The fourth stage of writing is plotting. Some writers make detailed plot outlines, others just dive in and write. The former are meticulous and the latter actually plot in their heads and go with that. The former have a firm idea of where they are going while the latter have a vague idea of where they are going and just head out to get there. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I start with an outline, a broad sketch of the story. Then I will start writing and go off the outline and back on, then off again. The point I am trying make here, is that everyone has an idea of where they want the story to end up. You have to have some idea of where you want to end up before you begin writing. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.
The fifth stage is the actual writing. You just write. You go to your favorite writing spot and just sit down – or stand, if that’s how you write – and write. You write until you reach the end of your outline or story, if you don’t make a formal outline. This stage can take the longest, depending on how detailed your world building, your characters, and your outline are. Get the words out. Don’t agonize over whether the words are exactly right. You can fix any problems in the rewrite. And there will be a rewrite — many of them, in fact. No one writes the perfect draft without a revision. Anyone who claims otherwise is either a liar, or revises as they write. There’s nothing wrong with revising as you write, but it will make the journey to your first draft a lot longer.
Which brings us to the the hardest part of writing – revision. This is the point at which you look at what you have written and decide what you will keep in the piece and what you have to get rid of. Sometimes you need to add things. I have a tendency to have a lot of talking heads and need to interject some activity to show where the characters are having their conversations and what they are doing. Sometimes you have to cut things out that you really like. Be ruthless. I once had a lovely start to a story where I moved in on the planet, down to the character on the ground. It was beautiful. It was poetic. I could visualize it in a movie – it added nothing to the story. It would only be two seconds in a movie and took up five pages in the novel. I cut it. I won’t say it wasn’t painful because it was, but the overall novel was better for it. I think the result justified the amputation. As with a decorative shrub, a little pruning makes for a better story. Trim the untidy pieces from the story and give it the perfect shape. Revision is necessary for a good story. Don’t skimp it.
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