Eons ago I wrote a series of posts on the five ws and one h of the writing process. Now that this blog has fully morphed into Word Bank Writing & Editing, I thought it would be worthwhile to raise a general discussion of the many facets of the writing process.
The writing process is typically taught as a linear process: Prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, evaluating, and publishing. In reality, we all know the writing process is relentlessly recursive. Just when a draft seems perfect, sage advice might find us circling back and totally rewriting what we previously thought perfect.
Who I write for…
Who do I write for? Any writer is a liar if their foremost answer to that question is not as follows: I write for myself. Plain and simple. Yet, a writer’s narcissism is fed by the desire to share their perspective with others. We dream of recognition. We dream of making it big. Read more…
Who do you write for? What writing/blogging journey are you currently on?
What I write…
So what do I write? The answer remains elusive, but over the years I’ve dabbled in many forms and focused on a few, with a particular liking for crafting personal essays. At times it feels like I’ve spent more of my life thinking about writing than I have putting actual words on a page. Read more…
What do you write?
When I write…
When I write, I write badly. After all, that is what revision is for. I actually hate the process of sitting down to write. I always have. The image of the writer feverishly at work, alive with the ideas pouring through their mind into their fingertips and onto the page is not an image I relate to. Read more…
What happens when you freewrite? Do you aim for a certain daily or weekly word count?
Where I write…
I’ve always somewhat envied people who actually seem to be able to get work done while sitting on the sofa with the television blaring and their computers on their laps. Alas that person is not me. And what of the type of person who goes someplace like Starbucks to get some work done because they prefer to work in the presence of others? Again, that person is not me. Read more…
What is your writing environment like?
How I write…
How does one write? Either you pick up a pen or put your fingers to a keyboard and viola letters come together to form words; a series of words become a sentence; related sentences join together to make paragraphs, those paragraphs create pages. Pages create books. And books communicate some aspect of reality. The question of whose reality is where the fun happens. Read more…
How do you write?
Why I write…
I write to capture the magic spell of story time when my senses tingled with anticipation and connection to a gripping book world. Some of my earliest memories are of snuggling next to my sister Sharon as she read aloud to me. I loved finding out what would happen next in each of those stories and soon began making up my own. Storytelling was fun. Read more…
Why do you write?
There may be no one-size-fits-all approach to the writing process, but the more you dig into the process, the more you will realize the steps you most need help with. I for one struggle shaping my ideas and bringing focus to them in the developmental stage, but I enjoy the editing phase where I can aim to make my sentences as concise as possible. Clients who contact me regarding freelance editing services sometimes do not know what type of editing they most need, which can point to gaps in understanding the writing process and what happens at during each phase.
What is your writing process like? How would you answer any of the questions posed above?
Please join me over at My Inner Chick for a guest post titled Writing Voice: To Thine Own Self Be True.
Permission must be granted by Jeri Walker to use the images in this post.
Eeks. Now I want to select another post to read. I’m going to decide where I am the strongest AND the weakest and then read 2 more of your series of posts about the Five Ws and one H of the Writing Process.
First, I think I know who I write for and no, it’s not myself. That’s the one of your 5 w’s I’m clearest about.
Second, I really have to search in my head, why the heck I write so that will be my second read.
Patricia, you really do have a strong voice for your posts on introvert leadership, but in a way you do write for yourself since you are an expert on the topic and have personally lived the introvert point of view. Maybe it all comes down to what motivates us to write and how well we communicate it. I admire your niche. I think of how long it took me to narrow this site down to editing and writing services. By doing all of those posts, the process of all that writing has taught me many valuable things about what I can put into practice for other blogs down the road when the time is right.
Sounds like you and I share most of these writing traits. I write for me, but I also want to convey a message. The core of my writing is almost always based on a real life event, but I like to fictionalize it by making it bigger, or badder…in reality, it’s the “what if” in my mind that gets my creative juices rolling. When I start to write, I try to get it all down. When I go back to read what I got down, I am sometimes rolling on the floor in agony…it’s that bad! But to me, it’s getting the skeleton together that is important. I don’t know why, but I don’t like outlines. Maybe because then I feel that I have to stick to it! I DO create a timeline so that the characters age properly, and events are factual. Like you…SILENCE PLEASE! Never could understand people who go to Starbucks to write. I never play music, no TV…silence is golden. Ahhhh… the story telling. It’s the best thing ever and why this is blissful for me. But it’s hard… really hard and most good writers I know say the same thing. Like you, I think I need the most help in the developmental stage. And that’s likely due to the fact that I hate outlining!! LOL
Okay…it’s a really long comment! But you asked:)
Jacquie, thank you for such a lovely comment. We do indeed share many similarities in our processes when it comes to writing. The one thing about silence that I can’t seem to master if my Siamese-mix cat who loves to meow like he’s dying when he gets hungry, prance across my keyboard, and bite me to get attention. I’d lock him out of my office, but then he would just paw, meow, and scratch at the door.
