What does your writing pocess look like?

We all do it differently, so how do you do it? Do you write with pen and paper first? Ever dabbled in an old typewriter? Do you write drunk or sober?

Personally, I write on a Dvorak style mechanical keyboard (instead of QWERTY) picture here: http://revfitz.com/img_1002/

To be honest, I kinda just write. I know a lot of people plan their stuff out way in advance, and have whole chapters fully scripted that they won't produce for weeks and weeks, but I find an overabundance of preestablished structure hurts the realism of my writing. I find that my characters, as is often the case, I am sure, can surprise me, and I would rather derail my entire planned plotline than have them act out of character in a plot pivotal moment. So yeah, no real advance planning. I have ideas for my story, but to be honest, I really just set up characters, make sure I have a good understanding of their personalities and motivations, and let the plot drive itself.

As for writing implements. It may sound a little sad, but I actually write most of my chapters on the Fanfiction.net document writer. It's the only place where I've figured out how to do horizontal line divides to help make my formatting pretty. Also, final note, I am not the sort to spend days upon days on a given chapter. I sit down, I write it, I read it over and look for errors, then I publish it. Two days, tops. But then again, my chapters max out at around three thousand words, so maybe that's a factor of size rather than approach.

Hope this provides the answer you wanted somewhere in my rambling.

I write a chapter in my notebook, then type it out and publish it online. When I'm behind on my deadlines (i.e. always), I start typing before I actually write the end of the chapter on paper and just finish it off computer-only, but the quality suffers. I did a poll and my readers can't tell, so I guess it's fine as long as I can accept the moral compromise and attendant feelings of shame.

Much of the typing occurs at really ungodly hours of the night, when I'm a little bit sleep-drunk and my wittiness is at its peak.

I also enjoy chronicling the adventures of the pens I use for writing. Some really riveting drama going on in there, hahaha. Right now, I'm using an orange pen.

My process is essentially as follows.

1. Brainstorming -- ideas, themes, cool things, where is the story going, what are the character arcs. For example, prior to beginning NAH I knew who the leads were, where they were going, and a rough nature of how and why.

2. Barebones outline of the next ten or so chapters. This can be just lines of dialogue, things to include, and copious amounts of '[thing happens here, insert text later]' But it always includes the line that opens the chapter and often the line that closes it out.

3. Go away for a few days to a week.

4. Come back and fill out the outline with actual prose. Aim for 1000-2000 words each sit down and write session. Typically, this phase corresponds with the next barebones outlining of the next part.

5. Once the actual prose is done, repeat 3.

6. Come back and edit, repeat 3.

7. Edit again immediately prior to upload.

8. Upload

I try to be a dozen or so chapters ahead of my current upload so I can maintain this sort of buffer.

First and foremost, I write, edit, and publish one chapter a day, which for me is really short; somewhere around 250 words. Then I read and re-edit existing chapters whenever I have the time. During this whole process, I write down any idea that might come up. Rinse and repeat. If all this is done and I feel that I have more to give, I translate into my native language for future use.

To write I use iA writer and Grammarly, on my iPad and phone.


Plan > Draft > Rewrite > Revision > Edit

Each chapter takes around 30-40 hours, on average, and I work on them starting in bulk and tightening focus across the aforementioned steps.

Copy and pasted FTW!!! Slightly edited.

1. I usually think of a character, then story. And I run this sort of thing through my head for two weeks. This keeps me from writing junk stories. Think of it as a story gantlet. Only the good stuff that I really want to commit to writing are the stories I write. I get a lot of story ideas, very few make it.

2. Planning. A Which is usually a statement of what I'm going to be doing. Since I do a lot of head planning, I don't outline, and I really hate going into a lot of detail about whatever story I'm working on. My characters develop the world and story. I actually do very little development on them outside of the story. I usually write enough down about the world and them in a notebook so I know what I'm working with. At the most, I may have a timeline of events but for the most part, I'm a discovery writer. Most of my development happens in story. Most of the world building is in story.

3. I write the first draft of the entire story. And do I mean it's a rough draft.I kind of treat it as my outline. I mean with the current novel I'm working on, if I posted as I wrote, I would be in trouble and very unhappy. In fact, given how much I've struggled with the re-write, I would've decided to abandon the story.

4. Then the drafted is edited like this. 1st draft revisions(basically I fix all the things I wanted to fix) Re-read and then decisions are made to what I want to do.(Generally the point where I either continue to the 2nd draft or I buckle down for a re-write. If I choose to continue on, it's second draft story editing. Print out(optional) re-dead. Edits and revisions with details are full fleshed out, characters are locked into place. Afterwards, grammar edits. By this point it's a 3rd draft.

5.(If I want to post story online which is always on a 3rd draft) Then I started start posting and edit some more with the occasional, "I need to revise this entire chapter because I just don't like it. Get ready for the struggle to do three round of edits in seven days."

