My own writing process

What happens on a typical writing project—something two or three pages long? Or even book length? What would be a good way to write that document?

We all have our special techniques, but here's what normally happens when I write:

1. I fool myself into believing I'm actually ready to write, so I start in.

3. I then jot down a quick list of the main points I want to cover. If I can think of any subpoints, I put them in, too.

4. I arrange those points in the best order.

5. I start writing again.

6. If I find that I'm not following my original outline, I don't worry: my ideas while I'm actually writing are probably much better than my ideas beforehand.

7. I rarely get stuck again, but if I do, I re-outline (briefly).

8. I write quickly, with no thought for typos or other errors.

9. But I stop immediately if the content or organization isn't working. After all, what comes before is crucial to what comes after, so I must get the content and organization right. Otherwise, I'm wasting my time because I know I'll have to rewrite significantly.

10. When I finish writing, I read and revise immediately.

11. I then set the writing aside for awhile—even a few minutes helps disconnect my mind from the particular words on the paper.

12. Then I reread and revise, looking not just for errors but for the important matters this book covers (style, organization, and layout). Throughout, I ask these questions: "Will my reader understand?" and "Have I made my points the best way possible?"

13. Then I show the writing to someone else for feedback. I try to "lean toward" their suggestions rather than away from them. But I realize that I am the one most responsible for the content and the most engaged with it, so I take "my" advice before theirs.

14. I watch reruns of Cheers on television.

Frankly, I follow that process much of the time I write. It works for me.

Normally I write about 5 pages or so at a sitting. Later I'll read and revise those pages before starting a new section. That way I'm familiar with what I've just written before starting the writing again; also, I'll have fairly polished pages as I move along.

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