The hardest part of the writing process

If you’ve peeked at my “About” page, then you know I’m polishing up my first novel. Currently I’m shoulder-deep in revision, which is ten times harder than actually writing the book was—and that’s quite the accomplishment for anyone, especially aspiring authors, who often stop before they finish.

I’m proud to say I finished, and no matter how hard the work the remains is, it won’t stop me from getting the book done.

I’m interested in knowing what other people think is the most difficult part of the writing process—be it book, poem, or short story. Here’s an outline of the major steps.

Writing — To attempt any writing task, you must sit down, leak those creative juices for however many hours it takes, and stay your hand every time it tries to edit or nit-pick. You also have to finish it, and that’s often where beginner writers get stuck. I found that following a disciplined schedule (x number of words per night, or every other night, or per week) greatly facilitates completing the work by your personal or official deadline. For example, if you’re shooting for a 60,000 word book, you can calculate how many words you should write and how often in order to finish by a certain date.

Reading and trying light writing exercises can help struggling writers power through those dreaded blank screens. Blogs—or any kind of vehicle for practicing writing every day—make it easy to stay in shape and fend off writer’s block, which is really just a poor excuse!

Revising — It makes logical sense, to me anyway, to start with heavy revision and then top it off with a final dusting of editing and proofreading. Revision involves fleshing out characters, tightening dialogue, livening descriptions, and correcting any errors in the narrative. This part takes longer to complete just because it doesn’t necessarily mesh with a set schedule or routine. At a certain point a writer must say, “Enough!” and move on from a given section or chapter, but revising devours the writer’s time and energy because so much of it is spent going over the same sentences, paragraphs, and whole chapters numerous times. Revision requires a slow progression, rather than one that involves moving from the first chapter to the last and then repeating the process several times, a troublesome strategy that allows for more continuity mistakes and increases the likelihood of missing out on those “ding!” moments—mental clicks that lend the added depth and richness your story needs.

I usually refresh by reading previously revised chapters, making small edits along the way without lingering for too long, before starting the next chapter and working on it five or six times until satisfied. Your first draft is where the magic happens; revision turns that magic into a presentable magic show.

Editing/ProofreadingA more manageable task than revision, editing and proofreading iron out any remaining kinks in the writing, attending specifically to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Hiring an editor to assist with this part is instrumental to successful publication. Even if you’re competent in this department like me, it’s probably a good idea to consult outside help.

Sharing — Depending on how high-profile your piece of writing is, you might choose to share you writing before pursuing publication. This is a definite step for me as an aspiring first-time author: I want to ensure my novel is as impressive and reader-friendly as it can be before shooing it off to agents and potential publishers.

Honest feedback from trusted sources is key. I’ve already talked to a few people about sending them advanced manuscripts in exchange for thorough criticism. If you do the same, do your volunteers a courtesy and pay for printing and shipping costs—and give them a mention in your book’s dedications, too.

Publishing — This is one of the biggest hurdles in the process for any writer. All that hard work and time is put to the test. Either it pays off now, or you’re stuck with an unsellable manuscript. If unsuccessful, self-publishing and/or entering the e-book market is another option, but prepare to make a substantial financial investment and, if you push past that, expect lower sales than normal. I’m aiming to publish traditionally because, while my chances of acquiring a book deal are naturally slim, the return can be far greater in the long run.

Marketing — The responsibility of marketing a book rests largely in the author’s hands, and it’s good to have an established platform (online blogs, presentations, community involvement, etc.) to help spread the news of your book’s launch. Failing to secure adequate sales can hurt your chances of publication in the future. Read up on marketing tactics and form a plan early.

Did I miss any steps? What part of the writing process do you struggle with? Please share any anecdotes or advice in the comments below.

15 thoughts on “The hardest part of the writing process”

  1. I used to write a lot of short stories and poems when I was younger, and the hardest part for me was resisting the urge to completely revise (or even delete) things I had written. I’m my own harshest critic, and I deleted most of my older work!

    I think that revision is the bane of all writers. I have another friend who writes short stories, poems, and the like, and revision is what’s keeping her from finishing her series of novels.

    By the way, I really like the layout and design of this blog, Stephanie! It’s really cool.


  2. I agree with you here. I’m currently in the revising stage of my novel and it’s such a slow, frustrating process. I’m taking a break from it right now, hoping to come back to the work with a fresh perspective. In particular, I find it’s the all important first three chapters giving me the trouble. Probably because of the pressure I’ve laid on them in my mind. All in all though, I think sharing the book to a trusted critic can really help you figure out exactly what to change and focus your energies on. So, that’s my next plan of attack. Good luck with your own work :)


    1. Thanks! Those first chapters gave me a lot of grief, too, Sherryn! The question is, when do you put down the pen and move on so you can finish? That’s not easy to do!


  3. I know that many people recommend the tactic of writing so many words per day, but I have to say I just can’t do this. If I’m in the right head space – the word just flow out. If not, then no banana. In both the novels I have worked on, there have been long breaks in writing, which have allowed me some space and time to be able to come back and look at them objectively.
    Sometimes its possible to just get too close!


    1. Thanks for the comment! Interesting! For me the word count per day was an absolute must—that way the draft got done, I didn’t procrastinate, and even if the words were crap, at least I was writing. But space and time apart from your work is definitely an advantage. It’s just one I left for after the first draft was finished. Good to know there’s an alternative that can work just as well for people!


      1. I agree. I did the word count per day as well for the first draft and wouldn’t have finished it without it. For my first book, I didn’t do the word count per day and it took me four years. My second book is in the stages of revision already and it has been less than a year.


        1. It’s so useful, isn’t it? And that’s amazing news — congratulations, Zita! I’m about to wrap up my third manuscript now, so we’re in similar places on our writing journeys. I’d love to hear how things go for you. :) Good luck!


      1. I have always been fascinated by Gothic romance: “Wuthering Heights”, Jane Eyre, etc., and did my Masters dissertation on it. My first novel, Ink – Beneath the Stain, was inspired by “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” except the “hunchback” was a boy with a huge birthmark covering one side of his face. My second novel is squarely Gothic romance, set in the mountains of Colorado in the 1800s. Don’t know if I will continue this genre forever (!) but I am having fun with it right now! What do you write?



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