I couldn’t agree more with you Jeri, a true writer is the one who writes for himself and the rest follows. When I started writing or to be more accurate, when I started scribbling my thoughts on paper, I never had an inkling that they would be read or I would one day put them before the readers and they would say a few words of like or dislike. I was just giving vent to my emotions, just talking to myself!
This post needs much more time and I am coming back to it in the evening to read all those attachments. Thanks for sharing all those Ws and one H!
Balroop, that would be wonderful if you can come back and read the other posts linked here. They are from way back at my blog’s beginning and not many eyes read them 🙂
It’s always been a paradox to me that writing, as with most art forms, is primarily for yourself but without having a way to share it with others you feel incomplete. It makes it really hard to understand who you are writing for. And I also agree that the writing process is not linear. I find it to be more like a game of Whack-a-Mole. 🙂
Meredith, to write like nobody else will ever read a piece is a rare gift, and yet some writers can tune out all those voices and just “let it go.” More and more, I’ve been working on envisioning “the one” reader who will be most receptive to my messages in my creative writing. I tend to worry too much about how others will perceive my work, even when they are the reading demographic I would be going after. Sigh…
This is an excellent post, dear Jeri…. I was sure that the H was for “how”… But It might also apply to “Hey, I am writing!” 😛
Anyhow… Great feature and now I’ll make sure each one of the Ws … And that unique H to which all Ws are related to, somehow…All my best wishes! Aquileana 😀
Aqui, I do love to dig into processes 🙂
I think if you’re not writing for yourself the chances of it being successful (whatever that means to you) are slim. All the facets you mention are important and it takes time to discover what one’s own style s in each aspect. Place is one I like to experiment with though, otherwise I fear I may stagnate. I’ve tried writing with the tv on etc. and I can sometimes revise like that, but not do original writing. I don’t see the attraction of writing in cafes really although I do occasionally for the same reason. Excellent post Jeri, to bring it all these aspects together.
A.K., good writing definitely has to come from within. Sometimes I think modern life throws so many distractions our way that it can be hard to drown out all the things that chip away at our own personal writing process. There’s no way I would ever want to compose by hand, but I have been exploring tricks for toning down distractions when typing at my computer keyboard 😉
Great post! Covers so much of the “process” and pushes aside a great deal of the B.S. advice people are so willing to share.
Candy, haha… though maybe my posts are just another layer to that pile of B.S. concerning writing process advice. On a more serious note, I think exploration of one’s process can only make a person a stronger writer.
Try and put me in a place of noise or chaos while I am at home and I will produce zilch. Stick me in the same surroundings while I am traveling and I can block it out, soak it up, revel in it, and produce, edit, and publish a final work. But then again that applies to my overall tolerance level with many things. Always things seem more easily managed when expectations are created by varying circumstances. I do love the editing process most of all though. You already have the framework and now you just have to polish….a lot of fun.
Tim, I’ve found that to be true as well. Varying circumstances definitely impact our work output. When I was on a cruise ship, I found no problem in getting out blog posts on my old blog to share details of my travels. Yet at home, I crave silence in order to focus and get my best writing done.
The only question I can really answer is Where do I write – sitting by a window overlooking the costal hills. I’m one of those writers who writes what I like to read which may or may not be a good thing!
Jan, a view of coastal hills sounds like a lovely writing view indeed. My office is in the back of my house, so at least I have a view of the flowers in the backyard.
Hi Jeri, these writing questions are quite thought provoking. We actually kid ourselves that we write for others. The creative process can strike at any time for me. I don’t have a set writing schedule but I’ve heard that works really well for many writers. I like to free write sometimes. There’s no purpose to it but just to put words down. Later I may find a place for them. Great post. What a superb amount of resources and inspiration you provide here at your blog!
Lisa, I’m so glad you’ve stopped by my blog and have found it worthy 🙂 I have tried to stick to a writing schedule, but find my productivity times can vary greatly depending on what else is going on in my life. At heart, I’m a night writer. Yet by the end of the day, exhaustion tends to set in and the creative juices might not flow. Yep, I need to strive to get back to a set schedule such as maybe doing my creative work on the weekends only or for two hours every night after work. Time will tell.