This process is adjusted per story. No substance are need except the occasional caffeine that comes from green tea. Anymore makes me ill. Alcohol is my creativity killer. Typewriters can all go burn in a fire.

Your are the first person I've seen that uses a Dvorak keyboard. I was thinking about tying one out several years ago, but I know how to touch type fairly well and learning an entire new layout for a keyboard would've just added to my frustration. Though, you have a very nice looking keyboard.

Hmm... I just start with a rough idea of what I want to write. Then I start writing, letting things go however they need to. After that, I read it to check for mistakes (With the help of Grammarly, now.).

It's not really much, but it works. Each time I elaborately plan something, I end up going in a completely different direction, partly due to forgetting minor details, that heavily affect the chapter due to the butterfly effect. When I write, I lose track of the outside world. Til someone starts yelling at me to turn on the damn lights.

I just have an idea of the major plot. Small stuff is made up on the spot. Of course, I check to make sure that those minor details don't affect the major plot too much. That way I don't end up having to change everything. I've made that mistake before, and I won't make it again.

My process?

In terms of the average night of writing, I write either on my iPad or on my laptop. Due to the fact that I'm in IT and we get to grab pretty much whatever we're interested in for equipment, that laptop might be a Mac. It might be Windows. In the past, I've also used a Linux or FreeBSD desktop. Recently though, I've been doing my writing in Scrivener, so that means a Mac or Windows. It doesn't really matter which since I've got licenses for both and I share the text via Dropbox.

Occasionally, I even write on my iPhone (which also has Scrivener). During rowing season, I can stand on the banks of the river and write on my phone while waiting for my daughter to race.

Normally though, I write on the couch or at the kitchen table. Usually I drink something--tea, coffee, pop, hot chocolate, beer, wine, or a rum and coke are all possibilities. There's almost always music playing in the background (70s prog rock, Jazz, 80s college rock, 90s alternative rock, current rock and sometimes blues, country or folk. Occasionally heavy metal).

I make loose outlines, but seldom look at them after writing them. I generally stick to them, but I don't always. I don't plan out the specific updates in detail. I know what I'm writing toward, but any given update is determined by the question, "Given the characters' personalities and goals, what are they going to do next?"

As a rule, I write small snippets of my next update during lunch and then write the majority of it on the night before it's due, sometimes falling asleep at my keyboard a couple times. I look it over for mistakes, don't always catch them, and post the update in Wordpress.

I only ever write on a computer. I can't hand-write things due to certain issues from birth. (My handwriting is utterly illegible, even to myself most times).

I used to be a pantser, I would have an overreaching idea, a few ideas for awesome scenes, and that was it. The journey was from point A to B to C to End.

It was fun, but I only ever finished one story that way.

Then I tried outlining, got really into it, but found that I outlined so much that I then couldn't write the story. It came out robotic and soulless and horrible.

Then I tried outlining again.

My outline came to be even larger this time, insanely large, actually. It was for a series, and it remains unfinished at 150k words. I decided when I reached that point (Nearly having finished the outline for the entire series) That I had written enough, an that it was time to begin writing.

I knew the characters so well, knew their motives and desires and everything.

It came out fantastically.

Except for one itsy, bitsy minor problem.

My main character was a horrible, horrible person. He had the right goals, but he achieved them in ways that my readers said made them hate him. They couldn't empathise with him because he was a just horrendous.

So, I rewrote the character. Which impacted the story in a much broader way than I would have thought. A lot of the outline went out the window because it no longer meshed with who this character was.

I personally feel like the character feels samey as the others now. But, whatever, such is writing. I'm glad I could make my readers hate a character, at least!

So, what is my writing process look like? Experimentation, honestly! Trying new ways and seeing what works, what doesn't.

I knew saving this post would come handy again later! This goes through my general process when writing a story: http://sharkerbob.blogspot.com/2017/07/my-process.html

Only thing to add to it as per your question, is I pretty much have to use a keyboard these days. My hands cramp up very easily and quickly when writing with a pen/pencil.

Funny, I did use a typewriter as a kid, but its been a long, long time. I wouldn't prefer it these days, because I don't like the idea of having to re-type everything, which is another reason I don't usually write with a pen anymore.

I've discovered that for maximum comfort, and hence maximizing the time I can physically write, I like to be on a recliner with my laptop. Not sure if it's because that's just what I'm used to now, but the laptop layouts I've been using are the best for my hands/wrists, and I don't like sitting at my desk for too long.

I don't do detailed outlines, but I brainstorm until I have a general idea about the characters and the story - at least the beginning, ending, and the general setting. Strangely enough I take notes but hardly ever look at them - it's like the act of taking notes itself anchors the ideas in my head.

