Thoughts on the Writing Process: Do we need one?

Often you see in chains of discussion, on writer’s forums or elsewhere, individuals lamenting over the “writing process.”   The topic recently came up in the writers group I host; member of the group asked me my opinion and a couple of people offered their input. What follows are my personal thoughts and finding on the topic, given merely as a service to help those who may struggle through it, in hopes it may eliminate anything that may prove painstaking, while writing:

In school we are taught a systematic way to structure our writing, whether it be a term paper, essay, poem, or any plethora of writing genres. We are given rules to follow on how to do research, put notes together and structure a project.  How do we equate the tools learned over the years into how we write, in real life?  Do writers, who write for more than academic purposes, need to actually concern our selves with a process?  Do we find it helpful or a complete hindrance?

Personally, I find it useful to keep loosely structured notes arranged by chapter.  I sometimes write a brief outline of what that chapter will include thus helping me in moments where I may get a little lost in my writing (i.e. getting caught up in the moment); it helps reel me back in and keep me on track. Practicing this also assists me in moments where I know I need to continue a thought, so that I am cognizant on how to transition into the next one.

Some writers feel it necessary to have all their “ducks in a row” before even sitting down to write.  I tend to allow the story and words to flow out naturally.  In my experience working with other writers, by comparison, I have come to realize this step (usually an initial step) has a lot to do with several key traits:

1) One’s individual way of thinking.

2) How one learns.

3) How one best retains information.

For example, I have the ability to retain large quantities of information without having to take extensive notes. Furthermore, writing things down or notating things absolutely helps with my ability to retain information, and recall it quickly, when needed.  Some people may not easily recall what they have researched therefore taking notes and keeping them handy while writing, is a good practice.

My personal writing style allows me wiggle room.  It’s not overly structured, as I like to tackle something when it’s on the top of my mind. I am presently writing a book that includes a lot of internal dialogue and personal narrative; therefore, having a blank document page up, or a journal handy, really helps me work things out.  Sometimes I will write something and recognize it doesn’t actually belong there, rather somewhere else in the story or book so I pull up that blank document, cut and paste it and title it something useful that denotes where it should be; saving it in a file.  This is one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy writing on my laptop: having the ability to edit, quickly.

I often wonder how other writers decide what goes where and how to choose their chapter titles!  For me it’s like a supernatural experience: I start along on my way to creating and then normally, after some work is past me, the Table of Content just comes to life before me. When this happens, I am usually scrambling for my laptop or something to write on, because once it starts coming out, it needs to be captured!  It has a life of its own and I don’t want to chance not letting it live, at that moment, so that I am not forcing it into shape on my own.

Usually, after this part of the book comes to life, I can work pretty steadily toward my end goal, for I can now see what the book is supposed to look like, in the end.

I would truly enjoy hearing from other writers on this topic; sharing our experiences with one another enables us to feel less isolated and more supported and understood.  Comments welcome either on the blog or by contact me via email.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Writing Process: Do we need one?

  1. Ben Allen says:

    I totally agree that writing is a mystical experience. Where do these stories even come from? Something out of nothing.

    My process is usually extensive outlining. Because it’s difficult for me to keep things floating in my head, I write down everything I think of and later use it as a frame for whatever I’m writing by filling in the gaps with inspired content.

    At the same time, I don’t usually take research notes because I’m able to access that kind of information from memory well. If I know something I know I know it, if I don’t, I know I don’t.

    I look forward to reading other comments. Great post Stacey 🙂

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