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The Five Stages of Writing a Book

The Five Stage of Writing a Book

(Disclaimer:  in no way does this post seek to minimise the reality of grief and the Five Stages of Grieving).

1. The Brilliant Idea.

When the idea for the book first comes to the writer, they can’t stop thinking about it. They see all sorts of wonderful characters, plots and subplots, meaningful themes and relevance. They can’t wait to get started.  Going to work, cooking dinner … everyday occupations feel like interruptions.

2.  The Brilliant Book takes Shape.

This is the honeymoon period for the writer. They are still in love with the idea for the book. They occupy every spare moment researching, writing, discovering new characters and plot threads. At this point they might even consider turning the book into a series.

2.5 The Belief that what they are writing is Brilliant.

Now the books is progressing. As the writer lays down the plot, chapter by chapter it unfolds before them, sweeping them along. They can still see wonderful opportunities to explore things that fascinate them by holding the mirror of fiction up to the real world.

3 The Moment of Total Despair

This happens about two thirds of the way through the book. Everything has been going along swimmingly and suddenly they see a plot flaw. It has a domino effect.  One or more characters refuse to do what the author planned. The end, which seemed so tantalizingly close, has now fallen into a black hole. This is where the dedicated author will push on, by going back to the place where the book was working really well and writing through the bad patch.

3.5 Completion of the First Draft

This is the moment when the writer feels they have nailed it.  The characters, who were misbehaving, have worked with the writer to reach an ending that satisfies them both. There are probably a list of things that need tweaking and the writer is quite looking forward to starting the rewrites.

4. The Realisation that what they have Written is Utter Rubbish.

This comes for the writer somewhere between the third and thirty-third rewrite. They are so close to the story now that they can’t tell whether it is any good or utter rubbish. They can’t understand why they ever thought they could write, or that writing this book was a good idea. At this point cleaning the oven looks like a viable option. (It is a good idea to have a supply of chocolate ready).

5. The Acceptance

This is the acceptance that what they have written will never be never be perfect, but they have written it to the best of their ability with their current writing craft skills. If the writer is very lucky, this stage will be followed by the actual acceptance of the book for publication.

At which point the writer will go through another five stages during the editing process. (This post was written because my husband found me tearing my hair out in stage 4).

Sound familiar?

16 Comments
  1. C Kelsey #

    Hehe, yeah that all sounds very familiar. I disagree with the chocolate at stage 4 though. Scotch works much better. 🙂

    May 24, 2011
    • I was foolish enough to give up chocolate and coffee for the last two weeks and I’m in stage 4. Am Suffering!!!

      May 24, 2011
      • While your brain may thinking evil thoughts about you, I am sure you bod is giving you the thumbs up(after you recover from the caffine withdrawl)

        May 24, 2011
  2. Brendan, I weakened and had a cup of coffee with half a teaspoon of coffee in it. Flavoured warm milk. Was very nice.

    May 24, 2011
    • I tend to think of abstinance as a “most of the time” thing. As long as you don’t slip into the old bad habit of needing that caffine hit the occasional drink won’t hurt(with me it is Pepsi:-(. I am in the process of getting back on the horse after falling off for 3 weeks)

      May 24, 2011
  3. Rowena, when you’re in stage 4 you should try Absinthe. After all, if Absinthe can make the heart grow fonder, it could work miricles on a book. I hit a variant of 3 at about 50% when suddenly it all seems utterly purposeless, meaningless and the book seems like not making sense. It’s usually my subconcience telling me the book does not make sense and needs me to add/restructure.

    Chocolate is good at any time.

    May 25, 2011
    • Being the sort who has one glass of wine and promptly falls asleep, I don’t think strong spirits would help me push through the dreaded stage 4. But thanks for the thought, Dave.

      Your ID photo is very cryptic. Could be anyone.

      May 25, 2011
      • It’s joke, Rowena. A play on words… although the thujone in Absinth does possibly cause hallucinations, that might help more than the alcohol.
        The gravatat picture is a bit small. But its a dwarf. It says gold a lot 🙂 and one wrestle with gravatar is enough for now.

        May 25, 2011
    • I got the joke. I was semi-seriously considering a glass of something, in the sense that a slightly more upbeat frame of mind would prevent me from being too critical at this point. But, even wine sends me to sleep and no writing would get done. Sigh …

      May 25, 2011
    • Brendan #

      Can you get real Absinthe these days? I thought that the real deal was banned in pretty much all 1st world countries for the very reasons you suggest its use – its narcotic properties.

      May 25, 2011
      • They think the lotus flower had some narcotic properties because the ancient Egyptian heiroglyphs show people holding the flower to their faces.

        May 25, 2011
  4. Sounds like me…:-)

    Book is done….now to go thought all 5 stages again with book 2!

    January 1, 2012

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