When I say I #amwriting. . . (my process) by Johanna Harness

20 Jul

It always amazes me when I say I am writing (or I #amwriting as I often say on Twitter) and someone understands that to mean I am filling a blank page with new words.

Writing is so much more than new words—so much more than a flight of fancy edited to eliminate typos and grammatical errors.

Writing is a process of crafting a full piece of writing.  It is a labor of love (and torment) and it includes so many more steps than making new words pop up on a screen.

One morning a couple weeks ago, I sat down and constructed two flow charts to try to explain to a friend what it is I do when I say I #amwriting.

First, I give you my process of creating a rough draft:

click to enlarge

When the rough draft is complete, I begin the adventure of major reconstruction. It looks something like this:

click to enlarge

So when I say I #amwriting, now you know.  I’m somewhere on the path toward crafting a final piece of writing.  Am I writing new words?  I might be, but I wouldn’t count on it.


Posted by on July 20, 2011 in plotting, Revising, writing


Tags: , , , , ,

21 responses to “When I say I #amwriting. . . (my process) by Johanna Harness

  1. Sonya Johns

    July 20, 2011 at 5:23 AM

    All those lines looks like a spider’s web gone…but very true. Writing involves so much more then most realize.

    • johannaharness

      July 20, 2011 at 7:01 AM

      Yes–and this is descriptive of my process rather than prescriptive for anyone else. It looks much more complicated than it feels. 🙂

  2. Alexander M Zoltai

    July 20, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    Saving the link to this post in my special *ToBeDecided Circle in G+.

    Want to craft a post of my own featuring this and linking back here 🙂

  3. Liz Fredericks

    July 20, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    Thank you for sharing your process, Johanna! It sounds like you put an enormous amount of work into structure and plot. Do you hold to that or find yourself ‘pantsing’ as you go along? Learning about another writer’s process is so valuable.

    • johannaharness

      July 20, 2011 at 7:23 AM

      I haven’t truly pantzed since my first attempt at writing a novel. I don’t really even call that first one a novel, because it had no discernible beginning, middle, or end. There was a point when I stopped writing, but it wasn’t truly an ending.

      Some people are able to write off the cuff and their books turn out okay. I’m not one of those people. I’ve given a lot of thought to this and I think it has to do with holding all the details of a novel in your mind at once. If you can do that, you might be okay pantzing a novel. If you’re like me and you forget details as you go, pantzing is toxic.

      Even so, my characters do have their say and plot points surprise me but, before I write those changes in, I check against the structure of the novel. Is the idea really brilliant or am I setting myself up for a lot of grief later on? I explore the detours thoroughly before draining my creative energy into writing those scenes. What are the implications of a change–and am I willing to deal with the implications?

  4. Janis

    July 20, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    You had me at “chart.” This is a very well-thought out process. Thanks for sharing.

    • johannaharness

      July 20, 2011 at 7:24 AM

      Ahh, I need to make more charts for you, Janis. 🙂

  5. Meredith Conner

    July 20, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    It’s always fascinating to get inside the mind of a writer and learn their process. Thanks for letting us in on yours Johanna!

    • johannaharness

      July 20, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      I love hearing how other writers think too. I’m fascinated by the details. 🙂

  6. Carley Ash

    July 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    This is seriously cool. Thanks Johanna.

  7. Lynn Mapp

    July 20, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Johanna, forget about Janis. I am the ONE who loves charts. No one understands how complicated this “writing thing” is. Thank you for sharing. I understand torment.

  8. JC Rosen

    July 21, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    I’m still boggled by what the flow charts indicate. On the one hand, I know my process isn’t so intricate. On the other, I know your stories are cleverly knit and more detailed than mine. You’ve shown us exactly why. I hope you don’t mind I’ve saved the flow charts as inspiration. Perhaps they’ll give me the nudge I need to improve my novels. Thanks so much for the work you put into the flow charts and for sharing them with us.

    Take care,

  9. Nicole

    July 22, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Excellent post. So wonderful to connect with other writers. It’s true, look at writing as any other craft, its more than just putting words on a blank page.

  10. Michelle Baker

    July 22, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Joanna–thanks for sharing. I work with business, science, and technical writers, and I use a simplified model called the Writing Cycle. I’m debriefing today from a week-long class and we had many questions about how the indnividual sessions on various modes of discourse tied into that cycle. Your charts have given me some ideas about how I can expand that model to help it all make sense. Many thanks!

  11. Terri Farley

    July 22, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    LOVE seeing those cards 🙂


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  13. Gracie

    December 25, 2013 at 7:23 PM

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    January 7, 2014 at 11:45 PM

    Wow, that’s what I was looking for, what a data! existing here at this
    blog, thanks admin of this web site.


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