It’s every writer’s dream: A great idea for a short story, poem, or novel pops into your head fully formed, and all you have to do is let it flow from your fingertips into the keyboard. Voila! The perfect manuscript is ready for submission! Alas, we must wake up and smell the Wite-Out™ …that’s not how good writing happens. At Writer’s Relief, we know that writers go through several stages when creating a piece. Here’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek version of the 7 stages of writing every author experiences.
The 7 Stages Of Writing A Good Poem, Short Story, Or Novel
Stage 1: Thinking Up The Incredible Idea!
You’re sound asleep, or in the shower, or buying groceries, when suddenly the muse strikes and you have an idea so original, so clever, so funny, or so moving—it’s perfect! You dash a few quick lines in the notebook by your bed, scratch out some sentences on the back of your shopping receipt, or scribble a few words into the steam on your bathroom mirror. This is pure genius and you must not let it slip away!
Stage 2: Diving Headfirst Into The Incredible Idea!
Now that you’re sitting down at the keyboard or have your pen and paper ready, it’s time to dive in! But now you may be wondering…how deep is the water? Is this idea actually quite shallow? Is it way too deep? Wade in for a bit and see if you get swept up on a wave of inspiration, or if you find yourself high and dry with nothing but a few sentences.
Stage 3: Writing The Incredible First Draft!
Yay! Your idea shows promise and is quickly becoming the amazing first draft of your work. As the words flow, you start to imagine how editors will fight over who gets to publish your work. Will you be able to remain humble as the accolades and awards pile up? Nobel Prize, here we come! You finish the piece and then read over your work. Which brings you to…
Stage 4: Asking Yourself—What Was I Thinking???
Now that the first blush of excitement has worn off, doubt begins to creep in. Is this really clever, or is it simply cliché? Is this poem moving, or overly maudlin? Why is your protagonist wearing a purple wig? Do you really need that many penguins? You can’t believe you wrote this! But before you toss those pages into the fireplace, take a deep breath. Put it aside for a day, a week, or even a month. Then come back to your work with fresh eyes for the next stage.
Stage 5: Rewriting The Draft!
The revision stage is when you cut out the superfluous fluff and tighten your story or poem. Remember in stories it’s important to show, not tell. You may realize another character is needed, or maybe there are too many. Or a new twist or turn of phrase might make your poem resonate with your reader. Perhaps now there are fewer penguins, but they recognize the spy in the wig! Or not. There may be several rounds of editing and revisions before your manuscript is in the very best shape.
Stage 6: Finishing The Honest-To-Goodness Incredible Final Draft!
You’ve done it! You’ve proofread, edited, proofread again, and revised your work—and it’s finished. Your writing group colleagues think it’s well done, and you’re pretty pleased as well. The next thing to do: Stop making changes. Just as it’s important to know that you need to edit, it’s also vital to recognize when you should stop revising and declare your work ready for the world.
Stage 7: Submitting Your Incredible Work To Editors And Agents!
This stage might also be call the “ugh, now I have to spend hours researching where I should send my work for publication” stage. And researching to determine where to send your work—plus eliminating the places you shouldn’t—can be time-consuming and boring when you’d rather be working on your next great idea.
Fortunately, the research wonks at Writer’s Relief absolutely love combing through submission guidelines, reading dates, genres, and more! We’ll target the best markets and boost your odds of getting an acceptance. Which leads us to part two of Stage 7: The happy dance!
Question: Which writing stage is the hardest for you?