Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Lesson 19

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Yesterday, author Elana Johnson wrote about her writing process. Since I’ve already detailed my hardcore student life, I thought maybe I could share my writing process as well!


The Writing Process

The Writing Process


Jessica’s Writing Process

In the style of Ms. Johnson, here are my disclaimers:

  1. I type about 100 words per minute, if not more, on average. (I often have to backspace and correct typos, though.)
  2. I don’t turn off my internal editor. (But it’s not very good, either.)
  3. I usually don’t stop until I’m done. (Makes sleeping hard.)

The more I read how other people write, the more I think I might be a rare lemon. I never write without an idea of what I’m writing already. So I have two processes, and another for editing.

When I have the entire scene in my head:

  1. I open up a new document (separate from the entire WiP) and write. I can easily write about 2,500 words in an hour.
  2. Every time my flow is interrupted, I’ll reread the last few paragraphs or the last page to reorient myself in the scene in my head. And continue until I’m done. (That’s right, I don’t stop until I’m done. Yes, I am insane.)
  3. While I do take time to avoid my crutch words, avoid unnecessary words, and consciously choose words, I always scroll back to the beginning and reread everything. I make quick changes for everything I see (I often don’t see much).

When I have the first part of the scene in my head:

  1. I open up a new document and write until I reach a dead end. This is where the scene goes all black and I have no idea what to do next. Life sucks.
  2. I play out the scene until it progresses in a reasonable way. What if my MC says this? What if my MC says that? What would be the reaction? I write down the best thing I can come up with. Sometimes it takes several tries, sometimes it takes several minutes (or a lot of minutes).
  3. I follow this pattern until I see the end. Again, I don’t stop until the whole thing is written.
  4. Then I go back to the beginning and edit, sometimes rethink entire paragraphs, but try to just make the whole thing coordinate in some way.

And then my process for editing:

  1. I open up the WiP, all scenes written inserted into their proper place. I will only revise scenes that have context–surrounding scenes. This is for consistency.
  2. I reread the last page of the scene right before and then continue reading the to-be-edited scene.
  3. I pay close attention to the whole and its parts. If something sounds awkward, I’ll rephrase as many times as needed. I pick new words, I take out or put in commas and other punctuation when necessary. I usually rethink paragraphs and sentence order. Dialogue, and clarity of speaker and pronouns. I usually do this in increments whenever I have time, so I never work until I’m completely done.
  4. When I’ve finished revising the entire thing, I’ll go back to the beginning and reread it as if I’d just written it.

Now, as for whether or not I write out of order–I do. However, Devin and I have our entire WiP planned out scene by scene. We can write in order if we want, and sometimes when we feel particularly inspired, we’ll jump ahead and write something else.

And the last thing I do? Save. And then show off. After that, it’s for the critters to dissect so I have more work to do!


Written by Jessica Lei

November 10, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Lessons, Writers, Writing

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