(Last week we started talking about the seven specific stages you go through from beginning to end with a writing project, and the potential for both growth and failure at each stage. First read about the preparation stage, then the germination stage.)
Next we have the working stage, the one we’re probably most familiar with. During this phase we begin our rough draft, build on it, flesh it out, develop our plots and characters, and often fly by the seat of our pants to cross the finish line.
Sometimes we see our way clear through this phrase, especially if we are voracious outliners. If you hate outlines, this working stage may be more nebulous as you discover your story. You may get lost and have to start over a few times. But eventually you’ll have a rough draft, a completed draft with a beginning, middle, climax and end.
You might get the draft critiqued at this point, or you might revise your draft first, smoothing out rough spots, fleshing out the cardboard characters, and building the tension at the climax scene. The working stage is a longer stage, an exciting stage.
Danger! Danger! Warning! Warning!
What are the dangers during the working stage, the attitudes and behaviors that can derail our writing projects? There are many! Depending on your personality and favored way of working, you may do some of the following:
- You may slavishly follow your outline instead of your instincts and creative impulses that encourage you to take detours.
- You may derail during the working stage if you work zealously and with high anxiety. Working at a fever pitch, without taking time for relaxation, will cause burn-out and writer’s block just from exhaustion.
- If you don’t learn to push through the confusion of this stage, you may abandon your project. All rough drafts and early revisions are confusing as you figure out what you’re really trying to say, where to put certain scenes and information, and what to do with the new characters and incidents that seem to spring full-blown from your unconscious mind.
- If you are writing your rough draft with your Editorial Mind in gear, you will eventually give up. Editorial Mind is critical, which is an important trait later, but judging your work during your rough draft working stage can be lethal.
- If you spend time thinking about the finished product (selling, publishing) when you’re trying to write, you won’t enjoy the process, and you’ll be very critical of everything you write. Instead, focus on enjoying the writing process and leave the “product” work until the last stage (the going-public stage).
“Sometimes,” author Louise de Salvo says in Writing as a Way of Healing, “writers mistakenly assume the work is finished when the working stage is over. But for us to do our finest, most authentic work, we must proceed further.”
We’ll discuss those deepening and shaping stages next.