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What’s Your Writing Process Blogfest

Shallee McArthur is hosting the What’s your Writing Process Blogfest, and it is the perfect topic for Writing Wednesdays. She wants it on 18th Jan, so I’ll post it today and leave it up for tomorrow’s scheduled post!
I haven’t written a novel (yet), so all I can do is write about my short-story-writing process. If you can call that a process. Yes, the industry term for me is a pantser! But let’s try and describe this ‘process’ anyway:
1. I’m a big believer in prompts and free-writing. I free-write (nearly) everyday, and use prompts a lot. They can be words, sentences, pictures, writing exercises, a piece of music, whatever. Also, I write mostly by hand, use sketchpads as notebooks, and multi-colored pens.
I write based on these prompts and every once in a while, I like a turn of phrase, or a sentence, even. It has what I call, for lack of a better word, heartbeat, or energy. It says something true, maybe odd, or surprising. I take that sentence and use it as a prompt, and if the page or two I write from it have the same degree of energy, I decide I would take it further. Sometimes, this happens soon, and I have written story drafts within a day. Sometimes two such pages written at different points of time have come together. I never throw away anything I write.
Mostly, I know where the stories would end up, the climactic scene, or maybe even the last sentence. I basically struggle through the dark to get to this ending, no plotting involved. This is the time I’m really hard to live with, because I dream all the time, talk to my characters, sometimes live their lives in my head.
2. Once the first draft is ready, I forget about it for a month or two, and then go back to it.
This time, I check on the research I need to do, the gaping plot-holes scattered throughout, and attempt to do something about them. This is also the stage when I might decide to re-write the whole story, by changing POV, or dropping/adding characters, or beginning the story at a different point. I might summarize the scenes on index cards and slide them around to find the right beginning. This would be my second draft, and I shift to the laptop at this stage.
I will only go back to writing by hand if I feel I need to add a scene.
3. There can be as many as 25 drafts, and several complete re-writes. I usually share the 3rd or 4th draft with friends/editors whose opinions I trust, and later drafts try to include the review suggestions that come up during critique.
4. Once I have the story structure, dialogues, and characters where I want them, I edit the story sentence by sentence, trying to justify why each one is there. I also prune as many words as I possibly can.
5. I read the proofed story aloud, twice. More, if I feel like it. I add, take away words, punctuation, based on the sound of my reading.
I realize this is a very inefficient way of doing things. I know I will tweak it a lot in terms of plotting when I write a novel.
I also acknowledge that each writer has an individual writing process, which is open to change. Mine will change too, I don’t doubt that.
Now I’m off to visit the other entries, because I’m bound to learn a lot from them. Thanks, Shallee, for holding this blogfest, it is a brilliant idea!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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16 Comments

  • Marieke says:

    I'm a week late, but catching up on this blogfest now after I finally put my own entry up =)

    Interesting! I don't freewrite much… mostly because I end up with complete ideas for novels, random scenes and more plot bunnies to gnaw at my brain 😀

    Your blog looks ace by the way! 😀

  • Madeline says:

    I like how you said you talk to your characters. I don't know why, but I think it's kind of fascinating to have such a strong relationship with your characters. Maybe I should try it. ;D

    This was so awesome, I have a few awards for you. http://capriciousexistence.blogspot.com/2011/01/awards.html Keep up the awesome work. 🙂

  • T C Mckee says:

    Sounds like your revisions are close to my number although, I bet yours are better. Great post and some wonderful ideas. Thanks.

  • Lynda Young says:

    Wow, you've done a lot of writing! I'm impressed.

  • Myne Whitman says:

    Writing indeed differs from person to person. I also do so many edits that I lose count.

  • SariBelle says:

    25 drafts is commitment! Good on you for not giving up until the story is perfect. I'm not sure I could get myself that far (but I'm writing novels).
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • What's great about your process is that you get to touch on new topics every day by using prompts. Very interesting.

  • Your short story writing process is very thorough. The idea that, even if you are not engaged in writing a specific piece, you write something from a writing prompt, every day. Impressive. I do most of my research on the computer but a lot of my planning is handwritten. The time you leave a piece to gain distance is so important – it was the last useful addition to my process.

  • I realize that editing is where the work is in writing, but it's not my favourite part of the process. You do go through a lot of drafts, which would probably drive me nuts, but it's possible that I refuse to count edits because I don't wanna know! 😀

  • Hi,

    This is real seat-of-your-pants! 😉

    Like you say, writing is an individual process.

    best
    F

  • Kari Marie says:

    Freewriting is one of my favorite tools. I use it a lot. I like to read out loud too. I often edit that way, it changes the work somehow. Thanks for sharing your process.

  • You have an interesting method of writing. Prompts are a great way to kickstart the creative juices.

    I have not tried free – writing but after reading your post will like to try it some time in the future

  • M Pax says:

    You have a lot of great ideas here for short story writing. I write both, but have tended [until recently] to write my stories as chapters. Couldn't break away from the novel writing. I love your idea about the index cards and editing. Great meeting you. 😀

  • Shallee says:

    Thanks for sharing you process! I love the idea of freewriting to get inspiration for something new. I'll have to try that one.

  • Sounds like your revisions are really thorough, that's great! I've written a couple of short stories and although they're different than novel's, they are still a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing!

  • Summer Ross says:

    wow! 25 drafts. lol I think the most amount of drafts I have done on one short story is ten before I finalized it. Though I always can look back and fix something later if i don't feel it's finalized in the years to come. I write alot of short stories as well. I have two novels, one I'm still struggling to finish and one I never will because I started it before my mom died and she said she would read it when it is finished, and it will never be finished. 🙂

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