The Writing Process
Why do I call writing a process? Because that's exactly what it is. Even though I've written
dozens of books, I don't get up in the morning, say "I think I'll write a book today," then sit
down, dash one off and send it to my publisher. I
WISH it was that easy, but it isn't.  Instead,
I go through a process that consists of the follwing six steps:
6) FINAL DRAFT: At last you are ready for your final draft. For professional writers the final draft is
the letter perfect (we hope) copy that we send off to the publisher. Because you are going to publish
your own books, though, your final draft will be the book you create. It's time for you to take your story
in hand and begin the publication process! Oh look! Mole has finished his already! Doesn't he look
proud! Congratulations, Mole!!!
1) BRAINSTORMING: What is brainstorming?
It's coming up with ideas. Here is my friend,
Mole, looking a wee bit bewildered as he tries to
think up an idea. So where do my ideas come
from?  Sometimes ideas come to me all by
themselves. In fact, the more you write, the more
often it happens that way, but in the beginning
you have to seek out ideas. Where do you think
you might look? Well, most writers don't have to
look any farther than their own back yards. The
best ideas come from things that have
happened to you or the people close to you.
These are things you care deeply about, so your
writing will ring true. Emotions are a good place
to start your search. Think of things in your life
that have made you laugh or made you cry,
frightened you, or made you worry, made you
proud, or made you mad. To give some
examples from my books, I wrote
about two brothers who do nothing but
fight. Where do you think I got that idea? Well, I
have two sons. Does that give you a hint? I
THE PROMISE about a boy and his
beloved Labrador Retriever. Would you be
surprised to find out that I have a Labrador
Retriever, and had two other Labs before her,
and that I have loved all of them very much. I
Mole who loses his home and a Shrew who helps
him find a new one. Maybe that's because I've
moved umpty-zillion times in my life. I could go
on and on, but you get the point. Think about
your life and soon you'll have dozens of story
2) FIRST DRAFT: Well, it looks like Mole has an
idea! So what next? Well, remember that most
stories have a
beginning, a middle, and an end.
In the
beginning we usually meet the main
character. Who will your main character be?
Then we discover that the main character has a
problem or wants something. What is your main
character's problem? In the
middle, we see the
main character try to solve his or her problem or
get what he/she wants. Usually your character
tries a few things that don't work, just like in life.
We often have to try over and over to do
something before we are successful. Finally
your character comes up with an idea that does
work, and viola! We have the
end! Let's use my
picture book,
NO SUCH THING as an example.
In the
beginning we meet the main character.
This book has two main characters actually -
Howard and Monster. They both have the same
problem. They're scared - of each other, but
their mommies won't believe them.  Howard's
mommy keeps telling him there are no such
things as monsters, and Monster's mommy
keeps telling him there are no such things as
boys. In the
middle, they try to solve their
problem. How? They both try to prove to their
mommies that they are telling the truth. Howard
calls his mommy and tells her he hears the
monster snurkling. Monster calls his mommy and
tells her he heard the boy sneeze. But the
mommies don't hear anything.
3) SHARING: So, Mole has written his First Draft.
But is it any good? How will he know? It's hard to
tell if your own story is good, because you wrote it,
and writing is a very personal thing, so naturally
YOU think it's good. So how can you find out just
how good it is and how you can improve it? Share
it with other writers! Professional writers often
belong to critique groups where we meet with other
writers, read our stories out loud and offer one
another criticism. We are always gentle and kind
because we want the other writers to be gentle and
kind to us, too. So first we say what we like about
the story, then we say how we think the writer
could make it better. The writer just listens, and
sometimes takes notes, then when he or she goes
home, the writer can decide if she wants to use the
suggestions she has heard to try and make her
story better. You can share your stories with
friends or classmates, or ask your favorite librarian
if she knows of any other young people who are
interested in writing. Maybe she'll even help you
organize a critique group right there at the library!
Time and again Howard and Monster call their mommies, and time and again their mommies refuse
to believe them. At last the mommies get REALLY MAD and yell. Howard starts to cry. Monster
starts to whimple. When they hear each other sounding so sad, they peek up/down at each other
and start to talk. They soon realize that there is nothing to be scared of after all. Together, they
make a plan. Howard crawls under the bed where monster usually sleeps. Monster crawls on top of
the bed where Howard usually sleeps. "Mommy!" they both call together. "Mommy, come quick."
And that's the
end. Howard and Monster have solved their problem in a most surprising and
satisfying way! So there you have it. Now it's time for you to try writing your first draft. And it's called
a first draft for a reason, by the way. Don't worry about spelling or punctuation or getting things just
right. That comes later. For now, just write and have fun getting your story down on paper. Always
write your first draft on one side of the paper only, and skip every other line. You'll see why when
we get to step four.
4) REVISION: We writers have a saying that
goes: Good books aren't written - they're
RE-written. This is so true. A first draft is like a
big block of rough granite. It takes hours and
hours of chiseling and polishing to make it into
a work of art. We writers write our stories over
and over and over again - sometimes dozens of
times - until we are sure they are the best they
can be. Then we send them off to a publisher,
and IF we're lucky enough to have them
accepted, the first thing the publisher usually
asks us to do is revise them some more. But we
don't mind, because before our stories go out
to you, the readers, we want them to be as
close to perfect as we can make them. So now
is your chance to turn your story into a work of
art. Think about the things others told you
about your story in your sharing group and
work on making it better. Now you know why we
left every other line blank - so you'd have room
to make revisions! Keep working on your story
until you are really happy with it. If you are
having a hard time with certain parts, you might
want to share it with your group again and ask
for more suggestions. When you think your
story is the best it can be, it's time for the next
5) EDITING: This is the part we all hate. This is when you DO have to go through the story and
correct all the spelling and punctuation. It's not much fun, but it's important. An editor won't even
finish reading a writer's story if she finds that it's full of mistakes, so no writer would ever get
published if he or she didn't do a good job of editing.  If you want to publish your story and let
others read it, you want it to be something you can be really proud of. These days, writing programs
are very good about catching spelling and grammar errors, but they are not foolproof. Never trust
your computer. Always read your story from beginning to end - out loud. This will not only help you
find spelling and grammar errors, but other problems, like repeated words, etc..