The Writing Process: A Creative Rule Breakers Guide

By: Jannelle

Depending on who you ask the writing process can look dramatically different. Each writer has their own way of getting the mess inside their heads onto the page and crafting it into creative literary genius, and for most writers this process takes awhile to develop. Many will never establish a consistent routine for their writing as each project they take on may have various different needs.

Instead the writing process can be fluid and changing. The truth is not only will different writers need different writing processes, but so too will their various writing projects need their own time and consideration in what will work best to get the best final polished piece.

With that disclaimer out of the way I would like to share with you what many think of as the standard writing process, and provide tips and tricks for each aspect of these stages, as well as some advice for when and how to break the rules.

“As a rule, I believe people shouldn’t follow rules; rules should follow people” – Eric Micha’el Leventhal

There are the five steps in a traditional writing process, listed below.

  1. Pre-write or Planning
  2. Draft
  3. Revise
  4. Edit
  5. Publish

Right away you might see how some projects will not follow this pattern, not all projects are written to be published for example, there are still those little rough gems we write for ourselves after all. Some people add an idea phase to the beginning of the list, and so on. Again there are numerous ways this process will look different not only for every writer but also for every piece of writing.

Pre-writing and Planning

pre·writ·ing | \ˈprē-ˌrī-tiŋ \
Definition of prewriting 

the formulation and organization of ideas preparatory to writing

definition from Merriam-Webster

This is the phase where you have an idea that you would like to make into a story, or a in the case of non-fiction a topic that you would like to write on, etc. Before you go putting those words onto the notorious first blank page there are some things you can do beforehand that will make the whole thing go smoother from the start.

  • Outlining and Plotting
  • Character Profiling
  • Researching
  • World Building
  • Society and Systems Planning

There are many other ways to plan and prepare for your writing project. Such as making a master schedule and setting defined writing goals for when you want to complete certain parts of your projects. This can be helpful with time management.

Now might be a good time to mention that not all writers pre-write or plan. Some, affectionately termed “pantsers” within the writing community, forgo plotting. The idea is that knowing what you are going to write could come across as forced or planed, as it is planned when you spend time planning it out before you start writing. Instead this breed of writer prefers to skip straight to the unadulterated flow of creative writing, following where the story takes them instead of telling the story where it should go.

For me I like a balance of pre-writing, planning and spontaneousness. So I will spend time drafting an outline and doing character profiles and all the rest before I start writing, but I might not go as in depth as other writer would. I do this because of my personality and from personal experience. When I tried to skip the planning stage all together and jump straight into my first book, it went horribly wrong and I ended up rewriting much of it all over again. This was very time consuming, (like several years of time). So I now am an advocate for pre-writing and planning as it helps me to write the best that I can.


gerund or present participle: drafting

1. A preliminary version of a piece of writing.
‘the first draft of the party’s manifesto’


The drafting phase is where you do the writing thing. Grab your pen and paper, or sit down at your computer and type that baby out. Now is the time to put your work in the prewriting step to good use and blaze through your first draft.

Don’t worry about spending too much time in this first draft, because you are basically telling you the story to yourself. Many writers get put off if this stage takes to long as it is easy to get discouraged from your work. Not to mention this is the common stage where writers tend to take this beautiful world or work they have made in their head and make it bleed with ink so to speak, on the page.

Don’t worry about how bad your novel is hemorrhaging at the seems, I am here to help you through this process with my posts on the many things that go wrong for writers in this the stage where you will do most of the writer~y things that writers do.


gerund or present participle: revising

Examine and make corrections or alterations to (written or printed matter)
‘the book was published in 1960 and revised in 1968’definition from the Oxford dictionary


The revising step is a good place to go back and try to fix structural things with your novel. Don’t get to caught up in editing at this point, you have bigger plot holes to fill.

Writers may go through drafting and revising several times before getting to a point where the feel comfortable with moving on from this step.


gerund or present participle: editing

1.prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.
“Volume I was edited by J. Johnson”


Ah you’re almost done, and for some writers who are not looking to publish this is in fact your final step. This is the kind of editing where you look at grammar and spelling, diction or word choice and really craft your work into a finely sculpted piece of artwork.



the occupation, business, or activity of preparing and issuing books, journals, and other material for sale.
“she worked in publishing”


Here is where you really get to celebrate, you have a finished polished book! JK this is where the rest of it begins.

There are two major ways to get a book published, traditionally or on your own with self-publishing. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and navigating the publishing side of writing takes a whole different set of skills including but most certainly limited to marketing, business, and networking.

The two most common forms of publishing are…

  • Traditional Publishing
  • Self-Publishing

So if you made it this far I appreciate you! Over the next several weeks I will be going into each phase of the writing process in depth, so if you want more information on any particular part of the writing process, leave me a question in the comments and I’ll make sure to answer it in my upcoming essays on the writing process.

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