Stages of Writing

drawing idea pencil and light bulb concept creative and leadershAs my novel ideas have come screaming back like a furious banshee over the last few weeks, it got me thinking about the Stages of Writing.

For those hardened writers who have been at it for ages, I am sure you will see some familiarity here. For those newly joining us in the world of writing, welcome to what the journey will hold. πŸ™‚

Stage 1 – The Spark (Struck (in the head) by Genius)

This is where the Genius or Muse appears one day and bashes you senseless with an idea. Some of these ideas come like boulders tumbling from a great height as the very plot of a story. Others leave cracks in your mind for thin shoots to poke through, just a wisp of an idea that has the makings of something bigger.

These sparks usually occur at the worst times – while you’re driving, while you in class or in a meeting, in the middle of conversations with someone, while you’re sleeping (so hope to the Gods you remember it when you awake up!)

It is when that spark hits and lights that fire that you start to realise that writing is what you’re meant for. Especially if that spark just keeps growing.

Stage 2 – Daydreaming (Brain farting)

So the spark has spread, refusing to be extinguished but growing all the time. So we move to stage 2, this is where you spend a lot of your time ignoring people, staring vacantly into space, struggling to focus on anything else as you chew over your ideas.

This daydreaming stage usually allows more thoughts and ideas to convalesce and pull together making something bigger and maybe even showing signs of basic structure. You start to see a stronger thread running through the basis of this idea, of this wisp of a story – huzzah the main plot is born!

Stage 3 – Planning (becoming serious)

This stage is still pretty similar to daydreaming in that you still ignore people but this time you lock yourself away and try your best to focus more on the story threads and budding character ideas than on anything else.

The very concept that other things need your attention is utterly shunned as you start to maybe scribble notes, create spreadsheets of character data or profile pages. You start to build up points on the graph – those chunky points that your plot thread will connect to.

You start to form the basic structure – beginning, middle and end. It’s still pretty tenuous and try not to shift too many pieces in case it rips a hole through the middle of your plot.

Stage 4 – Outlining (where you start to cry)

Now this is where many writers branch off onto different roads. Some are hardened pantsers who shun the idea of outlines and thunder through their story without a thought or more prep. A lucky few will manage it, yet more will end up circling the runway and coming back to this stage to try again with outlining.

This is where we start to spin the web, creating an intricate map from the beginning of the story to the end. This web can become intensely complicated if you weave in a shit-load of subplots.

This stage is also the time when you usually find some of the biggest glaring plot holes – usually ones that you kinda knew were there, but refused to acknowledge them at the time…in a hopes that the writing gods would have fixed them for you.

Tempers fray, you start to lose faith and think the whole thing is a waste. The outline shows that the story can’t proceed without a scene you like being cut or a character dying or something else you aren’t ready to do. This can leave you curled up in a corner weeping into the carpet.

The writer’s temperament rears its head here, spitting and cursing and if you are smart, you step away until you’re ready to address those gaping holes. (Or if you are like me you continue to try and force the round peg through the square hole because god-damn it that round hole scene is AWESOME and just NEEDS TO BE THERE!!)

This is usually the time I discuss my writing with my partner – often in the kitchen while he’s making me a cup of tea and having to tell me what I already know… I argue, he stares at me and then I grudgingly accept that it’s the right thing to do.

(For tips on outlining your novel, visit this page)

Stage 5 – Writing (oh boy, finally the really fun bit)

If I’m honest even though I do outline I also write before I outline. I rarely get small sparks of ideas, they are f*cking boulders and they are usually chunky scenes that I need to get out of my head before some boring unnecessary information already in there clogs up the works and makes me forget it.

I also don’t write in chapters I write in scenes and piece the damn thing together later. I use my outline to write the specific scenes not specific chapters and I will jump all over the novel.

But yes the fun stage, the one we’ve all been waiting for. The words can’t be typed fast enough as the characters chatter away in our heads and the whole thing unfolds as an awesome movie that we could watch over and over.

Stage 6 – Crippling Doubt (can sometimes develop into full blown Creative Constipation)

This can strike at any time amid the writing though I usually get it about a third of the way through. Suddenly something won’t feel right or I’ll hit a minor snag that builds in my head until I’m glowering at the screen and convincing myself that writing is just not “my thing”.

It is the curse of the creative soul, whether writers, musicians, artists etc, we can become overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and doubt in our work. It’s shit but it happens and the worst thing you can do is listen to the crappy voice in your head that tells you this stuff.

