I have a couple of posts planned that will look at the phases of the writing process. I want to look at how they interact with each other and dive deeper into what they really mean. Before asking the harder questions, I thought I’d do a quick post defining these phases. Having a common vocabulary will make it easier to discuss them further. Alright, I’m going to stop sounding like a professor now. Here is how I (and many other writers) divide the process up so that it is more easily digestible. There are five phases of the writing process between having an idea and the finished product in a reader’s hands. Breaking the writing process down into phases makes writing projects (especially large ones) more manageable. So, think about where you are on your current project and figure out what phase you’re in. Think about what you need to do to complete that phase and move on to the next.
Phase One: Planning
I suspect that this phase of the writing process is the one that varies most between authors. (I did a post about what my planning phase looks like a few months back, and I will link to it here.) But when you boil it down, you can reduce it to a simple commonality. The first phase consists of all the work that needs to be done to write the first draft. This is the information gathering and generating that is necessary to create a story. That means you will be searching for ideas, creating characters and doing research. There are also those who consider themselves
Phase Two: Writing
I think the name pretty much says it all here. This is the part where you physically construct the backbone of your story. You’re word count climbs and you suddenly have a story. By the end of this phase, you have a thick stack of paper with all sorts of words on them that you most likely hate. That is why phases three and four exist.
Phase Three: Revising
The third step toward completing your work is revising your story. This is when you go back through the many pages you’ve written and tweak the content. For example, if you are writing a novel, you may go through and search for plot holes. There might be some scenes that you cut and there may be others that you add. Perhaps there is a character that seems flat, so you go back through and add some level of dimension to the person. If you’re working on a paper, this is when you go back and see if the flow of your argument is logical. Maybe there is some evidence you should have included that isn’t there. To reiterate, in this phase, you are looking at the overall arc of your project. You need to make sure that everything is working together.
Phase Four: Editing
Much like the revising phase, the editing phase is about polishing your project. However, in this phase, you are doing it line by line. This is where you look at grammar, spelling, and word choice. Conventions will be the name of the game here. You are doing all of the nitpicky, word-level corrections here.
Phase Five: Publishing
This is the final phase, which means you have almost completed your project. The point of the publishing phase is to take the wonderful work you’ve done and get it to the reader. If you’re writing a paper for class, this is easy. You set those margins, throw on some page numbers and hit print. If you’ve written a novel, this is a little harder. You could choose to either self-publish or traditional publishing. Depending on what publishing route you take, your publishing tasks may differ. You may have to write queries, go on submission, design covers, find an agent, and of course, deal with marketing. This task is daunting, and you should definitely weigh your options so that you know what route you want to take.
And that’s it! You’ve completed your project. I say this somewhat sarcastically because looking at this process as a whole can seem impossible. But looking at it step by step can help so that you can focus in on the phase you’re in. By drilling down on the individual phase, you can see what needs to be done before moving forward. Again, I hope that you refer to this post because I will be asking some questions how these phases of the writing process function.