Skip to content
March 4, 2014 / catherinebwrites



Image from


Last week I was in Galway talking students doing the M.A in writing.   Here’s some of the information they found helpful.

 There is plenty written about writing but  very little of it addresses the thoughts that arise in your head, the thoughts  that can hold you back.   I think there are distinct  stages in the writing process .   They do not necessarily all happen every time  but they will all happen some time. 


  1. THE GOLDEN BUBBLE – the idea that sparks you to write. It’s like  a golden bubble inside which you can see your work complete and beautiful.   Lots of it may be fuzzy but it is all thrilling.    So thrilling that you find yourself dreaming about winning  the Booker, Pulitzer, Oscar, Nobel prizes.   You write the acceptance speech, you  decide what you’ll wear on the red carpet… Wakey, wakey… you still have to write it!
  2. JUMP DOWN, TURN AROUND, PICK A BALE OF COTTON – You go to get started and suddenly you NEED to tidy your desk / go for a walk to clear your head/ make those phone call, anything at all to avoid, avoid, avoid….  because … well…  Maybe I’m not good enough.   Maybe it’s not such a great  idea.   And besides , if  I were a real writer the words  would just flow…. Go get yourself a kitchen timer.  Set it to ten minutes.   Write for those ten minutes and you’ll probably find that you want to go on for much longer. 
  3. WHO WROTE THIS GARBAGE? – So you’ve started writing.   It’s gone well.    Your head is ablaze with ideas, the words  tumble out.   At the end of the day, tired but happy,  you think, “I’ll just look over that tomorrow, there’s the occasional sentence that might need adjusting,the occasional typo,  the odd bit of punctuation  but, basically, it’s pretty okay.   Next day you read it and it’s bad… really bad… there are occasional bits  but …. where’s my beautiful prose?    Relax, the only thing that’s wrong is that you’re expecting too much of your self, too soon.   Think of the first draft as detailed notes.   As a way to clarify your  mind. It is for your eyes only.
  4. SHIFTING THE FURNITURE – the second draft means  rearranging the material, weeding out inessentials, adding missing material, clarifying ideas, developing the writing.  It often feels like hard physical work.    However, you now have something to work on and improve.   You will get  nervous about cutting material but you can open a LEFTOVERS file and store the cuts in there for future reference.  You probably won’t use them but it will make you feel secure! You will be shocked at the end at how short your manuscript has become but don’t worry, it’ll bulk up again in later drafts.
  5. THE STASI INTERROGATION – You know the Stasi?   The East German secret police who knew everything about everyone. You have to be your own Stasi policeman examining every word , tightening, tidying, improving, sharpening.    A lot of writers think this editing is a bore but  I love it because this is where the real magic happens.    It’s beginning to come closer to that Golden Bubble and, as you apply your writer’s craft, it’s as though the sentences open up and you begin to see even better ways to express your ideas and better incidents to illustrate  your story.                                                                                                               
  6. IRONING THE WRINKLES – This is all about smoothing and polishing.   It’s a bit like weeding. Once the big weeds are out of the way you begin to see the smaller ones and when they’re gone, you see even smaller ones still.   You have to get rid of them all.
  7. BUT I THOUGHT I WAS FINISHED – fifth draft;  Do a Spellcheck.  Read your manuscript ALOUD. Reading it out loud  shows you the places that still need attention.   If you find it difficult or awkward to read then so will your reader..
  8. HALLELUJAH BROTHERS AND SISTERS – the real end… At least the real end for now.   Once you give it to an editor there WILL be more to do. But for now you can open the bottle of champagne… well maybe the bottle of Cava.   Keep the champagne for the launch!


Leave a Comment
  1. motteandbailey / Mar 4 2014 6:14 pm

    This is great – as a writer that mainly writes drama and dialogue this still hits home in a great, useful way.


    • catherinebwrites / Mar 5 2014 4:29 pm

      I don’t think it matters what you write… the process is always the same. Not only that but I hear from musicians and visual artists that they go through the same stuff.


      • motteandbailey / Mar 6 2014 1:52 pm

        Hmm, obvious when you think about it, it’s about creative process really isn’t it? Great stuff, and thanks for the like on my silly post, btw


      • catherinebwrites / Mar 7 2014 11:56 am

        Silliness is one of the things that make life joyful.


  2. [email protected] / Mar 5 2014 6:16 pm

    Catherine this gives me hope. I must refer to it when dispair sets in. Thank you for sharing it.


    • catherinebwrites / Mar 6 2014 9:18 am

      The best thing about writing… you can always re-write! Never give up hope!


  3. [email protected] / Mar 5 2014 6:19 pm

    Catherine this gives me hope. I must refer to it when dispair sets in. Thank you for sharing it.

    Annette BRYAN


  4. football gambling grid / May 7 2014 2:35 am

    Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your
    content. Please let me know. Thank you


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: