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The writing process - Guest blog part 3

Posted on 14th April 2012

Part three of Richard Sheehan's guest blog talks about the writing process for authors. Guest blog 3: the writing stage.

I'll keep the intro to a minimal, but thanks for coming back to part three of Richard Sheehan's guest blog.

As I've already mentioned in my previous blogs, there are numerous ways of writing a novel. However, once you have completed the planning stage in whatever manner you see fit, the actual physical act of writing, in my most humble opinion, can be reduced to just three main methods.

Option 1 - Sit down. Start at the beginning and don't finish until the last word. Then begin editing/revising/rewriting (several times, probably).
Option 2 - Sit down. Start writing. Then once you have completed a chapter, scene or just your day's writing, read what you've written, edit it, revise it, rewrite it even, and when you're happy with it, continue and repeat.
Option 3 - Sit down. Start writing and take methods 1 and 2 and mix and match them as and when required.

The above methods are fairly universal; whether you've done little or no initial planning, or have planned James Ellory-like and have hundreds of pages of outline, any of the above are relevant.

The first method above leaves the great majority of the editing to the end. Many writers (Stephen King is one, and if you've not read On Writing by him, then you really, really should, as soon as possible) propose this as their method on the basis that the most important thing when writing is to get a first draft written, even if it's raw and in need of vast amounts of re-writing. There are pros and cons with this approach. Firstly, completing the first draft gives the writer an immense buzz and is an achievement in itself. A drawback of this is that you might be aware of the shortcomings of the draft as you progress and you get to the end of it feeling that what you've written is lacking in many areas. I tend towards the thinking that getting a first draft finished is what you need to aim for as a priority. Once you have that, you can work to polish your draft.

However, as always, there are as many writers who would disagree with that method as would agree. The second method I've listed, that of writing and editing as you go along, is another popular option. The logic here is that when you've finished the final chapter, your work needs only a minimal edit for it to be complete. However, this will most likely mean that your novel will take longer to write (not always though, it depends how much time you have to devote to it). I have also known writers to agonise so much over their first few chapters that they revise and rewrite these constantly without getting any further, so common sense has to be applied; don't over-analyse at this stage -- you can always edit the whole manuscript once it's complete.

There is, of course, a third, middleway, one that takes both of the above methods and uses each of them as and when required. Some chapters come to the writer almost fully formed, while on others, the writer will need to edit as they go along; this can vary all the way from re-reading and light editing to substantial editing before moving on.

As ever, it's whatever works at the time. There are no cast iron rules and you shouldn't feel constrained to follow the ideas I've mentioned above rigidly. Apply them as and when required to achieve the goal.

Once all the hard work of getting a first draft together has been completed, you then come to the editing stage. And that's where the fun begins!

Note from Kate in January 2013. Richard has recently set up a book reviewing blog so if you fancy taking a look at that, it's available here.

Written by Kate Haigh.