The Eight Stages of Writing

One: Inspiration

You’re on the bus, browsing on Facebook or trying to keep awake during a nine AM seminar, when suddenly it hits you: the idea for the best novel of the twenty-first century. It’s going to be clever, witty, tension-filled, and you’re convinced it’s going to make at least half a country cry into their Starbucks lattes. In fact, you’re so sure that it’s going to make you the next J. K. Rowling, you’ve already started imagining telling Graham Norton about how you first came up with your million-pound novel while your lecturer was talking about the sublime for two hours.

Two: Planning

Because this is obviously going to be the greatest book ever, you can’t wait to get some words down. But to get it to the level of awesomeness that you want, you know you’ve got to put some serious work into it. Days of research, plot creation and character development stretch out before you, till you can recite the novel’s events backwards and know everything about your protagonist, right down to their favourite colour. Then, you feel ready to begin.

Three: Writer’s Block

Except that you can’t. You stare into the abyss that is the blank Word document, and the abyss stares back, winking at you with the cursor line that seems to taunt you for your inability to get one word down. All that time and enthusiasm, and you can’t even finish your first sentence without deleting it all mid-way through. Perhaps it’s time for a strategic tea break.

Four: Procrastination

The strategic tea break has developed into a strategic nap, a strategic Netflix marathon, a strategic reorganisation of your wardrobe by colour. Sometimes real life will legitimately get in the way of your creative process, but in the same way the Earth’s environment needed to be just right for life to begin, you need the perfect environment to nurture your creativity. The Spotify playlist to have on in the background is crucial to this. And a decent supply of snacks. And you absolutely cannot work in a pigsty, so vigorous cleaning is needed. Before you know it, the day’s over and a total of ten (deleted) words have been written. But there’s no need to worry, because tomorrow is going to be the day you start writing for real.

Five: Repeat Steps Three and Four

This could go on for days, months, years, but it’s fine. You’re just battling your creative demons, that’s all. And besides, there’s a whole new series of Pretty Little Liars to catch up on before you can even begin thinking about writing.

Six: Willpower to Work

The first sentence is written, and the floodgates hae opened. After that it’s a short step away from the first paragraph, and then the first chapter, and then the sky’s the limit. Nothing can prise you away from your work, not even when caffeine can’t do its job properly anymore. You always knew you’d get it down eventually.

Seven: Editing

You finally made it – the end of the novel! You feel so pumped and excited about what you’ve written, you can’t wait to show everyone the result of your hard work. But now comes the hard bit: the edit. Days on end of staring at what you’ve done with a look on your face which can only be summed up as: ‘What on Earth is this?’ The likelihood is that you will have at least one cycle of stages two and three at this point, but hey, suffering for your work and all that, right? It’s not your fault Netflix is so distracting.

Eight: Completion

It is finished. Your masterpiece is complete at last, and ready for everyone to see. Whether it’s for publishing or just your own eyes, not many people can boast of finishing their own book. No author is free of doubting the quality of their work, but at least they have work to boast of. You feel immensely proud of yourself; perhaps you’ll start work on your next big idea later. But not right now, though. Now is the time for a well-deserved break. And maybe another episode of Jessica Jones.