One of the most vital aspects of being able to fulfill one’s calling as an anguished writer is to have someone who understands. Today’s guest post is brought to you by William Johnson, also known as the Gingerbread Man. Ginger cannot confirm or deny any of the following allegations.

From the outside, to a non-writer, there are only three stages to writing a novel.

The first stage involves mornings when I awaken to the sound of pencil on paper, scribbling furiously. I see my writer intently pouring her soul into a small notebook. When I venture a question… “Honey, when do you think…?” I am greeted by a “Shhh, not now.”

If the muses have been kind, these mornings may involve an hour of ecstatic outpouring, rarely more. The activity sometimes comes in fits and starts, but often seems to most resemble the gush of a firehose from brain to paper. At times, there is transfer of notes to computer with smiles and giggles abounding. It seems that a writer truly enjoys this part of writing. But alas, with the dawning of the morning and the patter of size three feet, the muses are dispersed and the process comes to an abrupt halt.

The second stage of writing resembles sorting and folding laundry more than anything else. On these mornings, my writer goes to her office with her book map and sorts scenes and chapters instead of towels and socks. Here the disconnected ideas and anecdotes get molded by my writer into a coherent and compelling narrative. While something vital is getting done, it is considerably less fun for my writer. I see more mornings of furrowed brows and fewer of smiling and giggling.

The third stage of writing seems to be the least fun. I don’t recall having ever seen tears in the process, but they have certainly been warranted. Here my writer smooths the superfluous details and jagged edges; the unnecessary adverbs are speedily deleted and adeptly replaced. My writer has her axe: she takes her whet stone and sharpens and refines to make every word count, to make every phrase smooth, to make every paragraph a vital component of the story. Here the true poetry takes place. This is also the place where the fun and creativity of the project (for before this stage, a novel is really only a project) are transformed into something marvelous.

A prolific finance colleague of mine was once asked how he is so productive. His response was simple: “I am a good finisher.” It takes a good finisher to get through the third stage. The third stage of the writing process makes you want to pull your hair out. It may lead you to despair. But this is also the stage where you get to tell the world your story in your way. This is where you make the magic.

So, my writer, keep on.  Make your magic.


When Bill is not sending smoke signals to the Muses pleading for mercy on behalf of his wife, he professes finance at Suffolk University. Bill says the only difference between Ginger’s creative writing and his academic writing is that he gets to use more adverbs.