18 Jan

The Process of My Writing Process

Banner - penNot a note of caution before we begin: everyone has a different process, and what works for me, may not work for you. In fact, what works for me sometimes doesn’t work for me.

But I always think it’s fun to look at other people’s writing processes. So, here is mine.

I usually write in Evernote because I can seamlessly move my writing between my different computers, my phone, and cloud storage. And if I happen to be visiting someone I could conceivably log into Evernote and work on my story wherever I am.

Not that it has ever happened. But I like to have that option.

I’ve got a notebook called “general writing.” This is where all my stories start, and reside as long as they’re not finished. At the time of this writing, I have 140 notes in my “general writing” notebook. Most of these are unfinished, or semi-finished stories but a few are notes about stories in progress.

These are not stories that are trunked. And they are not sketches, or ideas. They are stories that I started writing and didn’t finish for one reason or another. But I don’t feel that I want to abandon them. So having them in my general writing notebook is a safety valve, a way of telling my brain that I’m not giving up on them.

The oldest story in there is from 2014. I’ve also got ten from 2015. Every year thereafter contributes about 25 stories to the notebook. Not done, not abandoned. Sometimes, I go through them, looking for one that I feel like finishing. Sometimes, I even finish it.

When I do, I move a story to the “general editing” folder.

Before I figured out that I’m a hard-core Intuitive Pantser I used to try outlining, filling in the blanks, the snowflake method, shitty first drafts, anything I came across. But now, I use Dean Wesley Smith’s one draft method.

This means that I write without an outline, and cycle back a chapter or so to fix up whatever I wrote in the last half-an-hour. And when I come to the end, the story is pretty much finished.

So there is not much editing going on in my general editing folder. Instead, those are the stories I haven’t gathered the guts to send out, or stories that I have absolutely no idea what to do with.

It should be noted that my opinions of my stories have very little in common with whether this story will sell or whether readers will like it. I simply can’t tell if my stories are and good or not.

But as long as it resides in “general editing,” it’s not completely finished in my mind.

What usually happens is that when I run out of stories in my current submissions pile (we’ll get to that one in a moment.) I go through the general editing and pull out the stories that I feel are the most ready. Maybe I’ll read through them, maybe I’ll just glance at them. Then I copy them into a word template set up to standard manuscript format and start submitting them.

At this moment, they move to the “done writing” notebook in Evernote, then they reside in a Microsoft Word document on my hard drive, backed up to the cloud, of course.

All these Word docs reside in a folder called “current submissions.” They also reside in an Excel excel sheet where I have the name of the story, the markets I’ve submitted it to. I’ve also have a lot of more or less pointless Excel macros and formulast that tell me things like how many times it has been rejected, and whether it’s sold, and which markets it has been bounced from, and so on and so forth.

Now the story is ready to be submitted. I currently have twenty-seven stories in my current submissions folder, although several of them have run out of markets and are waiting for me to self-pub them, or for the perfect anthology to pop up where I can submit them.

Once the story has been bounced by all the markets I care to sent it do (meaning the pro-paying markets, and one or two fast semi-pro markets,) it moves to my “submission archive” folder. At this point, it’s either been published or it’s been rejected by every market I would consider sending it to, and I’ve given up on it.

At this point in time, there are 140 files in my “submission archive,” and since a lot of the stories have both a regular standard manuscript format file, and an anonymized one, I’d say that there are some 80 stories in there.

Most of those are old stories. According to my statistics for the past two years or so (that’s when I created this particular sheet in my Excel file), about 87% of my stories eventually sell, with the most subs a story has gone through, and sold, being 17 (there’s also one at 16, one at 15, one at 13, one at 11 and the rest are ten or less subs before a sale – I’m pretty happy with those statistics!). This means that 13% of my finished stories from the past years, I’ve trunked after having them rejected by all the markets I could think of.

So there you have it folks, the primitive way that I keep track of all my stories.

And as an aside, I’ve also got 236 “snippets,” parts of stories that I started writing but then abandoned after a few minutes. I no longer use that folder, but in my early writing days (meaning five years ago,) a lot of my stories ended up as snippets.

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