Oct 27, 2015

Trust the Process

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

For several years, I've been worried that I was not doing something all the books on writing said I was supposed to do in the process of writing my novels, but it seemed to work out okay anyway. Recently, I read a book about writing. Suddenly, lights flashed, bells and whistles blew, and I got a huge confirmation that I'm really okay with what I do. The book is Writing Into the Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline, by Dean Wesley Smith. I'm a pantser, so I never outline anyway, but the truth is, I don't do extensive edits and rewrites, either. That latter fact is what had me so worried.

Smith explains the difference between Creative Voice and Critical Voice, and says we should not give in to the prompting to use the Critical Voice (editing) during our writing process. The job of our Critical Voice is to stop us cold from engaging in risky business, and writing is very risky business!

Instead, he holds to Heinlein's Business Rules:

Rule #1: You must write.
Rule #2: You must finish what you write.
Rule #3: You must refrain from rewriting unless to editorial demand.
Rule #4: You must put your work on the market.
Rule #5: You must keep your work on the market until it sells.

Smith gives tweaks of the rules if you are indie publishing. He also writes strange words like "practice," and "trust your process." That last one set off the bells and whistles for me.

I will say the book rambles a bit and could have been tightened, but despite its structural flaws, I found it very affirming to me. There is a bonus section in the back from another book, Killing the Top 10 Sacred Cows of Publishing. The chapter about rewriting was the whipped cream on top of the milkshake for me: his process is exactly what I've been doing all along. I write the first draft. The second draft is spell checking, then I send it to beta readers. For the third draft, I touch up the things the readers found. Then I'm done.

I know you're all crying "Heresy!" but it works for me.



  1. I almost have to have an outline only because I cannot remember simple details like eye color for minor characters. How do you avoid all that by just writing?

    1. Hi Terri. After I write the characteristic the first time (if I didn't pre-plan by writing a character sketch) I keep a record of it, either in my writing software, which has a place for characters, or in notes I keep in other places. I usually have a notebook for research on a book, or for the printouts as I go along. I might put it in there. Or I might do a spreadsheet, put a sticky note on the frame of my computer screen, or tack a note card to my bulletin board. It depends on what I'm writing at the time.

      Dean Wesley Smith outlines as he writes. He keeps a legal pad alongside his computer and makes notes on the scene/chapter he just wrote, things like which character had the POV, what happened, and yes, eye color and clothing worn by the characters. I can do that in my software, yWriter5, in the notes or the scene or chapter description.

  2. I really needed to hear this. I like that list of rules. I keep breaking that "finish what you write" rule and I know it's because my critical voice jumps in and takes over my creative voice. Hmmmm....thanks Marsha. You are amazing. hugs~

    1. Kari, when I first began writing, that's the rule I broke. I wrote great beginnings, but I didn't know how to do the middle or the end. But I learned!

      Thanks. You're pretty amazing, yourself! Now go write!


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