My Writing Process: 9 Steps from Idea to Finished

Posted on: 1st Sep 2014  /   Categorized: Writing Life

A few months ago I asked what types of blog posts you guys would like to see more of, and there was an overwhelming response for craft-based posts. And I’m right there with you. There is a lot to say on the craft of writing—entire shelves are dedicated to it in most bookstores!—but no matter how much has been written before, it seems we’re always discovering or rediscovering new techniques to apply to our work. I love reading new craft guides and am constantly flipping through writing magazines or checking my favorite writers’ blogs to see what new information they may have to share.
By far my favorite craft-related articles, books, and posts are those in which a writer talks about their process.


Do you outline, or do you wing it? Are you a speedy first-drafter, or do you take days to perfect each page before moving on? How long do you let sit in between drafts? Do you work with critique partners, and how many, and when do they see it?


I’m fascinated by other authors’ processes, because no two are the same. I’ll often hear an author talk about an element of their process and think, I could NEVER write like that! Other times I might think, Oh, that’s a great idea! I’m going to give that a shot. It may stick and it may not, but we are changing and growing creatures, and I think it’s smart to try new things once in a while. You just never know.


My writing process continues to change and adapt as I grow more confident in my ability to actually write an entire novel. (Three published novels in the world and some days I still can’t believe it!) I’m learning to trust my writer instincts. I’ve become more familiar with my own creative needs and am learning to recognize, for example, the difference between letting an idea simmer for a while longer vs. straight-up procrastination.


Each book comes with unique challenges that can change how I approach it. But the basic structure of my process, from that first spark of an idea to turning in a completed manuscript, doesn’t seem to vary a whole lot.


Not everything that I do will work for you, and that’s okay. It’s good to figure out what does and doesn’t work for us and to stay true to our creative selves. I hope these posts will bring comfort to those of you who share a similar process, and motivation to try something new to those of you who don’t. And I hope all readers will find it interesting—if not outright helpful—to see how I work through the stages of each book.


Most important, I hope this series of posts will inspire you to write, whatever your process might be.


Read the full series:


1. Brainstorming & Research
2. The Outline
3. The First Draft
4. Simmering Periods
5. The Second Draft
6. Revisions
7. Beta Readers & Final Revisions
8. Tweaking & Polishing
9. The Publisher’s Editorial Process




  1. Kat commented on:

    Ooh, I’ve really wanted to see posts about your writing process. I’m really glad you’re writing this 🙂

  2. Emilia commented on:

    Looking forward to it! I’m so excited!

  3. Kellie Jones commented on:

    Oooooh, I’ll definitely be reading all of those but will pay particular attention to spotting the difference between procrastination and letting an idea simmer ;o)

  4. Aimee commented on:

    So excited. I’m just now figuring out what my writing process may be, having just finished my first drafts–just the other day I was writing out what my immediate writing plan would be–so this is perfect for me!

  5. Loie commented on:

    Wahoooo!!! What great news, Marissa 🙂 Thanks heaps. I am about to graduate from uni so now have a bit more free head space to commit to my writing. Hoping to write my first fantasy novel this November during NaNoWriMo so am thrilled that you will be writing about craft this month.

    Loie xo

  6. Laura commented on:

    I think it says a lot about a person when they are confident enough in their abilities to be willing to share and teach others a trade or craft in which they excel. Thank you in advance for this series of posts! I look forward to reading them. I actually picked up one of the books you recommended on plot/structure recently, and it’s been a huge help, so thanks for that too!

  7. Carneilan Monett commented on:

    Thank you so much for actually taking the time to write about craft. You’re actually one of the few authors that actually tries to help others who wish to be just a awesome and successful as you!

  8. Whitney commented on:

    Marissa…I’m really looking forward to reading about your writing process. I’m trying to work through my own right now, and have often found myself wondering how you get through particular junctions. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  9. Nikki commented on:

    OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!!! This is SOOOOO Awsome! TOtally need this. Can’t wait for FAIREST!!!!

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  11. Sophia Keele commented on:

    THANK YOU MARISSA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!This is going to help out a bunch, especially for a guideline.

  12. Rebekah commented on:

    Thank you so much for sharing your process. I have long since wanted to write, but I never really new where to start. I have a lot of story idea and I have been so inspired by books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen, but always found it a bit difficult to start and even harder to finish because I tended to add to much of my inspiration and not enough imagination. I am going to write my first draft of my first novel on the Web page thank you so much for the advice, tips and the wonderful books you’ve written! They have truly inspired me.

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  15. Marly commented on:

    Thank you for all of these invaluable resources! I’ve only gotten to the ninth slide of the story structure powerpoint by Dan Wells that you posted about, and I’m already filled with new ideas about where to take my story! The “what ifs” are flying through my brain!

  16. Bea commented on:

    These are amazing! It will definitely help a lot with my fanfic!

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  21. Nickolas commented on:

    I came when I noticed the biblically thin pages of the massive Winter were published a mere year after Cress, and thought “how fast does this woman write?!”. Very, apparently.



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