The writing itself also happens with a general idea in mind, though I do scenes bit by bit... I might know how the bank robbery is going to go down, but not know what happens afterwards. Occasionally I get 'stuck' by writing beyond the point I had sketched in my head and reaching 'no idea what happens now' territory. Then I have to spend a couple hours zoning out to music that fits the current mood / atmosphere until ideas pop up and I know how to continue.

The process is usually like this...

-Listening to music to try (and often fail, because life and stuff) in the mood

-Open the document, write one sentence. Fail to continue beyond that point and read forums etc while the document stays open and the music keeps playing. Oddly enough, once I've written that one sentence I manage to return to the document in roughly 5-15 minute spurts, adding more words every time.

-More often than not I agonize over every word. I get stuck time and time again, which means I keep returning to browsing the internet. Very rarely I somehow hit the 'zone' and I really 'feel' the character and what is going on and the words just keep coming. This is where I write the best scenes. Wish it happened more often. :(

-Obsessively check my word count every 50-30 minutes or so because I know I can stop after soandso many words. Usually around 500-750, though sometimes I hit a brick wall at 300 or even 100. In that case I have to save it for another day or I'll produce garbage that just gets deleted the next day.

@Revfitz Cool keyboard. I imagine the adjustment would feel very odd, with how second nature QWERTY typing should have become for most of us. I tell you, I'm really pining for a mechanical keyboard now that I'm trying to consciously type faster and with more fingers. These weak keys give me no grace!

Now! My process is all about pacing. Everything is pacing.

Pacing happens at the level of the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the act, and the novel. Everything is a connection to everything around it at every level, and it can be graphed to a universal formula, always an arc. And so the way to inform your next move, even when you've made no plan, is to follow the pace. Take my friend for instance.

They had started with action, like a cold open in a murder mystery. But then they didn't know how to introduce their main character in a way that brought them in without there being some peril to that process. Because peril on peril is no good for a beginning, not when the purpose is to be introducing the peoples and plots. You end up with a weird little mini-arc.

I tried to develop my visual director brain. Scene to scene, I've watched enough TV episodes and movies to know that every scene and frame, from color to movement, is about the flow of the story. Every story is a kind of essay. And essays like stories have an inherent structure of information pacing. Because in the end, that's what it was, just a piece of information, a memory. And interest wanes without variation! It's a golden mean between monotony and randomness. Great storytellers have talked about that in the balance of story mystery. The line of expectation and surprise.

And so that's what I do. I consider the purpose of this section I'm writing. Currently, for Chosen Shackles, I am writing the slow and eery build to conflict (to the character coming out of a mindset or mode of purposelessness [or normalcy], and into a realization of a problem, as the classic wisdom goes) and characters are explored. And so far I have been in the zone and cranking out thousand word chapters in one or two sittings twice a week, just juggling the information in my head. This project has been significantly smoother, and in my opinion, better than my last in every way. And it's all because I've focused on flow.

If the first chapter is dissonant, fast, and emotional, the second is contemplative, anxious, and cold. Keep building. Then the fourth establishes a direction and the fifth hints at danger. The sixth sets frame and the seventh breaks away to tie it all into the world and keep things in perspective. Introduce humor and break the flow as necessary, remember the main purpose of the essay. It's a much a more interpretive process than I see many writers talk about, but nothing has made my job smoother and more fun. Because there's no way I could tell you exactly what beat will follow four chapters forward (though I know the act), but I know the next chapter's, and that's enough to make it all seem preplanned.

Also, 1000 words is a magic number, in my opinion. I wrote Dirge for 2k and usually wanted to stop around 1500. Now, I usually run over 1k just a bit, and I'm sure as action picks up my chapters will start having longer run on scenes and pick up more directly from the last. I've also started doing more freeform arcs, using a numbering system instead of names, opting to name the chapters. Which I prefer because it lets me track themes better. Such as 'two_certainties', where the emotional point of the chapter peaks in reference. Sometimes I write the chapter to fit the name, sometimes I change the name to fit what I came up with.

I could never write by hand for this reason. My God, it'd be a nightmare. I shift words and sentences and thought lines around like mad until I'm happy.

And as for comfort, I can write while listening to a conversation, multitask, but headphones are best. I'll never go back to a tiny monitor, I hope. Everything is easier with a larger screen. I've even felt like my memory has improved, with my new setup. Weird? I really think my brain is my space, to a degree. I stopped using wallpapers, for instance, because I felt it helps me organize.

Sorry for the book of a post, I've just been really interested in process lately, and this thread made me giddy.


A lot of my writing outside of my serial is like that, and I am always pleasantly surprised to see my characters do something I had not foreseen.

That does not sound sad at all, though admittedly I am not familiar with it. As far as sad implements go, I used to write on an old AlphaSmart 2000 back in the day. The memory could only hold about 10,000 words and would delete everything if you went over it.


