This is a crude, but hopefully effective, diagram of my personal writing process. It doesn’t cover brainstorming or research; the process begins when I sit down to compose a draft. You can look at “The Writing Process” in a general way, but everyone has to find a way of writing that works for them. The only real test of a writer’s personal process is in whether or not they are producing effective writing.
I use variations of this depending on the style and purpose of the piece I am writing, but for the most part, this is what works for me. One thing worth noticing is that I “Cut” before I “Revise,” and I cut the revision again before I even think about editing.
A lot of people cut during the revision and editing stages, but I make it a separate step. I spent a long time learning to write the way I talk (I view most writing as talking in text). When I finally mastered talking in text, it did wonders for my rhythm and pacing, but it also exposed a weakness of mine. I am wordy and I love abstractions. Neither of those is very good for everyday writing.
Before I even think about organization, tone, or whether I am supporting my argument, I go through the first draft very carefully. I examine every instance of “that,” and every adverb, and ask myself if I need them. I find ways of re-framing concepts that are either obscure or prone to misinterpretation. I shorten sentences and add paragraph breaks. The end result is usually a text that says exactly the same thing, only in 20% fewer words and in a way that more people can actually understand.
After I do the real revision, I have to go through the text again and cut more. The “Revise – Cut- Ask myself if it’s good – Revise Again” loop can go through 10 or 15 iterations before I either just move on to editing or decide to start over.
I only edit once because it’s time-consuming and it doesn’t make sense to do a close edit on things you might very well end up cutting or re-writing.
“Submit” can mean any number of things. It can mean asking a collaborator for feedback, turning in a paper for a grade, scheduling a blog post for publication, or having a friend I trust read a piece of fiction for the first time.
I hope someone finds this useful. The only point I am really making here is that it’s important to find a process that helps you improve in areas where you’re weak (we all have them) and capitalize on your strengths.