The Five Stages of Writing

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'Tragedy On The Cliff Top' by Eileen Dover

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I'm in the closing stages of writing my fourth novel, which has brought a strange combination of feelings. I've felt these blues before, but it made me reflect on how my mood alters in the course of creating a book.

When I was growing up, in the 1950s and 1960s, there used to be a chocolate bar called 'Five Boys'. It was made by the Fry's confectionery company and showed a little boy's changing facial expressions as he reacted to being given his favourite treat.

fry-s-five-boys-chocolate-desperation-pacification-expectation-acclamation-realisation.jpg

The stages were DESPERATION PACIFICATION EXPECTATION ACCLAMATION REALIZATION

It was clever marketing, and if applied to my feelings towards creative writing, would go:

1) Inspiration: I think of how to combine various ideas into a storyline.

2) Consideration: I construct a basic plot framework, on which to hang the action.

3) Concentration: Nailing facts down, as I research details, even about stuff I think I already know.

4) Exhilaration: writing the story, hitting my stride, firing on all cylinders as the words flow.

5) Dejection: coming to the end of another book, a bit anxious about what I've missed saying.

Some time after typing The End there's a vague feeling of achievement, but I'm experienced enough to know that writing the book was the easy part.

There are still two stages to tackle: editing and querying literary agents.

How do you feel as you progress through your writing project?
 
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I think I only have 2 phases: shoulder to the wheel and then panic that no one will like my story. I'm hoping to achieve satisfaction and smugness at some point in the future.
 
For me, there's always that point, about two-thirds of the way through the first draft--stagnation. What was going full-steam ahead gets mired in the logistics of making sure every little thread is tied in properly, making minor adjustments to make sure my characters show up at the right place and time for their cues, and going back to add scenes and details that I suddenly realise have to be there now in order to motivate my characters to do what I need them to do for the remainder of the book.
 
Inspiration comes first, that's true. In my case the idea is usually triggered by something really trivial, like something someone said, or something I saw on a walk in the park. Sometimes it's more complex—like last year, when we rented an apartment in the center of Barcelona to enjoy a few days vacation. I'm a smoker, so I was going out to our minuscule balcony few times a day for a puff and could observe the surroundings. In a building right in front of ours there was a tiny flat, occupied by prostitutes. Very poor living conditions—the windowpane didn't even have glass in it, there was only a ragged blanket for a curtain. The girls had a routine: they slept the whole day, were waking up when the sun was already down, took drugs, then set off to work. After noticing all this an idea for a story sprung to my mind. It was further complimented by other things that happened during our stay in Catalonia. I did not write it yet, but I will.

Which brings me to the second stage, incubation. I go around with the story in my head, thinking and rethinking. It has to play in my head millions of times before I'm sure that's what I want to write down, that I know what it should be and where it should go. Not all the details, but the general arch, spirit, the beginning and the end. Usually, this process takes months.

Then comes the actual writing process, mostly agony over the things I can not express the way I would want to. But there are some moments when my fingers are typing without much effort.

As far, I've finished only one book and it's in the process of second incubation. I'm waiting to look at it with fresh eyes and decide what next. I already know of some of the changes I would like to make. I hope it won't be necessary with all my books, though—otherwise I'll never get to the point actually publishing something :D
 
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'Tragedy On The Cliff Top' by Eileen Dover

Seriously?

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