Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Five Stages of Fiction Writing

This is my Insecure Writer's Support Group post for August. 
Enjoy...

Just like grieving, writing has stages. Sometimes staying motivated is best accomplished by taking a break to laugh when we'd rather cry.

Stage 1 - Wow! That would make a great story!



We've all experienced this one. Whether the inspiration comes from a dream, a book, or even a short, silly video on AFV, this is the stage of energizing epiphany. Your mind churns with ideas, cranking out a plot faster than you can write it down. You'll make notes on anything, including your skin and your kid's homework assignment, if there isn't any scratch paper around. 

You've got the beginnings of a best seller, and you know it!

Stage 2 - Is plausibility really that important?

This is the stage where epiphany meets reality. You've written enough of your story to discover not everything lines up the way you thought it would. 'If only (insert character name or situation) could just ______." or "If only I knew ______." are common phrases uttered in frustration at this stage. Characters begin to have their own minds, research sources conflict or elude you (or take so much of your time you think you'll be dead before you finish your first draft), and the gods of plausibility (pronounced: readers who write book reviews) already hate your guts. 

Visions of rejection letters and 1-star reviews drive you now.

Stage 3 - The Honeymoon


Woohoo! You have FINALLY typed 'The End' and done a few editing passes. You've fixed the plausibility and polished that prose 'til it shines. You sit a little taller in your chair and bask in the tingly sense of accomplishment reading your story brings. Sometimes you just stare at it with a dreamy smile, wondering if you'll ever be able to love another. You've corrected every error; considered even the minute things your critique partners or editor might nab you on. 

"I bet they'll hardly find anything to mark this time," you tell yourself.

Stage 4 - Throwing your baby to the wolves








Stage 5 - What possessed me to EVER think I could be a writer?


This stage is Kubler-Ross on crack. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance—you do it all. Multiple times. And not necessarily in that order. 

After you get over your post-crit fit, you fall into a deep depression. You might not open your laptop for days. Even weeks. Then you gather the strength to return to the document.  

Your love for your story won't let you give up. 

You have some chocolate to calm your nerves and read the wolves' suggestions again. Maybe some of them do have merit after all. You toss the ones you disagree with, usually the ones in the minority, and then you consider the others, the ones that you know in your heart are right. 


You edit. 
You alter. 
You polish the prose again.

This time the wolves...er, um, critters...like your story. Maybe you need to make a few more changes, but you're getting there. 

You polish.
You query.
You query some more.

Then, before you know it...


129 comments:

  1. Well written! I think my problem is that I give up too easily at stage 2: where epiphany meets reality.

    I have too many half-finished novels on my computer! Hmmm....now to get back to that brand new idea.

    I loved the sentence: "You've got the beginnings of a best seller, and you know it!"

    That one hit home!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I struggle with the fact I get new story ideas before I'm done with the old. But my problem is not having enough time to write uninterrupted. ;) Maybe when school starts...

      Delete
  2. Love it! This post had me giggling and nodding my head at the same time. Those blasted wolves!

    From a fellow insecure writer :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh I LOVE this! I've bookmarked it! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Every once in a while, I get inspired. Enjoy it, 'cause it doesn't happen often. LOL :P

      Delete
  4. Great post. It's so nice to know we're not alone... :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is so fabulous and relate-able! I'm at the beginning of stage 5 right now...sometimes I sink back into stage 4, as I give drafts out to more and more 'wolves.'

    But your right when you said the love of the story keeps us going. It almost brought tears to my eyes! I've taken a brief hiatus from my major project to let it 'sit' and whatnot. But lately, I've been finding myself missing my characters, etc.

    Thanks for your post. I loved it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it. :)

      Delete
  6. There were so many hilarious parts in this post, I wouldn't know where to start. My sides hurt from laughing cause IT'S ALL TRUE!!!! I have gone through every one of these stages, again and again! Love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Occasionally my serious side gives way and lets a little humor out. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

      Delete
  7. Awesome Post Melissa, and I can certainly relate to several up there! Which reminds me, I have to put Nutella on the shopping list... (;

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! You and your Nutella. :P
      Thanks for stopping by. :)

      Delete
  8. Wonderful post, Melissa. Thank you so much for this reminder of what we all go thru.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for stopping by. Your post rings so true! I've hit all but the last stage (for book publishing at any rate).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too. I'm still pre-published (un- sounds so negative. LOL).

      Delete
  10. Thanks for stopping by at Ink in the Book!
    I enjoyed reading your post here and when I found out you homeschooled, I had to follow you. ME too! Me too! (I homeschool:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. Glad you stopped by, and thanks for following. :)

      Delete
  11. Hi Melissa. Happy IWSG. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I love your post. And your blog is so pretty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww. Thank you! That is so sweet. :) Made my day...

