Step 2: Now It’s Time To Write

If prewriting is the pregame strategy session, step two of the writing process — drafting or writing — is the mad rush onto the field. After all of the film watching and play designing and planning, it’s time to let it all out.

Wildcat Willie leads the Kansas State football team onto the field!

Step two of the writing process is a rush of adrenaline!
Photo by The U.S. Army via CC BY 2.0 // effects added by the author

draft·ing (verb): the second stage of the writing process during which a writer organizes information and ideas into sentences and paragraphs

You may be wondering why I’m using the term drafting instead of writing. I thought it would help avoid confusion because we’re discussing the entire writing process. But rest assured, we’re talking about the same thing. This is the phase where you try to type or write as fast as the words pour out of you, if you’ve done a good job of prewriting.

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.”  -John Steinbeck

This is the fun part, or at least the part where you start to see results. It’s like rolling that first stripe of paint on the wall after hours of prep work or taking the plunge out of an airplane after going through all of the pre-jump requirements. (I prefer the latter but I’m sure painting is just as exciting to some people!) This is the time to introduce your characters or describe the situation or state your points clearly.

This is not the time to worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation or overall structure. I’m not saying that you should leave them out on purpose, but these items will be addressed during the next two steps (revising and editing). If you tend to correct grammatical errors or typos without thinking about it, don’t worry. Some of us are just hardwired that way (including yours truly). It will slow you down if you attempt to not correct these errors at this time.

One of the reasons that I love writing is that you can do it almost anywhere. All you need is a computer, typewriter or pen and paper AND some privacy. How much privacy? That depends on you. Some people want a room with a door they can shut. Others don’t mind light background noise: quiet conversations on a cafe patio, the soothing tones of the ocean or the peaceful sounds of nature.

“Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream… The space can be humble, and it really needs only one thing: a door you are willing to shut.”  -Stephen King

Privacy can be hard to find in today’s corporate America environments. If you’re sitting in a cubicle in the middle of an open concept floor plan, surrounded by talking co-workers, music piped through overhead speakers and other office noises, it can be tough to write — for anyone. Don’t discredit your ability to write if you have issues in this type of environment. Try to find anywhere quiet — an open conference room, a forgotten nook or a local park during your lunch break. It’s frustrating, but you may have to take your writing assignments home in order to produce quality work.

And if you’re into writing by hand (like a certain author of this blog)? Don’t be embarrassed or feel old-fashioned. It turns out that it’s good for your brain.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Feedback on This Draft

Where’s your favorite place to write?

Who’s your favorite writer?

What’s your favorite written piece — by you or someone else?

Chime in with any other thoughts on the drafting (or writing) phase of the writing process.

If you have any writing-related questions, please ask. Or we can handle all of your writing needs so you can focus on saving the world before bedtime (or the big game).


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The Power of the (Red) Pen

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”  -Stephen King

When I was in school, there was nothing I hated more than the red pen. Teachers would use it to correct mistakes on your paper and make suggestions. As a perfectionist, I attributed any red marks to failure, which was not high on my to-do list. As much as I hated the red pen, I now understand its importance.

Revise, revise, revise!

Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the sting of the red pen in school. I use black, even for revisions.

The basic writing process has five steps: prewriting (thinking/outlining), writing, revising (rewriting), editing and publishing. Did you notice that 40% of the writing process is dedicated to revising and editing? That’s why, in my humble opinion, it’s the most important aspect of writing. All of the steps are necessary, but not doing a proper job of revising and editing your work will turn readers away. Have you ever read an article that goes on forever — well past its point? Or a blog post saddled with poor grammar and spelling errors? It’s enough to make me walk away.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” -Stephen King

What makes me want to read your work (and others too)?

  • Revise, revise and revise some more. Eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Strong punctuation and grammar. A lack of one or both makes reading difficult.
  • White space (especially on screen). Use short paragraphs, quotes, images and lists for easier reading.
  • Reduce your adverb dependency. These suckers lead to passive writing and empty word use.
  • A clear point. What are you trying to say?

“The biggest illusion about communication is that it’s taking place.”  -George Bernard Shaw

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but you have to know the rules first. The more that you know (and follow) the “rules” of writing, the easier your writing will be to read. So what are these rules? They differ depending on who you talk to or what you’re writing, but Mr. King’s Top 20 Rules For Writers are a great place to start.

More people are expected to write today than ever before (social media, blogging, etc.), and some just aren’t comfortable with it. I hope this post and upcoming series on the writing process will help. (p.s. Fellow writers, feel free to chime in along the way!)

Of course, I love writing. If you don’t, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Reader Feedback

What are your most important rules of writing?

Is there a rule that you routinely break?

When did you start writing?

Who’s your favorite writer?

A writer at heart,

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On Writing…

Writing. It’s something we all learned to do at an early age, but some people are more adept at it than others. If you’re trying to improve your writing, here are a few tips I’ve picked up since I started writing at age 3. 🙂

I still love filling notebooks with my thoughts and chicken scratch.

