Clayton Pulsipher

The Best Writing Process is the One That Works for You

March 12, 2021

When it comes to writing, whether you’re putting together a novel, polishing up a piece of web copy, or drafting that essay you’ve been avoiding, everyone and their dog have opinions on what the supposed tried-and-true best process is.

There are countless different writing methods, and there are even more blogs out there detailing everything you need to know about them–you know, like this one. 

Here’s the thing, though: there’s no right answer, or perhaps it’s better to say that they’re all the right answer.

Writing, like every creative art form, is deeply personal. As writers, we put our hearts, minds, and souls on every page. Regardless of whether we’re doing it for ourselves or for others, there’s an inherently profound sense of self-expression, a unique author voice that embeds itself in our work. With our voices, we’ve put together brilliant masterpieces and composed absolute garbage—and along the way, we’ve developed strong opinions on seemingly little things, like the Oxford comma (I would die for you, OC). 

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Do you see what I’m getting at here? When creating something that’s fundamentally a part of you it’s crucial to believe in your approach; you can’t let anyone tell you there’s a right or wrong answer because ultimately, the best writing process is the one that works for you. 

Now, does this mean you should ignore all the advice out there? No! 

Advice is advice. You can take it or leave it, but if you truly want to hone your craft, you should at least give it the time of day. I’ve only been in the author game for about nine months, yet I’ve read copious amounts of blog posts and plugged into myriad podcast episodes. Sure, sometimes I get to the end of something, and the entirety of my responses is, “Huh.” That’s not the point, though; the point is, whatever I gleaned is still locked away in my vault. Someday, it might come in handy.

I’m currently working on a science fiction novel, the first in a trilogy. Here’s a glimpse into what my “process” has been so far:

  • Spring 2016 — Had a desk job with a lot of free time, so I started writing.
  • May 2020 — Picked the story back up and started writing again.
  • July 2020 — Finished the first draft with absolutely no planning other than lying in bed the night prior to a writing day and thinking, “What comes next?”
    • Okay, I had some vague plot concepts written down—vague is an important word there.
  • September 2020 — Started editing draft two.
  • December 2020 — Stopped editing.
  • January 2021 — Took a beat to read a bunch about the actual art of novel writing—you know, all that advice I’ve been talking about.
  • February 2021 — Built a scene map in a massive, color-coded Excel spreadsheet with 22 different “questions answered” for each scene.

If you ask any novelist whether they’re a “plotter” or a “pantser,” they’ll have a pretty enthusiastic claim. Everyone likes to belong to a club, right? Plotters enjoy the company of the likes of John Grisham and J.K. Rowling, while pantsers can lay claim to common ground between themselves and famous names like Stephen King and George R.R. Martin.

Until recently, I thought I was a pantser through and through. I loved that I was able to write an entire novel draft without thinking much about it beforehand—you know, writing “by the seat of my pants.” The idea of planning out a full story was beyond me. If you look at my list up above, well, you can guess what happened next. Now, in the writing world, I might refer to myself as a “plantser” because I do a little of both. And that’s how I’ve come to like it, at least so far!

My process has been riddled with trial and error. I’ve muddled through different approaches, tried new ideas, even just shifted my viewpoint on things. Some worked for me, some didn’t. In the end, though, every single step was important for my growth as a writer and as an author. I’ve locked away all the tips and tricks in my mental vault—my “toolbox.”

And I’ve had a hell of a time at each point of the process. It’s been a blast!

This is why—in my newsletters, social media posts, or even just casual conversation—I refer to my efforts as an author using the word “journey.” Just as there isn’t a single, correct way to go about things, there isn’t a single, ultimate goal. Yes, I would love nothing more than to be a full-time novelist, spending my days traveling with my partner and writing in the most beautiful of spaces, but it’s the process that truly matters—the journey, the never ending sense of exploration as I wander the corners of both my mind and the english language in search of the perfect combination of words that tell the story I hope to tell. 

Because the story is never finished.

So, you may be wondering: Why go into all this?

Through this blog, I’ll be sharing things I’ve learned along the paths of my author journey. At times, I’ll explain concepts how I understand them, hoping it may help to inspire you as you craft your own story. At other times, I’ll detail different methods I’ve tried, where they’ve come from, and why they worked for me. As you read them, just remember: this is one guy’s take on things. It may or may not work for you—and that’s okay! 

Check back each Friday for new content. If you really want to get into things, consider scrolling down and signing up for my newsletter, an interactive community I’m building through which I hope to help and inspire others toward their own creations. And on that note, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have thoughts or comments on anything I write. I would love to hear from you.

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Clayton Pulsipher

Author of Speculative Fiction

© 2021 Clayton Pulsipher. All rights reserved.