Writing Process Tips



There is a huge “Ass In Chair” factor to writing. I don’t do it well myself. At home it is too easy to turn on TV or get distracted, etc.  I also fall victim to the mindset that I have to have an idea before I can sit down and write, yet the times I have sat down with no ideas and forced myself to write, something always got written. It’s like priming a pump.

I am not sure if you will find this useful or interesting, but I have written enough to sort of have a process to much of it now:

1. I use strike-through to cross out the parts I am considering removing, but haven’t committed to.

2. I keep notes inline in my story so I can get a feel for where I am going with it, or if I have an idea, etc. I section these off by using: <notes inline in story> I will even put in hyperlinks to information/sites that may be pertinent.

3. I tend to write in small chunks and do a lot of re-reading over the story to iron things out & get the flow of it.

4. I find that most of the time I will throw away the first part of what I have written.

5. I will often write the story out of order, particularly if I know how I want a certain part of it to go.

6. Many times I write sections I know are terrible in order to get the gist of it down. I recolor these on the successive passes.  I think of this as “writing through” the difficulty.

7. I always keep a browser open and in Google type  “define: word”  to quickly get the definition of word I want to use, but am not sure I know exactly. This also shows me synonyms which I will sometimes opt for.

8. I save several dated copies of a story as I write it. This is partially in case it ends up being corrupt or gets deleted, but also in case I don’t like where the current version is going and want to back track.  I have five old versions of my current work in progress.

9. I use both my desktop and my old laptop to write. I keep my writing folder in Dropbox which is shared between these devices, so the story is always up to date in both places.  I find I like to write on the laptop more than the desktop. I often write while standing in my kitchen. I think moving around helps the creative process.

10. A lot of what I do tends to be little tricks to get myself to write.  Like, I will say to myself that I am just going to write a short scene or paragraph — but that always leads to more.  If I am empty, I will often just read over an undone story. I always catch errors or will rewrite sections that don’t flow smoothly.  A lot of times just reading what I have of a story gives me the ramp up to continue on with it.

11. I spend a lot of driving time with the radio off thinking about stories. This is one of the most productive parts of my process because it usually gets me to a point where I want to get the idea written down.

12. I am subscribed to Grammarly.com ($60/year) which plugs into Word and flags grammatical problems with my stories. It’s much cheaper than an editor, but probably only 80% as effective.


Hopefully these tips help you, but if nothing else they may trigger you to think about the mini-systems and habits that could be useful for your process.


James A. Miller

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