      Delete
  12. Yep! This is so true, Melissa. Enjoyed the pictures you included, but the wolves made me cringe. *shudders*

    Hope you're having a fantastic week!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I LOVE this post! I love the pictures and the stages.... I'm going to have to bookmark this one. Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great blog today, Melissa! I don't know about you, but I'm stuck in Stage 5. (The secret is to keep a stash of chocolate under the bed. :)

    Kim Lajevardi
    (IWSG)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good idea! :P
      Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  15. I am stuck aaallll the way back at Stage Two - as far as novels go ;) I've written some short stories but haven't submitted them anywhere. Still, I imagine all of this to be quite true!

    (Though I quite like wolves! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Go for it, Leslie! It's not so bad. ;)

      Delete
  16. Great post!I like the idea of keeping chocolate handy. Coffee, chocolate and wine are known friends to writers =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Siv. Good to see you again. :)

      Delete
  17. Oh, if only it were that easy! The last part, I mean...

    My main problem is that I need more wolves.

    Lauren Ritz
    Lauren-ritz.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - Thanks for visiting, Lauren. :)

      Delete
  18. Haha I chuckled at the picture of wolves with no caption underneath. Those snarling faces say it all, really! I'm waffling around stage 2 at the moment, thanks for the heads up on what to expect down the line :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In that case, plow on through. Stage 3 is worth it. Just brace yourself for 4. ; )

      Delete
  19. ...Is that really how you picture me? As a wolf? LOL Great post, Melissa!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. You're merely a playful pup. *cough*
      Thanks. :)

      Delete
  20. Ha ha, very nice. Not quite the phases I have, but the post made me smile. :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. If my critique partners looked like those wolves, I'd never write again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I bet not.
      But it can sure feel like that sometimes. :P

      Delete
  22. I LOVE this post! I think I'm stuck in Stage 5, depression and denial. I need some chocolate and to try again. I don't wanna put myself out there, but it's time. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! :D
      Just do it. It will be worth it. :)

      Delete
  23. Love it!! You've captured the process perfectly. After my first critiques, I got drunk and cried. We writers are funny people aren't we?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks for making me laugh! I needed it, as you know since you've seen my post.

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a wonderful breakdown of the process!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Fantastic post! Sometimes the people really do feel like those fearsome wolves. Persistence does pay off in the end. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!
      Yes, and definitely yes. :)

      Delete
  27. I'm stuck on point number 2. I'm trying to think of how vague I can be, and how many random twists I can get away with. Not very many I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - probably not. That same stuff with my HR is killing me right now. :P

      Delete
  28. Oh, yes! I go through all of these...even after the publishing contract.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Poor thing. But a fresh perspective. Interesting... :)

      Delete
  29. Great summery of the writing process! Keep pluggin' on!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thanks for stopping by my Blog earlier today (I love IWSG day). Your Post is really great. I am 46K into this WIP and I am looking at your stages as shivers run up-and-down my back. But like anything else, persistent is critical. Oh, and a strong heart! IWSG #170

    ReplyDelete
  31. I just joined Alex's IWSG and saw your comment on another blog so I came to find you. Awesome assessment. I think you should break out stage 5 into two though, because I'm editing but not to the point where my critique partners actually like my problem chapter, the first one I wrote. That's still the one I want you to critique when I ever get it to where at least the fantasy readers like it.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I'm at Stage 2.

    Love your post-- I have so much to look forward to (and fear).

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thank you all for you kind words.

    Patricia and Samantha, thanks for stopping by. :)

    Peter and Damyantiwrites, don't let my silly exagerations scare you away. Even with the ups and downs, it's soooo worth it. :)

    And Sher, my offer still stands. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Ha! That was great! I always have a honeymoon phase until my crit partners slap me back to reality! LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahaha - me, too. :P
      Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  35. The writing process in a nutshell! I'm stuck on #2; trying to negotiate with the realm of plausibility makes my head spin. And it is sooo time consuming, even for a story as straightforward as mine. Which is why I've punted the research down the road and focused on writing. As you said, it seems like I'll be dead before I finish. Please tell me this gets easier! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does as you learn and grow. Things that used to be an effort come naturally, and you get to where you write your early drafts in a way they need less revision. At least that's been the way it is for me. Hang in there.

      Delete
  36. I've thrown it to the wolves . . . will they like me?? Argh!! Your stages are so spot on! I love this post!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure they will. There's always something redeeming in every work, even if it needs polishing.
      Thanks! :D

      Delete
  37. Brilliant :-D Love the first photo when the idea strikes (also the best phase imo).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Right. If we could just stay in that stage of deluded bliss, everything would be great. :D

      Delete
  38. So true! I feel like I sit in stage 5 all too often, but somehow I come out of it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll get there. Don't let the waiting get you down.

      Delete
  39. Melissa, this is awesome! I have been through all of these, especially number 5! Thanks for the post. This was fun! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I had fun writing it. :)

      Delete
  40. Yes, I'm recognizing all the stages, lol! Nice breakdown, Melissa. And I'm loving your blog look. Very nice remodel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. :) Thanks for visiting.

      Delete
  41. I'm currently dealing with the reality of throwing my baby to the wolves. I haven't yet had the joy of that wonderful publication contract, but I know I will one day. I have to, because I won't give up until I do.