I absolutely love the quote, “when I write, I write badly”. That is completely, 100% me. I look over my first drafts and I think I must be a blithering idiot. I have tons of run-on sentences and I just keep repeating myself. Awful.
I will say, that while I could absolutely never write with the television on, while listening to music or while anybody else is talking, I find that I have great focus at Starbucks. In fact, if I’m getting distracted at home, I will take myself right to Starbucks so I can work more efficiently. Go figure.
Erica, I’m with you in how I go back and read early drafts and find so much repetition! Ugh. I enjoy the revision and editing process much more than getting the initial words on the page, but sometimes find I can tinker with stuff forever. My go-to place to focus used to be the college library. I love those little study cubicles and would probably still utilize them from time to time if I didn’t live so far away from campus now.
These are good Ws for a writer to ponder from time to time. I like my regular work space for writing, although I can make other spaces work when I travel. Noisy coffee houses, not so much. I also like the editing process. I make an effort to free write and just keep going without editing to unlock more creativity, but I find it hard to allow myself that freedom to write badly, even though I know the editing process will take care of it.
Donna, I can relate to finding it difficult not to allow yourself the freedom to write badly. I am so guilty as charged on that count, and at times feel like quite the hypocrite because that’s how I teach the process. I used to find it very freeing to write badly and would do so along with my writing students. Yet when I started to get all serious about my writing output, the self-editing kicked in and got in the way. I’m working to get out of that mode and embrace writing badly once again.
They used to teach the same 5 w’s in journalism school. Who? What? When? Where? and Why? Who knows what they teach now. Probably data analysis and drone navigation.
Ken, given the state of what “news” encompasses these days, it’s anybody’s best guess 😉
What I want to know is that now that you’re back in Idaho, does Zoey still obsessively scratch the carpet under your desk? Or was that only a Carolina thing? (Because maybe she’s happier now that she’s home again!)
Laura, it’s actually strange because she now rarely lays under the desk at all. Her new spot is my walk-in closet which is on the other side of the house. Things will be oh-so-quiet as I’m typing or editing away and then she starts scratching, scratching, scratching…. I think she spent more time in my NC office because that place had two floors. Now that we’re in a one floor house, she’s a wee bit more independent and doesn’t lurk in my office all say.
some great writing in these blog posts and thought-provoking. It makes me wonder if writing for yourself is not in many cases, just being yourself. Some of us are born with this desire to scribble down thoughts and create stories, a need which usually rears its head way before we even think about earning a living or becoming what is called a ‘writer’. I think I write because that is who I am, and when I look back over the years, it seems I always was.
thx for making me think about it.
Gerry, for me writing has always been a process of self-exploration. The more I can write about my personal experiences, the better equipped I can understand what makes me tick as a person as well as coming to a better understanding of my mind and beliefs. I guess that is why I am so drawn to memoir writing. It’s intriguing to be let into someone’s life like that.
I like to write in silence. If others are around I will be unable to focus.
I am a bit of a perfectionist. I edit my work as I go along. Then I edit the final draft!
I write as I like to put my thoughts onto paper. It is a way of expressing myself.
Phoenicia, I tend to self-edit as well, but I continue to try to get out of that mode. I’ve found it can zap the voice out of my writing. There really is something to just letting go and getting the words down on the page, though it is easier said than done for some of us.
I have said this before, but will say it again now. As a new author, I have to thank you for the wonderful posts about writing. They are informative, and I find them very useful and helpful. Thanks.
William, thanks for the vote of confidence. It means a lot.
These are great questions to ask ourselves every so often. Sometimes we lose sight of the reason.
When it comes to writing, you and I have some similarities. Yes, I write for myself. I never, ever sat down and thought about what genre is popular, and which one will make me the most money. I write the stories that come into my head, and hopefully, a few people will want to read them. I’m not genre or form specific. As I said earlier, I write what thrives in thought. In the beginning, my drafts was in bad condition, but I see an improvement with each novel. I actually love the draft process because I’m the one with the ideas pouring onto paper. It’s the revision stage I dread the most. I need quiet or soft classical music to focus. Sometimes I write on the couch, or at my desk in the bedroom. Lastly, I write because I enjoy writing the novels, poems, short stories that pop into my head, and at times, I love the way I write them. That probably sounds so conceited of me, but there are certain lines, phrases, or descriptions I use that stop me in my tracks, and I say aloud with a smile, “Did I actually write that?” And then there are the same where I say, “Damn, girl, take it out before anyone sees it.”
