My writing process (for short stories and essays)

Step 1: Have a bunch of shallow, half-thought out ideas. Most of them will not be good. That’s just the nature of ideas.

Step 2: Pick one idea to run with. Believe that it has potential to obtain substance, depth, that it is something worth exploring, that it is a story that has a right to exist in the world. It’s best not to question whether or not you will successfully execute this idea just yet. What with your insecurities, that will probably hinder more than help you move forward.

Step 3: Spend time with that idea. Have it linger in the back of your mind as you go through your daily routine. If you happen to think of something that gives your idea more substance, such as a potential scene or character, write it down somewhere!

Step 4: Come up with a title. Remember, you’re not committing to it. Just helps sometimes to have a little guidance, a little captain at the front telling you where you’re going. You can replace him/her anytime you’d like.

Step 5: Come up with a structure. Don’t overdo this. Just a general idea of how you will tell the story. If you create an outline that’s way too specific, you’ll basically be murdering all the fun out of your piece and by the time you actually get to write it, you won’t have anything new to discover.

Step 6: Start writing the beginning. The hardest step. Try to handwrite it out mindlessly for fifteen minutes, and if it sucks, scrap it and try again. You’ll know you’re pretty satisfied with your beginning if you can keep writing from there. Type up your tentative opening on a document and then keep going!

Step 7: About halfway through the story, you usually begin to doubt yourself. You get bored of your own story. You hate everything you’ve written. Realize that you’re probably just being a drama queen and it’s not as bad as you think. But it’s probably a good idea to take a step back from your story and rethink the structure. Because usually, that’s the main issue.

Step 8: Create a whole new structure for your story. Somehow, that makes you reinvested again. It gives your story new life. It picks up the pace. You’re having fun again. Cue the happy dance.

Step 9: You’ve reached the ending and now you’re anxious about whether you can pull it off or not. Your anxiety paralyzes you. It’s hard to write anymore. Start handwriting on scrap paper and time yourself again. You have fifteen minutes to end this story, go! Force yourself to be alone with your piece of paper. It will force the ending out of you, and when you type it up to your document, you’ll be able to see what you can do with it, what will make it work.

Step 10: Finish the rough draft and ask people to read it. You will probably hate the result but it’s important to get another person’s POV. And usually, other people’s opinions are more forgiving than your own.

Step 11: Leave your piece alone for maybe a few weeks. And if you’re feeling particularly ambitious about it–pick it up and revise! Don’t bother rereading people’s feedback. The opinions that rang the most true with you will stay in your mind. Revise based on those opinions. There’s no need to account for every piece of critique you received. It’s too much to worry about.

Step 12: I have personally yet to reach this step. But once you have revised your piece and have produced a draft number two, either go back to step 11 and get feedback, or start submitting it to places! Even if you don’t feel like your piece is perfect, do it anyway. (I mean ask yourself: will you ever think it’s perfect?) Besides, if anyone picks it up, they’d assign an editor to help you figure out how to fine tune the piece so it’s ready for publication (IT’S THEIR JOB TO). So tell your self-doubt to STFU, do some emergency yoga sessions and breathing exercises, and press that send button!


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