My name is Aaron S Gallagher. I’ve written and finished 16 novels, over 40 short stories, 6 books of poetry, and by my best estimate, put down more than a million words. This is my process.
Caveat Lector: This is my process. Your mileage may vary. But take heed, writer: my process is a combination of techniques I cherry-picked from other writers married with the long, grueling process of figuring out what works for me. Feel free to cannibalize this list, but always be on the lookout for other styles and techniques that may help. Also, be sure and figure out what works for you. Writing is a completely individual process. You can teach craftsmanship; you can’t teach the knack. But good news: 99% of writing is craftsmanship.
First: finish your shitty first draft. Don’t worry about anything. Forget characters’ names, forget descriptions of the houses, forget which continent you’re on. No big. Your first draft is a word-glurge. Get that stuff on paper (screen, tablet, rock, whatever you write on.) Get ALL the words on the page.
Second: let it sit for a week or two. Stephen King recommended six months. I’m impatient. After considerable trial and error, I’ve come to the conclusion that three weeks is about right for me to stop hating the book and look at it with fresh eyes. And yes, you WILL hate your book. You’ll hate looking at it, thinking about it, working on it… by the time you finish your first draft, you’ll hate it. Hence, the time apart. Let it mellow. Let it germinate. Let it get moldy. Let it fester and rot and give off that same bizarre dead-body stench