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The Writing Process: Authors Learn to Write Just Like You : Page 2 of 2

The Writing Process: Authors Learn to Write Just Like You

continued from page 1


This is the fun part for me. I keep my planning materials nearby for reference, and dig in with a computer, pencil or pen to create my story. I may not start with the beginning, but instead drive straight into an ending, middle section or whatever part strikes me first. Later, I can put these random sections together into a solid tale. Now, at this part of the game I forget about grammar and spelling altogether. This may seem strange, but it gives my mind a freedom that I cannot describe, a freedom that allows it to run at will with the words, recording the story that is beginning to congeal.

If I focused on grammar as I write, I find that I get caught up on that and forget to let the ideas flow. Your imagination really needs room to run, so I leave these aspects of the process for editing. I may rewrite a section here or there if I get an idea that fits better, but right now is just for me, my mind and my writing.


Once I have the writing laid out, now I turn to putting it all together into a recognizable format that is clean, organized and readable for another. How I do this varies with each story, but I usually type the manuscript the first time into a computer so that I can print it out and then make changes easier later on. I don't read through the first time and try to correct everything at once, because that can be overwhelming and frustrating. Instead, I start with the big and work my way down to the small.

I follow this basic scheme to edit my work:

  • Story Plot
  • Story flow
  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Grammar
  • Spelling and punctuation

By working from the larger parts of my writing down to the smallest, I can get the bigger picture framed in, and then make sure all the parts flow together in an organized way. I may vary this with each story, but the basic pattern works the same.

I also use several strategies for editing to make the process more efficient and better, the first of which is to allow someone else to read my work and give me suggestions. By this time, I have read the story so many times that I may miss a mistake, a problem in plot, or dialogue issue. Another's perspective is always good to consider, and should not be taken as dislike, but as constructive criticism. Also, I use a variety of techniques that I learned growing up in school and in my work as a writer. Reading the text backward from the end, a sentence at a time, gives me a fresh perspective and allows me to gather new ideas or mistakes.

I also read the dialogue out loud to make sure that it sounds natural and flows well. Good dialogue should support the story, not drag it down. If I am having trouble, I turn to other writers and re-read their dialogue to learn from them. They are wonderful teachers, and I learned a lot from re-reading J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books. Her dialogue is fantastic, and I was able to fix mine from reading hers.

If I need to, I can pick a random part of the story to re-read, or I can put the entire manuscript away for a time and then come back to it. This helps me to sort of "forget" what I read and I will catch more problems the next time. When I begin to rewrite, the computer makes this simple, as I can copy and paste whole sections, retype with ease and erase whole parts that I feel don't work.

Editing and rewriting will go back and forth, and I may even jump back to an earlier stage such as brainstorming and writing if I feel a whole section needs to be reworked. This way, I am utilizing the process to its fullest. That is the wonderful aspect of the writing process, it is flexible and fluid for the writer, no matter who he or she is. I can use it at will, and it makes the perfect way to pattern out the story. It is never and should never be a concrete process.


After many, many edits and runs through the process, I can send out the manuscript. This usually starts with a query letter, which is a short introduction to the potential publisher of the tale. This can be a long process, as it may take a long time to find a good publisher, and often endures many rejection letters in-between. "The Soldier and the Storyteller" was published through Publish America, who had me go back once again after acceptance of the story to work on my dialogue one more time. Then, I was sent a proof, or sample, of the cover design. After I approved it, I waited a few weeks and then received my books in the mail.

Even if a work is accepted by a publisher, it can several months up to a year or more to get it out in print. There may be edits and rewrites requested by the editor to make the book better. The illustrator is either the author, but is usually chosen by the publisher. They keep files on several artists, and try to find one that matches the book the best.

Let me tell you, holding your first book in your hands and smelling the pages, seeing your name on the front cover and your words in-between is one of the greatest feelings you can experience. The last part of this involves marketing your book to the public through book signings, internet sites, readings, and other promotional tools.

Then, you get another idea, another spark and it begins all over again. The writing process is a wonderful tool to take advantage of, one that is real and works for everyone. I even utilized it when writing this article. I encourage you to explore this process with your students, and make it fun! Without this process, the greatest writing of our time, from a student story to a classical piece of literature, would never happen. Write, use the process, and create the next great story. •

© 2009 Erin Steeley. All rights reserved.

Erin SteeleyErin Steeley is the author off "The Soldier and the Storyteller." She work in children's books and anything that happens to catch her imagination. More »

Updated 1/5/14