Writing Process
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

The Writing Process According to Novelist Gabrielle Kraft



I've been hiding from the world because of my new hair color cleaning my office and going through old files and I found a sheaf of notes from a long-ago writing class that I took.  (It was in 1991, to be exact, because I dated it.)  What happened was that my writing group at the time hired a local mystery writer to teach us the ins and outs of writing novels.  That mystery writer's name was Gabrielle Kraft.*


Kraft taught me the writing process I follow today, with a few adaptations.  She was convinced that every process needed a structure, and if one simply followed that structure, one would end up with a finished project.  This idea appealed to me then, and it appeals to me now.  Here are those steps:

1.  Idea

2.  Synopsis

3.  Rough draft

4.  Rewrite of rough draft

5.  Edit your rewrite

6.  Polish your rewrite

7. Professionalize yourself as a writer

Here's a bit more on each stage.

1. Idea

"Your imagination is a muscle–use it or lost it."  Direct quote from my notes.  Think about ideas all the time.  You'll learn by setting problems and goals for yourself.  You can also glean ideas from pictures (I love to do this in workshops)  Ask, who is this person?  Where did she buy her coat?  What is she doing in this photo?  Who does she love? Remember, what's important is what you do with the idea. 

2. Synopsis

Kraft thought this was vital.  I rarely write one, preferring a loose outline to being boxed in to a synopsis, which I find painful to write.  But I concede there is value to writing a synopsis.  "Accept that is it useful to do it," I have in my notes. Take one month to write it. Many agents and editors ask for them when you're querying them.  (As an alternative or addition to a synopsis, I'd suggest a vision board for your book.)

3. Rough Draft

"Be impractical."  I love this advice!  Kraft further advised us just to get it out on the page, and to be emotional.  Write extra and leave room for slashing. (Contrary to popular opinion, what I see most often in student work is that more needs to be added in rather than cut.  So this is good advice.)

4. Rewriting

To Kraft, this was "chiseling away the extra pages."  Cut away everything that isn't a novel.

5. Editing

One line might well do.

6. Polishing

The ultra-fine tuning.  Be obsessive about it.  Change commas, periods, words.  This is "putting the sparkle on it."

7. Professionalize

Alas, the notes for this step of the structure are lost to the recycling Gods.  But from what I recall, this referred to understanding your chosen profession.  Learn about the publishing world and what it requires of you.  I also fancy that if Kraft were giving this class today, she'd be talking up the need to master social media.

I've followed a variation on this structural theme for every writing project I do ever since I first learned it from Kraft.   I know that in general there are two kinds of writers–the process writers and the perfection writers.  Process writers write a rough draft from start to finish, and follow something similar to what I've outlined here.  Perfection writers insist that every word and sentence is polished before they move on.  Don't know about you, but that sounds like living in the depths of hell to me.

So, what's your take on this?  Do you write a synopsis?  Follow a structure in your writing?  Or, do you have a teacher who influenced you the way Kraft influenced me?

 Create a successful, inspired writing life: Commit to following this process or a similar one (I won't holler if you leave out the synopsis step.)

And don't forget, there's still one more day to enter my Valentine's Day giveaway!

*I've lost touch with Gabrielle, and an internet search brings up only links to Amazon and Abe, which are selling her books second-hand.  I believe she worked in Hollywood before turning to mysteries.  I'd love to find out what she's doing now, if anybody knows of her.

Photo by cogdogblog.

0 thoughts on “The Writing Process According to Novelist Gabrielle Kraft

  1. J.D.

    Here is a message for every aspiring writer. Before you slit your wrist with a jagged piece of your broken laptop, come to Charlotte Dixon’s website; she will set you on the “write” path.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    Thanks, J.D. I hope that I can prevent some writer from slitting their wrists, including you. I know we all feel like that at some points but there’s always hope.

  3. Patty/Why Not Start Now?

    OK, maybe this is off-topic, but I would love to see your new hair color!

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    I actually tried several times to take a photo to post but they all came out blurry and unusable. I’ll have to get my husband to take a photo!

  5. Don

    Great advice, but then again you usually give great advice anyway Charlotte. This, however, is something I especially like so thanks for sharing. I’ve been busy, had several operations and this is the first time I’ve been here in awhile….. and I’m glad I’m back! I missed you Charlotte, and I have to come back more often, and believe me I shall!

  6. Charlotte Dixon

    Don! I’m so, so happy you are back! I’ve missed you. I went by your blog awhile ago to see what was up and didn’t see any new posts so I wasn’t sure what was going on. Several operations, wow. Hope all is well now and you are on a healing path. Thank you SO much for coming back.

  7. Terry Price

    Great stuff, as always, Charlotte! Smart, concise, helpful and inspiring. You’ve just got it going on, girl!

  8. Charlotte Rains Dixon

    Thanks, Terr!

  9. Zan Marie

    This sounds good, Charlotte, but I know my need to tinker more and that drags it out. As for the synopsis…I *do* have one in my head, just not on paper. ; )

  10. Charlotte Dixon

    Zan Marie, you’re not the only one who is synopsis-less. But finding these notes and writing this post has inspired me to at least think about writing a synopsis for my next novel.

  11. Maggie

    I’m seeing this posting way after the fact. I too would like info on Ms. Kraft. I enjoyed her Jerry Zalman mysteries and was sorry that she just “disappeared.” I have an idea that she went to Oregon. She’s truly a mystery woman, very private. I don’t even know how old she is, but she’s likely past tradiitonal retirement age.

  12. Charlotte Dixon

    Maggie, she did come to Oregon.  I know because I live here in Portland and this is where I took her in-person class.  She was funny and wise and kick-ass and she taught me what I know about the writing process.  I've looked and looked and looked for her online, and all I find is listings of her books.  Let me know if you find out anything and I'll do the same for you.

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