I swear I’m not dead!
I know it’s been a while (more like three weeks, but who’s counting) but I just went on vacation last week and I was dealing with my sick dog (she’s fine now!), and I’ve been dealing with allergies, so writing has been a little bit on the back burner. But I’m back and I’ll have this blog post and the episode out like usual.
I asked some of my followers on my Instagram to pick a writing-related blog post/episode and this is what they chose so voila! If you want to be a part of the voting process too, make sure to follow me at @kaethewriter.
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Let’s get into it, shall we!
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Brain Dump – Let’s Get The Juices Flowing
This is probably the most important part of the process in my opinion. This is where you get to throw every idea you have to the wall and see if something sticks.
Most of the time I start with a tiny seed it an idea: maybe it’s a line for a poem or a plot point or a specific character design. Whatever it is, is what I use to start crafting some ideas.
What I like to do is something called a ‘brain dump’ I just start writing anything down that might relate to it. I’ll free-write, cross things out, maybe use it for something else, or put it to the side.
For example, I had to write a poem for class last week and the prompt was to pick a tradition/ritual and write something about it. I wanted to do Hoodoo (which is an African-American form of spirituality) and at first, I wanted to focus on spirits or divination but the more I looked into it, I learned that there’s this concept called ‘water immersion’
It’s a practice where you dip the person in a large body of water (almost like a baptism) and they believe that by doing that, you’re dying and being reborn. It’s supposed to help you connect more with your ancestors and reach a state of spiritual enlightenment.
Of course, I wrote about that but at first, I was struggling! I started with a couple lines and just kept re-writing and restructuring until I came up with ‘bare feet crunch down on bleach-white bone’
After that, the poem came to me. I still played around with ideas but now I had a solid foundation to work with. Below is the whole poem:
The same thing applies to novels. I’m working on a romance story and that idea started out as a question (I’m not gonna reveal that because I don’t want to give away what the story is about) and after that, it turned into a full-fledged story. I’m about three chapters in and it’s slow work for right now, but basically what I’m trying to say here is that this is the stage where you don’t think.
You don’t think about what you can do better. Or if this line is perfect. Or if there’s enough character development, world-building, plot advancement, etc. It’s nothing but vibes
And I think this is an important stage because this is where you truly get to let your creativity shine. Who cares if the first draft is terrible? At least you have something to edit.
Complete Overhaul – Big Edits/Rewrites
Ah yes, the best and the worst part of the process: you realize your first draft is dog shit and now you have to completely overhaul everything so it can make some level of sense.
The more you write, the more you (kind of) get used to it. I say it’s fun because this is where you get to polish it, get it closer to what it’s supposed to be. This is where you discover the heart of the story.
But it’s also the worst because you know editing and I feel like this is where the majority of the self-doubt comes to light. You might think ‘oh god nobody should ever read this or ‘how can I even call myself a writer but all of that is noise.
I recently read a book for my poetry class called Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott and she spoke about how you have to think of your self-doubt like a radio or a really annoying thing/person. When it starts to come to life and it keeps you from wanting to move forward, turn it down, lock it up until the only thing you can do is forget about it.
Now the process of big edits can vary from person to person. Some might only need one or two. Others six. I like to say I’m a happy medium: three to four is about right for me.
But I do believe that the only way to achieve amazing results from this stage is to put your work down for at least two weeks to a month. I know that can be hard but it’s necessary so you can look at it with fresh eyes.
Read & Re-read – Smaller Edits
After you do all the major stuff, now it’s the time so smaller edits. This means reading and re-reading your story until your eyes bleed.
This is usually the part where I like to edit small plot points, maybe refine a couple of characters, paragraphs, sentences, etc. And for poetry, I might update a stanza or two, change a line that doesn’t fit, or update the ending. Usually, I’ll keep re-reading it until I’m sick of it and maybe if I feel confident enough, I might share it with someone I trust (and no I don’t mean beta/ARC reading; that’s coming soon).
To be honest, this is probably my least favorite part of the process because I just hate the idea of being overly meticulous. I just want it to be done already, you know what I mean?
But I still think it’s important anyways because you need to make sure your story or poem is everything that it can be (and more) before it steps out into the world. The last thing you want to do is publish something that you aren’t proud of.
Almost To The End – Line Edits
The god-forsaken line edits!
Again, one of my least favorite parts of the process. Basically, this is the point where you make sure that everything flows well and there are no typos (but we’re human so trust me, most of us miss them). This might be the stage where you hire an editor (or you might have done it prior), but if you’re like me and you refuse to spend money for something you can do yourself, self-editing becomes your best friend. And worst enemy.
And so the process of line edits begins and you wonder why you decided to make this your passion/profession.
Possible Beta & ARC Reading
You’re probably like, Kae, what the fuck is a beta reader?
A beta reader is someone that basically test-drives your story. They read any early drafts and help you figure out what you need to fix or improve for future ones.
Now, I’ll be honest I don’t always hire beta readers. Mostly because every time I do no one ever signs up, but that might be partly my fault because I have to remember that people don’t love poetry as much as I do. And I never really promoted it as much with my previous books because I had no idea what I was doing. So I’m sure for this next one I’ll revisit it when I get to that point. However, if you’re going to possibly consider hiring beta readers, it’s best to do that after you’ve done all the major plot re-hauls (maybe after the second draft), but you still feel like you need a lot of polishing to get it to where it needs to go.
As for ARC readers, those are usually the people who read your book after it’s completely finished and they help you promote it by posting about it, writing reviews on GoodReads/Amazon, etc.
I actually did this with my last book (make sure to check out Mourning Doves! Link will be down below) and I only had six people sign up and three people followed through so….yeah kind of a bust. But I still think having ARC readers is beneficial and I do plan on doing it again for any of my future projects.
Final Read & Publish
And we’re officially at the finish line! This is the best and most depressing part because now you’re book baby is out in the world. Now people get to read something that used to be locked up inside of your head and that can be beautiful, but it can also be hard to let go of something you’ve poured your heart and soul into.
I definitely felt excited/sad with every book I’ve released, but I always found something else to work on. And that’s how the cycle continues.
I hope you guys enjoyed this glimpse into my process! I know it’s a little traditional, but this just works for me. Share yours down below!
Until next time!
-The Writer Chick
Mourning Doves: https://poeticcandles.com/products/mourning-doves