A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

The Six (Sometimes Painful) Phases of Writing a Novel

Alex Campbell wrote a fantastic post about writing processes on Monday, which I actually loved so much that I almost decided not to write my own version at all and to just link to hers (that, and I’m lazy by nature…)

But. Here I go anyway.

I like to think of my writing process, and that of many of my writerly friends, as something that can be split into phases.

  • Phase 1: The Idea

Ooooh yes we all know that one, don’t we? When you’re giddy with the thrill of a new idea and your fingers itch for that pen or keyboard? It’s a lovely phase. Probably my favourite, after Phase 5 (see below).

  • Phase 2: Stumped

If you’re anything like me, this one comes hard on the heels of Phase 1 and feels like a bucketful of icy cold water. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I hate starting books. I never know how to begin them and I can’t jump into a scene halfway through and write like that either. I’m linear and it’s maddening. That giddy feeling? That gorgeous idea? Poof. Feels grubby and useless in my clumsy hands as I fumble for a beginning.

And write several. Then several more. Then give up completely because I’m the worst writer in the world and I should just find a new job because I suck. Suck, I tell you.

Five or six weeks (or months, or years) I might come back and take another stab at some more beginnings. And this time I might get somewhere.

  • Phase 3: A New Hope

Like Star Wars, only with fewer droids. Which is a shame, if you ask me, because my dinky little BB-8 Sphero robot pal is the coolest thing ever.

This phase is where things start to look up again. I have a beginning! Onward I go! WOO HOO!

  • Phase 4: Revenge of the NotSithButICouldn’tThinkofAnythingCool

Aaaand it all goes downhill again. This is the phase where I start to want to crack my brain open on a wall.

Pretend there’s a gif of someone pulling their hair out right here. (See? Lazy!)

The font starts to look off. I don’t like the way the n and g sit together in words ending in ing. I can’t move past a certain scene because I need to edit it five million times to get it just perfect before I can move forward (linear, remember?) The font looks horrible again. So does this new one, ugh let’s change it eight more times today. Oh this book sucks.

  • Phase 5: “The End”

Literally. It’s the part where I get to write the words “the end” at the end of the draft and you see why this is my favourite phase? Because I made it. In spite of the joy and the slog and the microscopic editing along the way and who knows what else, I got to the end and I’m pretty darn proud of myself. If you get to the end, you should be too.

  • Phase 6: Revise, Revise, Revise

In spite of editing along the way, my writing process doesn’t finish until I’ve gone back and edited the manuscript a few more times. Usually after a writer friend or my husband has read the draft and given me their thoughts. I actually like editing, so this phase is fun for me too.

And that’s it!

That is, until your agent asks you to revise again. And then your editor. And then your editor again. And then your copyeditor. And then…

You know what? Phase 6 never really ends until your book is sitting on a bookshop’s bookshelf somewhere.


About Sangu Mandanna

YA author of THE LOST GIRL and A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE. Also a wife, mum and Netflix addict.


This entry was posted on April 13, 2016 by and tagged , .

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,314 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 199,576 hits
%d bloggers like this: