It is very common for writers to share their approach, and I think that can be helpful. I know I enjoy reading about it. So since I have been asked repeatedly, I figured I would share my method. Or madness, as the case may be. This is how I write:
- Unload. The first thing I do is get all my thoughts down. I'm talking serious stream of consciousness here. I type like a fool to capture all my thoughts. I do not worry about whether or not they make any sense, or attempt to create order. I just sit at my computer and write. I also find myself jotting ideas down on paper or recording them on my iPhone, as they tend to come when I am not at my computer.
- Organize. Now I attempt to make order from the chaos. I read through everything I have written and develop an outline. I start with a very basic, high level outline and build in detail as I move forward with the project. Not only do I find this to be particularly helpful in guiding my writing, but I happen to write nonfiction. For that genre you are expected to create a book proposal, and an outline is a key component.
- Build. Now that I have a foundation for my work; it is time to start building. I reorganize my piece based on the outline I have created, and start to fill in the details. I do try to complete chapters in order. But sometimes one is speaking to me more loudly than the others, or the story is just flowing better at a particular point on that day. So I do often jump around.
- Ignore. I find it is best to set my work aside for a bit and let it be. I discovered this by accident, because I was in a place in my life where I didn't have time to commit to my writing. When I finally got back to it, I was pleasantly surprised by the perspective that resulted from time away. So now it is part of my practice. I may wait until I have completed a draft before I let it sit, or I may take a break midstream.
- Revise. This is the part of the process where I tend to get bogged down. I rarely reach a place where I truly feel I am finished with a piece. It's maddening. I don't think I have ever read my writing before (regardless of how many times it has been revised) and been able to resist making one more change. There is the kind of revising/editing that is helpful, and then there is just plain ridiculous. If you know of a 12 step program I could join, please let me know!
- Share. Sooner or later, I have to release my writing out into the scary world and let somebody read it. When I share my work with others for feedback, I am specific and clear about what I am looking for. I have some people who are not writers but have great insight into my topic. So I don't look to them for a writing critique, but rather feedback about the subject matter. Others are excellent writers and I want them to be brutally honest. Still other people I know are fantastic proofreaders, and I look to them to catch every last typo.
- Repeat. I read people's feedback as soon as I receive it, but I don't act immediately. I let it sit (back to the Ignore stage). I need to allow it to marinade before I decide what I actually want to change. Some of the feedback will be valuable. Some of it will not be. The difficult part about asking people to review your work is discerning which is which. When I have figured that out, I go back to the Revise stage, and then Share my new and (hopefully) improved work again. I may cycle through these steps multiple times.
I think it is important to remember that there are about as many writing styles/approaches as there are writers. There is no one way to do it. Nor one clear path to success. Some might find that frustrating. They would like "the answer" or a blueprint to follow to get published.
I happen to find it refreshing. Writing is, after all, a form of personal expression. So it stands to reason that there would be many styles out there. And thank goodness for that!