Writing Process Insights: Behind the Advice

Your process depends on your perspectives.Perhaps you’ve wondered what my writing process is like. Or what perspective would produce the articles I write…

I try to keep everything here on Writingeekery focused on helping others, BUT the opportunity to participate in the Writing Process Blog Hop made me realize that knowing a bit more about me might be helpful in using my suggestions.

You can thank Lauren Sapala for tagging me. She’s a pretty cool lady, and has some amazing insights on writing whenever she posts.

This is a pretty detailed look at my personal process and perspectives. In NO WAY am I trying to imply that you should try to change your process to match it. You shouldn’t. Every writer is different, and you have to do what your personality and perspective dictates.

Without further ado, here are my answers to the four questions of the Writing Process Blog Hop.

What are you working on?

question11My fiction WIP is a fantasy with a loosely Renaissance setting. Think of art and science and the rise out of ignorance and feudalism, but with magical influences.

Tristan (name yet to be changed) is a mercenary commander from an influential family being pulled under by a wave of intrigue fueled by magical disaster. The disappearance of Tristan’s flagship anchors him at the center of the dead-serious political blamegame and puts everyone he loves at risk.

This is my attempt at pantsing, so I don’t know exactly where it will end up. I’m staying true to the heart of the pantsing experiment, even if I did have to stop and figure out what I wanted the story to be.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

There are three things that I think (together) differentiate my stories. But I might be wrong.

1. The typical coming-of-age story isn’t my thing.  I’d rather work with a character that has lived, formed opinions, and made mistakes. “The Chosen One” generally doesn’t make an appearance, either. In general, I aim to have my characters more developed than many characters in fantasy.

I want depth. I want emotional pull. I want BREATH.

2. It’s usually set in the Renaissance rather than the Medieval period, or it’s without a relevant time period at all.

3. Often magic users aren’t labeled wizards or magicians or any imaginary synonym. Magic is treated much like any other skill, integrated into all kinds of vocations. There are different dynamics in different stories (in some stories magic is banned), but that’s a basic overview.

I’d like to say my voice is unique, but I’d rather leave that determination up to the reader.

Why do you write what you write?

I “chose” fantasy because I can’t get it out of my head. Everything I have ever tried to write has ended up with fantasy elements. I’ve read it for years, and it’s become a part of me.

I love bending the laws of physics. I love the worldbuilding. I love the cultures that can be created and woven into the story.

In short, I love the flexibility it gives me. (Okay, I might also love the grand plots that just aren’t quite possible in realistic fiction.)

The stories themselves come from different directions. One was the embodiment and banishment of my bed-bound helplessness after two major surgeries. My WIP sprouted from a “first lines” exercise, where it grabbed me by the throat and yanked me in for a wild ride.

How does your writing process work?

I like to experiment. New styles, new processes, it’s all part of a larger process trying to find what works best for me. Even when I have a plan for how a project will progress, I’m willing to be flexible.

For instance, when I tried to purely pants my WIP, I made it four scenes in before I had to stop and assess what the next step was and how it would segue into the rest of the story.

Every project has its own way of winding itself out of my consciousness. Some explode into my mind fully formed, others have to be coaxed into being. Characters are the same way. I’ve probably had characters come into being thirty different ways. And that’s being conservative. There’s no way to predict what will reveal something about a character.

My biggest focus is on improving. I use deliberate practice (read: EXERCISES) to improve my weaknesses. The focus improves my writing exponentially faster than when I was trying to make every word count toward a project.

I’m also following the “trunk novels” plan until I think my writing is at a level where it deserves NOTHING LESS than to be made public. My current WIP might be “the One” and it might not. We’ll see.

(I want my betas rioting over the possibility that I won’t publish something. That’s how good I want my stories to be.)

I write most days, and I’m slowly increasing my daily wordcount.

I recently had a plan to be up to a steady 2k per day by the end of March. It failed, but I’ll keep working. I might break it down into smaller goals, moving from 1,300 to 1,400 to 1,500 in a weekly progression rather than trying to just get more every day.

What I work on depends on the day. I tend to binge, especially on fiction.

I would prefer to work steadily, putting down smaller chunks on multiple projects each day, but my writing is better quality without “productive” meddling from my logical, structure-loving side.

So I let myself follow my natural inclination. Sometimes that means I binge on one thing. Other times it means I have to let myself move back and forth between projects because there is a thread of thought connecting them and I need to follow it.

Oh, and I’ve tried to used the #writechain challenge, but I’m horrible about checking in.

Being a plotter doesn't mean you're DEAD SET on a course. It means you like having a map.I’m a plotter by nature. I’ve done everything from loose plotting to tightly controlled scene staging. I like know what will happen so I can skip around, learning more about the later scenes so I can shape the earlier scenes to better set things up or foreshadow. Sometimes I’ll see a possibility that causes me to reshape the whole plot.

Being a plotter doesn’t mean you’re dead-set on a course. It means you like having a map. Tweet it!