Denise, that’s the appeal of writing for me by and large. Those times when we go back and read our work and wonder if we actually wrote such a great sentence, character, or scene is akin to an addiction and a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives us to seek and produce the best writing we can. And yes, the flip side is also learning to recognize the clunkers as well 😉
Hehe, I can write wherever, but I can’t have people talking or music with lyrics. When I’m in the presence of others, I typically work out plot problems, since I’ve got a lot of those. Technically, that isn’t writing, but I try to stay productive. 🙂
Loni, music with lyrics is the worst of distractions for me. I always find I start to sing along… lol. I’d say working on plot problems in the presence of others is still writing since it’s getting your closer to your end goal of crafting a story.
This is great, Jeri, lots of fodder. I’m always trying to tweak my writing process, to make it more effective. It all depends on what I’m writing – if I’m writing for a client, I have a different process from when I’m writing for myself. Even different clients require different processes. Above all, research is one of the biggest starting points. I find that going through the research process helps me to shape a story or a project, and once I’ve done that, the writing almost – ALMOST – does itself.
Krystyna, exactly my thoughts in how the writing process for a client is so different from our own personal process, and then how each process for various clients will be markedly different from another client. I always love the research phase 🙂
Jeri, your posts are always loaded with information. I like where you say you write bad. I do that with my blog posts – I’ll write and then make revision after revision, sometimes changing the whole focus of the post. I do write for me, yet I would be desperately upset if no one read my posts.
Lenie, isn’t it amazing when revision leads us to completely refocus our week and how the piece of writing often turns out so much better for all that effort?
Seems we are completely different then it comes to our writing process. For me ideas flow and I just start writing and completely forget time. Editing however, is not my cup of tea and has never been. Much prefer to have someone else do that for me. Having said that some subeditors completely ruin what you have written. Was once really upset when a subeditor ruined an article I had written for Fortune. But what could I do once it was published?:-)
Catarina, I can see how you can get completely lost in time when you sit down to writing. Your blog posts show what a clear and decisive thinker you are. I probably enjoy the editing phase of the process more because my brain needs that time to hone in on what it wants to communicate on the page as well as the best way to say it.
Well I have to join the gang here and agree that I do write for myself. My whole approach to personal growth, specifically developing emotional resilience, is based not only on my extensive research but on the fact that I rarely write about things I haven’t personally experienced – the good, the bad and most definitely the ugly. For that to make any sense in terms of serving a greater purpose, the target audience I focus on are people who are committed to doing the work to create their own life experience. Otherwise, I prefer no background noise/clutter when I work and living on the top of a hill in Maui makes that pretty each to accommodate, and for me the process is like piecing together a BIG puzzle that starts with a ton of reading/research. Thanks for the inspiration and peak and how other writers go about their creation process.
Marquita, thanks for sharing so many aspects of your process. I think it’s probably safe to say you have everyone else here beat when it comes to having a fabulous writing space… that is unless someone else here has a house on a hilltop in Maui 😉
Jeri, i am with you on not being able to keep the tv on while writing. I like to sometimes sit on my porch and write. other times i will write at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. I will write in the morning and then sometimes in the afternoon. I hardly ever write late at night. I like to get it done and then not habe to think about it. I write for myself and anything that interests me. I am curious about people and love stories in any art form. Thanks for the great topic. Also, for reminding myself to not get distracted by Netflix. Lol so easy to do.
Crystal, ahhh yes Netflix is such a great distraction at times! Do you write by hand when you write on your porch and at your kitchen table or do you type? I gave up writing by hand a long time ago, mostly because I’m left-handed and it’s such a messy scrawl.
I write by hand right now and then type it up later. It takes longer but I like writing with pen and paper. 😉
Narcissist. I love that. But it’s so true even though many of us won’t actually admit it. I wish I could write on the couch with the television blaring since I could double my output and write while the better half is home. But that’s a no go. Sometimes I take a draft to the pub and edit. Only during the day when it’s nice and quiet. Most of the time, I’m in my flat, at my kitchen table that wobbles, trying to force the words on the page. It ain’t pretty.
TB, thanks for the visual 🙂 Now I can envision you slaving away at a wobbly kitchen table the next time I edit one of your books.
I like the 5 W process. I can see it helping me get my ideas better for future post.
Jason, asking questions is always a great way to generate ideas and delve deeper into a topic.