Yours is the only process I have really known about (thanks to your chapter release notes). I am actually a little sad to hear that the orange pen is running out!

I have not written in a notebook myself for some time, it is just too slow for me, but your writing is usually pretty clean, so I am considering doing some sort of retyping after a draft to replicate what you do.


That's a mighty buffer you have, mine's been whittled down to three.


I just started using Grammarly, but I probably needed it this whole time :P What is your native language?

Thank you! It treats me very well :D


You've mentioned your editing process and time spent per chapter in an earlier thread. If I remember correctly you are not one to write a rough draft super fast because you feel like it is not good for a conservation of time?


We have a very similar process, especially on #3.

It took me about a month to learn, and though I encourage people to try it I absolutely understand why the time spent on it does not make sense to a lot of writers (it might be better-spent writing). With that said I do not regret doing so, my hands are rarely ever tired now, and no one knows how to use my computer :D Thank you, It is fun to type on!

@Typist Kid

I too have a bad habit of writing in the dark. It creeps my girlfriend out.


I used to be a Linux guy, ran Red Hat 9 on an old Dell.

I would listen to nothing but prog rock and funk if I could write with music on, I envy that ability.

I am impressed that you can write on your phone, that is something I still want to do well. Did you have to buy Scrivener again for it?


I used to pants, now I am somewhere in between. Let me know if you land on anything, as I too have tried something different each time.


Nice post. The bit about not wanting to name randos was very relatable :)

I have a friend who writes on a typewriter and has software on his phone that scans the page into something he can edit on his computer.


I feel your pain. I used to do a lot of agonizing as well. Though I now have to do a lot of editing, giving myself permission to suck has put me into flow a lot more these days.


It was hard at first, but it honestly took less time than I thought it would. Plus, relearning to type did mean that for a while there I was thinking differently about my approach and had to write with more intent. Mechanical keyboards are the best!


Me: Runs Grammarly on the text.

Me: Continues as nothing happened while feeling like the Che Guevara of grammar.

My native language is Swedish.

@revfitz Ah! I've been looking for that function for a while now. I had no idea it was in such a convenient place. Thanks! I'm also very happy chosen shackles is up and running, sorry it took such a while :P.

I outline by hand, pen and notebook, also character outline, and some small scenes here and there. Unfortunately, I dont always write in chronological order, which is what killed my first two serials. I had the second have of one written, but then got stuck on getting there. and on the other, I already had the sequel outlined, but got stuck on the first story because I hadnt thought far enough ahead.

So I end up moving my bits and pieces over to computer, then filling in the gaps.


Typewriter to phone to computer, eh? That's pretty neat! I guess it converts the file to a pdf or something?

@rev: Yeah, writing by hand is slow. Super slow. I find that it makes me more thoughtful when I write. In terms of output, I think it's taken me four years to write what everyone else does in one year, but that really can't be blamed on my writing speed. If I spent 20 minutes a day writing, I'd be at double or triple what I am now.

In terms of writing cleanly, I usually have one to two spelling errors per chapter that are then caught by me when I'm not sleep drunk or by one of my lovely nitpicky readers. I've also had about three minor continuity errors picked up by people who binge read to the current chapter. *Free editing* I do find that flow, dialogue true the the characters' personality, and wittiness of the writing are significantly improved by the re-writing. Let me know if retyping works for you.

The orange pen had a good run. I bought this gold one that I really want to use, hahaha.


I lose track of what I've said where and to whom, so I've probably said what I'm about to say before, too!

I approach writing the same way I do art: start with a rough sketch, then play around with composition, colours and lightning until everything looks vaguely right, then it's on to the painting proper, working from broad strokes down to details.

I mean, say you're painting a portrait. If you approach it as some people do writing, you'd perfect each detail before moving on to the next - left eye, right eye, nose, lips, ears, each one picture perfect...until you take a step back and look at the portrait as a whole. See, you were so busy fussing over those small details that you forgot the big picture, and now you realise the portrait as a whole is a surreal mess, an eye where the mouth should be, three conflicting skin tones and a nose big enough to be a chin.

That wouldn't have happened if you started big and worked down - if you sketched out the shape of the story before trying to perfect each sentence. More than once I've seen somebody try their hardest to write the Perfect First Draft, only to realise, when they've finished, that the whole thing needs a complete rewrite - and, after all the effort they put in, that's often enough to put them off writing for good!

Presently, I'm in the middle of writing a 40-chapter block. I could, if I wanted, focus on one chapter at a time and release them weekly (thus avoiding the hiatus I've been on since last March). However, by drafting everything out and revising it, gradually narrowing the scope from overall story to episodes to chapters to scenes, I can make the whole thing a richer, more layered experience that's especially rewarding for those who read it through a second time.