.
    I currently have 61 chapters and it is time to re-organize what are essentially short stories into the novel that I am envisioning.

    This is overwhelming, but I have set 5 days aside to work on the re-vamping of my shape-shifter, time-traveler novel. I will check back after my writing retreat in 2 weeks and let you know how it’s going.

    • Isn’t it interesting how we have our idosyncratic approaches, taking ideas from teachers, other writers or our own trial-and error process? Good luck and hard work during your retreat, Venus. Please do check in and tell us how it goes for you.

  12. Andy Gloege

    Process? I write when I can. That’s about it. Except… I think the computer has made editing far too easy. Everybody’s different, but I still like to do my first drafts with a pen into a notebook, as far from my computer as possible. If I’m writing it all out for the first time, I don’t want to be tempted to alter anything before I really know what I’ve got.

    • Hi Andy,
      The proof is in the pudding…when the process works for a writer, that’s all to the good. I compose on the computer which is a long ways from my mother’s 1936 Royal that got me through college and graduate school with onion paper and carbon and, oh, the erasures! When stymied, I’ll go to a yellow pad or my journal in long hand and transcribe later. We do whatever it takes to get the words down, don’t we?

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