The Three Phases of Creative Writing

 3 Phases of Creative Writing

There are three phases of creative writing: planning, writing, and revision. To be a productive writer, it’s important to stay focused while working. Read on to learn the different components of each phase, and how they can help you streamline your writing process.

Phase 1: Planning, Plotting, and Pre-writing

Phase one includes all the steps you take in planning your novel before you sit down to start the first draft. Phase one includes any or all of the following activities:

  • Outlining
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Character building
  • World-building
  • Plotting
  • Research
  • pre-writing

Some of you may be thinking, “Wait a minute – I’ve never done any of this stuff at all – I just sit down and start writing!” You are what is called a ‘pantser (as opposed to a ‘plotter’),’ or a discovery writer – you like to go into your writing with just a general idea of what you want to write about, and see where it takes you. Basically, you skip phase 1 and go directly into phase 2.

Before you go patting yourself on the back for saving yourself 1/3 of the time, I’ll warn you that whatever time you save by skimping on phase one (and phase 1 is never entirely skipped, you spend at least some time generating ideas about what you want to write about), you’ll spend in revision and rewriting, fixing plot holes, cutting unnecessary tangents, and trying to figure out character backstories.

In general, the more you plan your story, the less time you’ll need for revision. That being said, you want to limit how much time you give yourself for planning – world-builder’s disease is a very real, very tragic affliction. The only prescription is setting a time limit for planning, say a couple weeks to a month.

Phase 2: Writing, writing, and more writing

Phase two is the easiest, most straight-forward phase, but the one that many writers have the most trouble with: just writing the darn thing. Sit down every day and write a certain amount of words, or for a certain amount of time. I always set myself both a time minimum and a word minimum. That way, the worst-case scenario is that I only wrote the minimum amount of words. But more often, I reach that word minimum before my time is up, and end up writing even more.

In my opinion, the writing phase is the easiest. All you do is write, one word after another, until the manuscript is finished. You don’t worry about whether the story makes sense, or if the writing will win you any prizes. If you planned enough, your story should be coherent, if it isn’t, just trust that you’ll fix it in revision. Turn off your inner editor.

Remember BIC-HOK (bick-hock): Butt In Chair Hands On Keyboard.

Phase 3: Revision, rewriting, and editing

Revision and Re-writing

In phase three, you revise and re-write for content and consistency. The more time you spent planning in phase 1, the easier this will be. You might even be able to revise in one-pass, like Holly Lisle does. Or, if you didn’t spend much time planning at all, you might consider returning to phase 2 with all the things you learned about your characters, world, and plot from round 1 (I told you you’d spend more time, didn’t I?).


After you have your plot straightened out and all the events and characters in exactly the order you want them (make sure you do – there’s no point line-editing if you’re just going to do a major revision later), then you get to line edit for word-choice, eloquence, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Editing is my favorite part of the writing process. I love stream-lining my text. There’s no better feeling than puzzling over a not-quite-right, can’t-put-my-finger-on-why type line, then having the exact perfect word choice and order come to you, almost magically, like an epiphany.

It’s the tops.

Until next time,



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H. Duke
H. Duke writes fantasy, horror, and more. Her works include the weird west / urban fantasy serial mashup, Jeremiah Jones Cowboy Sorcerer and the Christmas horror collection, Things on the Shelf: Three Tales of Christmas Terror, as well as the forthcoming Pagewalker series. She wrote the first season of Jeremiah Jones Cowboy Sorcerer while living in Arizona with her husband, Giru, and a shiny black dog named Jupiter. To see what she's up to now, visit her website.

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