Write often. Then write some more. It’s amazing how much more confident you feel about your writing when you practice, practice, practice. Blogging, notebooks, a journal or your Mac, the platform and audience doesn’t really matter. Just keep writing.

Can’t write? Read. Even if you’re not an avid reader, find something — or someone — you like. It doesn’t have to be business-related or in your field. As much as I enjoy psychology and sociology books, my favorite author of all time is Stephen King, a master of words. I’ve learned so much from reading his works.

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” –Stephen King

Say something. Seriously. Read what you just wrote and ask yourself what the takeaway is. If you can’t come up with anything, then neither can your audience.

Don’t waste words. While the type of writing depends on your audience, platform and objectives, never waste words. If a word or paragraph doesn’t add anything to your work, leave it out. Being eloquent doesn’t have to mean being wordy.

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Proofreading isn’t optional, even in the era of instant publishing and smartphone communication. Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation reflects poorly on the author, no matter what platform. It’s usually helpful to have others proofread your work, but if that’s not possible, at least try to walk away for awhile. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can see.

Grammar can change everything.

So grammar’s not important, huh?
Photo credit: (h/t Kathy Yoho)

Beat writer’s block. It happens to anyone who writes sooner or later, but there are actions you can take. Get moving. A brisk walk, an energetic game of basketball or an afternoon hike can be just what you need. They also draw your attention elsewhere. Sometimes when you try so hard to think about something, your brain locks up. It’s not a coincidence that so many great ideas, from novels to solving a client’s issue, happen in the shower or during a run. Think about something else, and the words will probably start flowing again.

Carry a notebook. While I’m old school and love to fill notebooks with my chicken scratch, you may prefer the digital domain. Either way, always carry a notebook (even if it’s your smartphone). You never know when, or where, an idea will strike.

Related reading: Things I Carry: Pen and Paper

Write to your audience. It’s helpful to know who your audience is so you can write to them. Speak in their language, play to their interests and use words they understand. Have you ever read something that seemed like it was written just for you? That’s the power of writing to your audience.

Pay attention. The world is full of writing topics; you just have to see (hear, smell, feel or sense) them. Pay attention to your surroundings, even during mundane tasks. You’ll be surprised what can come out of a walk in the park or your daily commute. I’ve had ideas for blog posts pop into my head while driving through a local metro park and making leg lamp cookies.

What tips would you add?

Where’s your favorite place to write (or read)?

Have you ever read writing outside of your ‘comfort zone’ and loved it?

While we’re all expected to be writers these days, some people just aren’t comfortable putting their thoughts on paper (or screen). Is that you? Then I’d love to work my magic for you

Writing away,

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What’s your riddle?

You know, the one that’s still stumping you, no matter how hard you try to solve it. That puzzle you keep turning over in your mind like a Rubik’s Cube, knowing there’s a solution out there somewhere. What’s your riddle?

                                          The Waste Lands, Dark Tower III   Wizard and Glass, Dark Tower IV

Recently, I’ve been catching up on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, some of the few King masterpieces that I haven’t read (or devoured). (Yes, you could say I’m a fan.) Today, I finished The Waste Lands (III) and began Wizard and Glass (IV), and the scene that had me hooked was all about riddles. The main characters – Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake – must stump their antagonist, Blaine, with a riddle he can’t solve. Of course, Blaine is a demented spirit/ghost powering a train who’s losing his mind and has a nearly endless knowledge of riddles.

The Ka-tet: Roland of Gilead, Eddie, Susannah and Jake (with Oy)

The Ka-tet: Roland of Gilead, Eddie, Susannah and Jake (with Oy)

In typical King style, I was turning pages faster and faster to see if the ka-tet (along with their furry companion, Oy) lived or died. It also made me think more about riddles, a concept that our ‘world has moved on’ from, it seems. However, riddles actually apply today as well as ever.

We all have that riddle that we’re trying to solve, big or small.

Some of us battle addictions while others have a fear of failure. Some can’t put down the bottle while others have built a wall and won’t let anyone in. We all have something. What’s your thing?

 Mine is perfectionism. I’ve always felt this driving need from deep inside me to be perfect and excel at everything, which is impossible. I do understand that, and I’ve come a long way from my youth, but perfectionism’s an ugly force that still rears its head to me today. I know that I’ll always deal with it on some level, just below the surface, no matter how much progress I make. That’s my riddle that I can’t quite solve even after years of looking at it from every angle, considering different solutions. (As you can imagine, that doesn’t sit well with the perfectionist monster inside of me. Talk about irony…)

Perfectionism still stares me right in the eye.

Perfectionism still stares me right in the eye.

So there’s my riddle. What are you trying to solve? About your life, yourself, your situation? Whatever it is, know that all riddles can be solved eventually. They may take years or much sweat and stress, but they can be solved.

OK, don’t leave me stranded. Leave a comment about your riddle, so we can all bring our daily battles to light. If you don’t feel comfortable exposing your riddle, then just let me know that I’m not alone in my fight.

So, what’s your riddle?

Stephen King book covers courtesy of The Dark Tower Official Website
Amazing drawing of the Ka-tet by John M. Prinkey courtesy of Elfwood

Enjoy the sunshine!

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