A Regimented Chaotic Mess // My (Current) Writing Process

As I was writing my February monthly wrap-up, I realized my writing process would fare better as a standalone post! I’ve always done some form of this, but it’s so refined now it’s kind of ridiculous.

My drafting process has always been a regimented chaotic mess. Writing is rewriting and I stand by that. 

Draft 1 is where I get the story out of my head, one 90 minute sprint at a time. I use my 20-step beat sheet to keep me on track, but outlining itself is quite fluid. While I have a good idea of the plot, I’m still getting to know the characters! They might have ideas and desires that deviate from the plan in ways that enhance the story. I have to be receptive to that. Important to note: I never write the end. I stop actively drafting at 75% and just write a detailed summary for how I think the rest will play out.

Draft 2 is when I begin rewriting the entire thing. Yep. The whole thing. I create a firmly detailed outline, use a new folder and documents in Scrivener, and start over. For the most part, I don’t copy/paste because rewriting word by word ensures I have a good grasp on voice and tone. I also start sectioning scenes off into chapters (each one is usually 2.5-3k words max). This time around at 75%, I write what I call a soft ending. It’ll contain the major beats, but no real connective tissue. The themes haven’t come full circle, there’s loose ends, and there definitely isn’t an epilogue. Doing this gives me something to look forward to and compels me to keep going because I want to finish the story. I need to.

Draft 3 begins by re-reading the manuscript, taking extensive notes, and enabling track changes in Microsoft Word to make edits. I use a spreadsheet to document plot progression, romantic beats (when applicable), character internal and external arc, action/game of the scene, and chapter cliffhangers. I’m also keeping a steady eye on tone, voice, emotional resonance, narrative consistency. Minus the epilogue (which I don’t always write), this book is 95% done. It is the best I can possibly make it on my own. But there is a downside…

This strange thing happens in my brain at this point where the story becomes ‘locked.’ I am finished. This story is done and I’m not willing to tear it apart during revisions. I can only enhance what’s already there.

This is why I like to submit Draft 2 to my agent/editor because I know there will be future edits and I will have to make compromises. I have to be in the right mindset for that kind of work and Draft 2 is the best place for that.

If all goes well, subsequent drafts involve line edits, copy edits, and other cosmetic changes to clarify.

If it doesn’t, I go back to Draft 1 and start over on a new story lmaoooo at this point, I need to just write something else. If it’s not working, then it’s not working. It needs to sit for a couple of months to a year so it can unlock in my mind.

And that’s it! By the end of this process, I’ve read my manuscript no less than 8 times. I highly recommend writing stories you’re truly passionate about because you will get sick of it. Real quick. And it’ll show.

Until next time,

Claire ❤

PS

This is why I don’t remember a single thing about my books post publication. It’s hard, consuming work and often, kinda painful! The only way I can keep writing is if I forget the hardship bits. I have to delete them to make space for new stories and the deletion just sort of… spreads. I also don’t reread books after their published because I can’t fix them.

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