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Point of View: The Eight Deadly Phases of Writing

J. Scott Coatsworth
Me in Phase Three

Almost every author goes through a certain set of phases when writing a new work, especially a longer work. Although the details may vary a bit from author to author, I think the broad strokes are probably the same.

Here are my phases, gathered from my current work in progress, the Autumn Lands:

Phase One – The New Journey

This is the honeymoon phase. The story is fresh and new, and you know you’re gonna knock it out of the park. Surely you can get this thing done in days – a week at most. And you won’t need no stinking second draft.

Phase Two – The Slog

This is when you really start to get into the meat of the story. And you realize that your characters can be really borking sometimes, and this may take more than a week. So you try to spice things up a bit – a surprise attack here, some breathtaking scenery there. But you realize that you’re just gonna have to slog through the boring parts. And hope your readers will, too.

Phase Three – The Great idea

This is the part, usually about halfway though, when you are struck by The Great idea – the idea that will give your story new life, and redirect it to an ending that even Carnac the Magnificent wouldn’t be able to for see (ok, I may have dated myself with that one). Sometime’s it’s a paradigm shift. Sometimes one of your characters gets ornery and decides he’d rather be a twink. Or a space pilot. Or a tree. But you charge ahead, full of new energy

Phase Four – All My Writing Sucks

This is the worst phase for the writer. it’s the point you reach, especially when you are under deadline, when it suddenly dawns on you that you may not be able to finish on time. That your whole story is basically just two guys walking through a forest. That the Great Idea you had in Phase Three has totally screwed up half the things you said in the first part of the story, and it’s gonna need editing. Like, a shitload of editing. It’s been four weeks and the bloody thing still isn’t finished. This is usually followed by Phase Four B – crawl back into bed with a gallon of ice cream.

Phase Five – I Got This

Then your natural writer’s ego starts to reassert itself. “I’m almost there. I can do this.” You get back to your desk and assess the damage, and (hopefully) it’s not as bad as you feared. You dig back in and steer this unwieldy oil tanker of a novel into port, and boom, you’re done.

Phase Six – The Rewrite (also known as The Second Slog)

This is the oh-my-gawd-don’t-make-me-do-this part that most writers dread. You’ve already written the story. It’s done. And now you have to read it all again. Only slower. And you have to make changes. If you’re like me, you rewrite almost everything, smoothing out the text, adding details, fleshing out scenes. And by the time you are halfway through, you start to wish you were dead. Or a firefighter. Or a stamp collector. Anything but a writer.

Phase Seven: The Submission

And finally, it’s out of your hands and off into the world. You breathe a huge sigh of relief. Once again, you have conquered the writing gods and channeled, if not a masterpiece, than at least a decent piece of fiction. You’re done!

At least, until First Edits come back.

And finally, there’s one more phase:

Phase Eight – I Can Write!

This is the best part. The part where you go back and read your own stuff much later – months or years. And it hits you that it’s actually pretty damned good. It doesn’t always happen – I’ve written a few stinkers. But when it does, it’s almost as good as Phase One.

And all is right in the world again.

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