The 16 Stages of Writing Books

Open book in black and white.

I am currently working on an expansion and revision to one of my previous books. As with any of the other books I’ve written, the writing process has its ups and downs. (Currently, I am in the downs phase, which is frustrating and makes me want to bang my head into my desk. Repeatedly.)

Writing each book is always hard. It is never not hard. But, the hardness shows up in different ways depending on the book. You only figure out how to write the book you are currently writing, which means each new book requires figuring out how to write the darn thing. (Why, why, why?!)

However, I have come to realize that writing a book, at least for me, has a familiar pattern, and it requires a certain number of stages. At least 16.

So, here are the stages* of my writing process, the good, the bad, the in-between:

  1. I should write a book! Books are great! I can’t wait to start!
  2. Research is fun, so fun, and I should research more and more and more.
  3. Wait, no, research is a soul-sucking endeavor, and I hate it. No, wait, research hates me.
  4. Finally convince myself to start writing and think, Hey, this isn’t so bad. Why did it take so long to start writing?
  5. Oh God, writing is terrible. I make terrible decisions. Why do I even write books?!
  6. Realize my idea is crap, not just crap, but the crappiest crap you ever saw.
    • Have an existential crisis about why I do what I do. I mean, WHAT IS LIFE EVEN?
    • Decide to give up writing for a career as a clown. How hard can it be to twist balloon animals? (Update: Harder than it looks.)
    • Drink coffee and make the decision to quit my job or hide in a cave. Or do both.
    • Tell my therapist about the cave plan and that I give up on writing books.
    • Watch as my therapist takes a deep calming breath, looks at me skeptically, and says nothing. After a minute of silence, confess that maybe, I am not being rational and I will write the book.
    • Commit to actually writing said book and finishing it, but remain grumbly about it.
    • Add much more coffee.
  7. Keep writing, writing and writing.
    • Consider printing out everything I have written so far and setting it on fire. And maybe my laptop too.
    • Mention it, in passing, to my partner, who reminds me once again that setting things on fire cannot be my first response to everything and that it’s bad idea to set things on fire that I have already worked so hard on.
    • Continue writing.
  8. Become tentatively optimistic that maybe, just maybe, I can write a whole book. (Somehow, I have forgotten that I have written other books before.)
  9. Revise, revise, revise. Editing and revising are my friends.
  10. Quickly lose my optimism but become grimly determined to finish the effin’ book, so I never have to write one again.
    • Pause and write down a note to self: Never write a book again.
  11. Finish a draft.
  12. Polish, revise, polish, revise until there’s a complete, polished manuscript.
  13. Send it to the press. It is now their problem.
    • Practice my evil laugh: Muhahahahaha.
  14. Suddenly forget all the steps above.
  15. Decide to write another book.
  16. Crap.

*Also, at any given moment, I could be caught up in multiple stages.  Like right now, when I am somehow am in both 3 and 6 simultaneously. Aaaarrrggghhh.

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