It seems that the longer I spend writing, the longer my writing process becomes. I’m now up to no fewer that five steps:
1) The warm-up. Getting the fingers going and the brain clicking. Blog posts are good for this, although it means that you, dear reader, have to put up with it. It’s kind of like the first batch of pancakes–the griddle’s not quite hot and the batter hasn’t fully set, but you’ve got to throw something on there anyway.
2) The page puke. Get all that crap in my head out on a piece of paper so I can get a sense of what I’m dealing with and what ideas I want to hit. Others call this a “brainstorm,” but that sounds far too creative.
3) The outline. My outlines have become monsters. We’re not talking broad ideas here; my outlines stretch from thesis all the way down to the pieces of evidence I’m going to use. I have a feeling that this is going to have to change as I work on longer projects–say, a dissertation–but this has served me pretty well so far. This is really where I’m doing the thinking and creating–building the argument, finding connections, creating segues, etc.. That’s probably why my outlines are so detailed–I want to make sure I don’t forget how it all goes together in the next step.
4) First draft. A steaming pile of crap. For a while, I was trying edit-while-writing, but that road leads to one sentence a day for me. So I just try to push through without worrying about grammar, punctuation, slick sentences, etc.. Just get the logic worked out. Evidence can also wait–put some brackets where I’ll want it later on.
5) Second draft. Where the major revisions occur: style, argument, evidence. This is also the point of no return; once I’ve committed to this level of revision, I’m committed to finishing the project.
6) Final-ish drafts. Here’s where I put the thing out to my friend-reviewers. Their comments can take me all the way back to step four. Rinse and repeat until draft is shiny, soft, and full of volume.