…And if another (found) destination looks more promising, you modify your plans.

Some miscellaneous highlights from my process:

  • I sometimes start out with stereotypical names just to give myself a starting point. When they’ve come to the point that they need a new name, I know I’ve given them a life of their own.
  • I like to come up with 10+ (ideally 20) ideas before choosing a path. That goes for plotting or worldbuilding or character development. It gives me a chance to really see where my creativity can take me, and get a feel for what works.
  • I use 20 minute sprints, even when I’m sprinting alone with a timer. Twenty minutes gives me a sense of urgency which makes the words flow faster.
  • My inner editor is hardy and stubborn. I have to constantly change up my tricks for getting her to settle down for a nap. (In cryofreeze.)

Sometimes I can’t get anything written unless I convince myself that I’m not writing my first draft yet. It’s an “outline for the scene.” Some call it a zero draft. I like that, too.

In that outline, I tell the story in incomplete sentences marked by [brackets]. If I’m having one of those days, it often evolves into a real draft as I get deeper into it.

But ANY time something threatens to interrupt the flow of words-to-paper, I’ll put the general idea in brackets and come back to it later.

That practice has probably been the best thing to happen to my writing (unless you count exercises). It keeps the passages I just wasn’t feeling from hiding among the good stuff. I don’t know about you, but writing it anyway is how I end up with passages that just feel off even though I can’t pinpoint what’s wrong.

Instead, I mark it and when I come back, I’m ready to feel it.

The One Word Summary

Flexibility is giving yourself the freedom to follow the path that will produce the best story.If I had to sum up my process in one word, it would be FLEXIBILITY.

I give the story room to grow, adjusting my process as needed. I constantly experiment with new processes and styles, reveling in the stretching of my ability. I let myself work in flow rather than forcing myself to switch or stay on a project according to a predetermined structure.

Despite how analytical as I am, or perhaps in balance with it, my writing process is organic and free-flowing.

No matter how you write, your process is a reflection of your personality. Let your creativity shine.

Tell me in a comment: What ONE WORD describes your process?

Thus ends my contribution to the blog hop.

Now, I’m supposed to tag people, but this thing has been spreading like wildfire, and (I’m sorry) I don’t have time to hunt down four people that haven’t been tagged yet and are willing to play. (Plus it leaves more for others to tag.)

Although I would love to see the processes of Karen Woodward, Angela Ackerman, Janice Hardy, and Skye Fairwin. Just a note, you guys.

My REBELLIOUS alternative is to link existing posts.

Lauren Sapala shows a different way to write.

Robyn Larue’s contribution is short but entertaining.

Gemma Hawdon reminds me why I write.

Renea Mason does a great job of pinpointing why her writing is different.

I’m not going to ask you to Pin it or subscribe because I want you to go read those posts.

So clicky!

Or if you’ve already read them, tell me your one word. :)

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About MJ Bush

Developmental Editor.
Founder of Writingeekery with 10,000 monthly readers.
I help writers like you master the craft.


  1. One word, huh? *Puzzling* As in I write pieces of the book, or ‘puzzle’ and then put them together. This goes ‘here’ and then this one…but this piece is for later yet. That kind of thing.

    What will happen when I’m done with my current series and embark on a different trip, I’m not sure how it’ll go…but I bet it’ll be pretty much the same. I’ll freewrite scenes as they come, and go from there :)

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  2. nurturing… my process has a map and it becomes clearer the further along I am in the writing as the rough idea that spawned the beginning. A seed of an idea or concept is planted and then nurtured and shaped carefully to its ultimate maturity. I do not know everything when I begin, but allow the story to unfold as my inspired imagination wraps itself around the setting and characters I paint early in the story. I have found it allows the reader to engage and connect with who and where and when before the what and how unravels.

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  3. “Unpredictable.” :) The only consistency in my writing process is that I write something everyday (or pretty much), and I’m very much a plotter. But as far as what I write, how much I write, where I write… it all depends on the day.

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  4. I’m gonna go with “gardener.” George R. R. Martin has a great quote about writers tending to be architects or gardeners, and I am definitely the latter. Planting the seed of a story and watching it develop as I write it… That epitomizes my process. I start out with many seeds, give them some water and sunlight, and wait to see what comes up. That’s what makes writing the most magical part of my life.

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  5. I’m sick and tired of reading books with “The Chosen One” theme. So that’s refreshing to know.

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  6. Can’t wait to read your book when it’s finally released.

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  7. Jacqueline Cole says:

    I think I’d describe my current process as “analytical.” Everything has a place and a plan, and each detail is nailed pretty tightly to wherever it’s supposed to function. There are no undiscovered endings, no obscure characters, and very few surprises. It really works for me, though, because I tend to flounder without a plan and direction. It may sound exceptionally limiting to many authors, but since I’ve structured everything so fully, it gets my inner editor off of my back and allows me to write with more confidence. :)

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