Whatever you are writing – from a blog to a book – you will go through eight distinct stages in the process.

They are:

  1. Choosing
  2. Allowing
  3. Capturing
  4. Drafting
  5. Deepening
  6. Completing
  7. Sharing.

Producing a piece of writing is never a linear endeavour and the eight stages don’t operate as separately from each other as putting them into a list might imply.  But understanding the shape and order of the process is crucial for writers.

Not knowing what stage you are in can lead to confusion, frustration, despair and ultimately, throwing the work aside.

I have seen so many writers who start to edit or judge their writing (stage 7) when they are only in the  or first draft (stage 4), or even the germination (stage 2), point in the process — and thereby strangle their work before giving it full form.

When my first novel Lovers’ Hollow (600 pages and five years in the making) was published,  people used to ask how long it took to write.  I would smile my rueful smile and say, “All my life”.

They nodded because this, in a sense, is true of every piece of writing that takes itself seriously — but I also meant that it had taken me far too long to put this work together.

Now I know why.  Now I know that the first stages of the writing process – Preparation, Percolation and Planning – are the keys to writing fast while writing well.

To writing efficiency, if you like.

Efficiency is a word that brings most writers, and writing students, out in a rash but I’ve learned the hard way, as well as through editing and mentoring other writers, that efficiency is what makes writing pain-free and fun.

Understanding the stages of the process and doing only those tasks appropriate to the stage you are in induces that delectable condition called “flow” — where the words seem to appear of their own volition and all we writers have to do is turn up at the page and get ’em down.

Each stage has its own distinct challenges, tasks, demands and rewards.

I will explore each of the stages in detail over eight individual posts.

First up: Preparation