    These stages are very accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hey Melissa! I still like Stage 1 the best :) although I am rather fond of Stage 3 as well. Oh, the honeymoon...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1 is thrilling, but 3 is satisfying...at least until you throw it to the wolves. :\
      LOL :D

      Delete
  43. Brilliant post, Melissa, I've shared all over the place. I particularly like the throwing the baby to the wolves stage, although I'm not quite there yet - I'm feeling the fangs and slobber.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Yeah, this was definitely true with every stage, and it brought a smile to my face. Thanks so much :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Glad it lifted your spirits. ;)

      Delete
  45. This is great!
    I'm at stage Three, and looked ahead with consternation at Stage Five. I'm stocking up on chocolate to prepare! And I totally remember Stage Two--plausibility? Who needs it?!

    Love the post!

    ReplyDelete
  46. HA! Love your stages, too! Can sooooo relate:-)

    ReplyDelete
  47. You're adorable! Such a true and amazing post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're good for my ego...or bad. LOL
      Thank you. :)

      Delete
  48. Great Great Great Great post! I've been in each and every one of those steps, multiple times. It is a rollercoaster but fun at the same time. :D Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm smack-dab in the middle of it. I hope I survive. I keep looking to others who've lived to tell and reminding myself it can be done. LOL

      Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  49. Love the high of Stage 1. Wish I could stay there forever! Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I sighed at each phase. So true, and you'd think it would go away after the first few times. It doesn't! At least there are others in my boat and that makes a lot of difference.

    Thanks for your visit at the Write Game. Love to have new writers to connect with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We writers gotta stick together. ;)

      Delete
  51. that was a GREAT post Melissa. I have yet to get to the query stage. Great to meet you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great to meet you, too. Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  52. haha love this! Thanks for sharing.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

    ReplyDelete
  53. Positively love what you've written here. Hope the last stage is true for you. Lots and lots of luck!

    ReplyDelete
  54. We really were on the same wavelength for this month's IWSG post. Your stages are so spot-on. I'm in the honeymoon phase on one and pulling my hair out another, but I sure would love to get to that publishing contract stage, so I'll push through!

    Excellent post. I'm sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! So true. It IS possible to be in different places with different MSs. And maybe that's a good thing. Keeps us from getting too depressed. Thanks. :)

      Delete
  55. Hehe! Those wolves look scary. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  56. Thanks Melissa,

    I missed the point of the blog hop. I just thought, wheee, more bloggers to read. When I can stop blogspot from cramming my entire post into one log sentence. I'll be back :)

    ReplyDelete
  57. LOVED these stages. ;) There's no better feeling than finishing a manuscript. Yet so much work remains at that point! Thanks for stopping by and I hope for you to have fun in the first 3 stages and survive the last 2!

    ReplyDelete
  58. Really cool post! I get stuck at stage 2 and sometimes realize I need to either let that story go and move on to something else, or fix it and fix it good. Writing a good story is very hard. The world really does not understand this....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true. Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  59. Fantastic post. I love it. I'm stuck in editing and ocasionally gravitate toward wondering what possessed me to think I could become a writer... then I have a great writing day and I'm good again. hehehe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It truly is a roller coaster that's not for sissies, but it is sooo worth it. :) Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  60. "This stage is Kubler-Ross on crack."

    Well I just peed myself from laughing and had to clean it up.

    That said, this is a great post -- maybe the funniest one I've read all week, and amongst the most honest. I will be sharing this regularly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ROFL xD
      Thanks A.M. You made my day. :)

      Delete
  61. Thanks for the chuckles - and hitting the nail on the head. The photos couldn't be more spot on, either! That dog in Stage 2, holy cow. I've been feeling that way a lot lately, but with a ms I've been querying for a year. And the wolves? Yeah. That's pretty much what I picture when I picture the small band of betas and CPs I've connected with. They're LOVELY. But .. yeah. I imagine not so much when tearing apart my writing ;) Hahaha... Love it. And Stage 5 photo... just all of it. But I AM very much looking forward to that last bit ;)

    ReplyDelete
  62. Awesome post! Since I'm a short story writer (at the moment), I get to indulge in all this craziness multiple times per month, and you definitely captured the roller-coaster ride that is writing for publication.

    The wolves are the scariest, whether it's critters or editors!

    ReplyDelete
  63. Love this post - I'm right there at number five, only I'm not sure I even passed through Honeymoon - and it looks like fun :( Who knows, perhaps after the betas have finished I'll get to that stage, only in reverse. I'm cool with that :) Thanks for a great post and for stopping by and saying hi. X

    ReplyDelete
  64. Ahhh. The elusive contract. I swear...that's next on my list!
    Heather

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - I think that's next on a LOT of people's lists.
      Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  65. I love the way you've portrayed the writing journey... classic post with matching visuals!
    Happy Writing!

    http://writer-in-transit.co.za/insecure-writer-no-8/

    ReplyDelete
  66. Thanks for lifting me out of Stage 4 this week! And, my WIP thanks you too...

    ReplyDelete
  67. Visiting this over a year later and I love it :) SO TRUE!! Thanks for the laughter and the validation :)

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear what you have to say.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. = )