This is why it helps to have friends or family who understand you and your weird artistic temperament. They can be your voice of reason and reassurance, they can stop you doing something idiotic like deleting all your current writings. If your friends and family are arseholes and don’t support your creative passion then find someone who does! The internet is great for that! IF you are still struggling to find someone who understands, drop me a comment and I will yell at you for doubting yourself. :p

Stage 7 – More writing (interspersed with more crying and doubt)

So you made it through the crippling doubt, beaten it off with a gnarly old stick and you are back to writing! Huzzah. Usually those soul-sucking doubt pockets can often end on a high where the stuff you write after is awesome and you swing back into the thick of it.

Suddenly you are riding that high like a unicorn on speed and imagining winning the Booker Prize or the Pulitzer and doing book signings full of fans who just love your work…. Ahh but then the unicorn blows chunks and explosively poops all over your parade and you are back to crying and hating your work.

To be honest I think a large chunk of the writing experience is this up and down of unicorn-riding rollercoastering. I think it’s the price we pay for being given the spark of creative awesomeness in the first place. So suck it up and stomp on through.

Stage 8 – Self-Editing (The “Be Ruthless” stage)

You are finally finished with your first draft, it’s grubby and there’s probably some blood on the pages from all the embolisms you had creating the stupid thing. So now you have to turn on your inner critic and red pen the shit out of your manuscript.

That’s right, you have to read through it over and over. Everything from spelling and grammar to inconsistencies and continuity errors. You will spot more plot holes usually small subtle ones but they’re still there, damn it’s like your manuscript is infested with moths!

Stage 9 – The Repeat (It’s like Groundhog Day!!!!)

So Stage 8 just kind of repeats itself for what feels like forever. You scribble your edits, you make them on the computer, you print and repeat. For like 8 drafts! Hopefully each time the stupid manuscript, that you are starting to lose patience with, is getting better.

You might not always see it but that’s because Writer’s Blindness has probably set in. This is where you need to put down the novel, step away for a few days or a week or a month and get it out of your system.

Then come back with fresh eyes and another red pen….and repeat.

Stage 10 – The Trim

I feel this is a stage on it’s own separate from the edit. The Edit is cleaning the manuscript, the trim is where you take the polished manuscript and read it again with the sole purpose of reducing the trite that has remained throughout. Excessive description, unnecessary dialogue etc.

Stage 11 – Letting Go

This is where you have to release your work into the world. Whether that is to beta readers, a professional editor or an agent. Eventually you have to let someone else read it and judge it.

Get ready for yet more vomiting diarrhea unicorns of crippling doubt… but that’s okay, it’s what being a writer is all about…and let’s be honest, we love it really πŸ™‚


Damn it I am late again. But at least I am still posting weekly right? I hope you enjoyed this silly post, I will probably be back to World Building posts next Friday.

Don’t forget to follow this blog, I upload new posts on Fridays at 18:30 BST except for the last few weeks when I have been rubbish and posting late πŸ™‚

Share the love and click like or add this to a pinterest board or some shit and do feel free to drop me a comment if you want. πŸ™‚

Also all my tutorial posts can be located in the handy “Tutorial List” rather than you having to scour through this blog (they are also broken down by category). See, aren’t I helpful πŸ™‚

Happy writing


NB: Photo purchased through


4 thoughts on “Stages of Writing

  1. I loved this! I could relate to nearly every word. The only true difference I see, is I love my stories. I can’t help myself, as I must be conceited, prejudice and all those negatives because I love them even after I’ve read them so many times I want to never see the story again. If I see anything that reminds me of a particular story I reminisce. Sad, huh?!

    • Thanks for the comment πŸ™‚ lol I don’t think it’s conceited, I think it’s great you love your stories. I do too, only when I am really having a crappy moment with my (extensive) subplots do I start to get all “OMG this is crap”…three days later I’m back reminding myself how awesome my writing it. (Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say the feelings are usually OMG I’m crap!”)

      I think the worst one was when I wrote this brilliant pirate section and no matter what I did, the plot just refused to accept it – ruined the whole flow… so I threw a tantrum and stomped away cursing that the whole thing was futile. My partner (who is definitely the calm collected one in our relationship) insisted I remove the section and work it into the sequel. When I did remove it from the novel, the flow came back and the story is sooo much better.

      • I actually threw a temper tantrum for a week when I knew I had to kill the main girl in one of my novels. I didn’t want to kill her. As I was writing the scene my daughters best friend came into my bedroom, where I was writing at the time, and asked me what was wrong. I tried to explain to her how painful it was and she said, “Nonny, but you’re the one writing it.” True. It was a rough moment.

  2. Pingback: Stages of Writing | fiddledeedeebooks

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