The following is an excerpt from Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander, now available from Writer’s Digest Books. Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at www.writenowcoach.com.
Discover Writing Strengths
Every writer has strengths and weaknesses in the process of converting the ideas into words on a page. Some writers excel at research, others love doing the rough draft, and some revel in the rewrite. Even professionals struggle with stages of the writing process. For the purposes of the twenty-six day writing marathon, we are looking at strengths and weaknesses in the five stages of the writing process: research, prewriting, writing the rough draft, revising, and proofreading. Note that most writers do not move through the following five steps in order. Most writers repeat the steps during the writing process, sometimes multiple times.
Research. Finding the information you need to support the ideas, create the characters, inform the plot, or design the setting in your book. This step in the process might include reading information in books, articles, and on Internet sites or interviewing people. Research might also mean taking field trips to locations important to your book’s topic, characters, or setting.
Prewriting. Getting your ideas onto paper for the very first time. Prewriting may include brainstorming, mind mapping, taking notes, or making lists. The previous chapter on prewriting can help you find a method that works for you. This step is focused primarily on getting the content or ideas onto the paper in format that you can later access as you write the rough draft.
Writing the rough draft. In this phase, you take the content you developed through research and prewriting and write it! Whether you are putting together scenes or paragraphs, when you’re done with the draft, you’ll have a rough copy of your book.
Revising. You add words and sentences, eliminate awkward phrases, and reorganize sentences and paragraphs in order to create a good product. If you are writing nonfiction, you are focused on ideas, organization, chronology, word choice, and sentence fluency. If you are writing fiction, you consider criteria such as plot, character, dialogue, setting, pace, and consistency. In this stage, you might get support from a trusted writing buddy or critique group who will read your work and suggest ways you can make it better.
Proofreading. In this step, you make a final check for mechanical, grammatical, and spelling errors.
Evaluating Strengths and Weaknesses
When you’re writing a book in 26 days, the one thing you don’t have to waste is time. For that reason, it’s important to know the steps in the process that challenge you and plan extra time to get those done. That might mean taking one or more of the book tasks and doing them either before or after the write-a-thon. Some writers choose to do all of the research before the write-a-thon and most of the editing afterwards so that they can write like crazy during the 26-day event.
One of my clients, who was not a native English speaker, struggled with the details of grammar—and keeping the whole piece in the same voice. He hired an editor to help him clean up the grammatical pieces that he struggled with after finishing his project. That way he could concentrate on getting his book written without worrying about grammar. Another client knew that she was great at writing dialogue but not so good at the necessary narrative between the dialogue. She decided to write most of her entire first draft in dialogue. Whenever she knew there needed to be a narrative introduction or transition, she wrote “narrative transition” in the manuscript as well as a bit about what she planned to write. Then she highlighted it in yellow and kept writing dialogue. She gave herself extra time in the rewriting phase to add the narrative. Knowing these challenges gave the writers the information they needed to craft their writing plan to fit with their strengths and weaknesses.
In order to develop a plan for the writing marathon, you need to know what you are good at and what you struggle with. After even a week of daily pages and writing practice pieces, you can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Use the process described in the Write Now Section to evaluate your writing process.
1. Assess strengths. A strength is something you are good at doing that you also like to do. I like doing prewriting. That is one of my strengths in the writing process. I am also good at understanding the internal structure of a piece of writing. Knowing this helps me to design an approach to writing that works for me. Take a look at the five categories above. Think back to the last week of writing practice and your past writing experiences. Using those experiences as a guide, put a star next to the tasks you are good at doing.
2. Identify challenges. A challenge is something you struggle with in the writing process. It might also be a task that you find boring or difficult, like formatting footnotes or creating character names. It is perfectly normal not to be good at everything in the writing process.
3. Get help. Look at the lists again, paying special attention to the items you did not star. Which of these do you need help with? Make a list. The next chapter will help you make a plan for getting the support you need to write the book.