It seems like almost every writer I talk to has a different creative writing process. While I believe that it's best for a new writer to come up with a unique way of doing things, I realize that when I was starting out, I could have used a template to help me along those first few years. As long as you keep in mind that t his is not the end all be all, here is my creative writing process.
1. Catching Ideas
I'm not sure if it's because I come from an improv background but ideas tend to come at me fast and furiously. If I try to immediately put all of them into practice, however, I will get quickly overwhelmed. In football, when you think too much about running with a ball thrown your way, you might drop it. For our idea generating purposes, let's just concentrate on catching them and we'll save running with them for later. Write all the ideas that come to you in a notebook or on your computer.
2. The Excitement Test
Thankfully, the abundance of ideas tends to ebb and flow in my life and when the tide is out, I know it's time to elaborate on one of my ideas. But which one? Pick the one that you're the most excited about. I realize that this is easier if you have two ideas as opposed to say, 100 ideas, but often it can be a quick decision. Don't let fear hold you back from choosing an idea to run with because excitement can sometimes manifest as fear. Once you make your decision, circle it, highlight it, put it on a Post-It, put it on a pedestal and make it your thinking priority.
3. Errant Thinking
Let the idea wander around in your head a bit and jot down any content ideas you have. The reason to give this idea room to breathe is so you don't sell it short by starting right away. I've had books and stories benefit from waiting weeks or months, due to coming up with a concept related to the initial idea that brought it all together. The best random thoughts come when you're relaxed since the subconscious mind is able to become conscious at that time, so make sure to take time to kick back and let the ideas wash over you.
4. The Outline
It isn't until I've let many complementary ideas come my way in the creative writing process that I begin my outline. It can be helpful for me, as an occasionally scatterbrained dude, to figure out the order and the contents of the idea I'm working on. Even though things like flow can be improved in a re-writing process, it can help your brain to lay things down in a logical order right from the get go. When I outline I put down the major chapters or plot devices as the main headers with several sub-headers for what happens in each chapter or the circumstances and transitions between plots.
5. Schedule It
With an amazing idea in your possession, supporting ideas and an outline, it's almost as if your project has already been written. Now you simply have to schedule when you're going to write it. I like setting a word count goal for myself as opposed to a chapter goal because it lets me stop in the middle of a thought. This makes it easier for me to pick back up the next day. I write every day to keep me in the best rhythm possible as well. As I'm about halfway through writing my idea, the creative writing process cycles back around, allowing me to begin choosing my next idea to build upon.
Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on Google+ and Facebook.