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How To Write A Novel: The Seven Stages of the Creative Process by Orna Ross

Orna Ross in discussion with three other members of The Alliance of Independent Authors,
Jessica Bell, Kevin Booth and Roz Morris

As a novelist and poet who also coaches creative intelligence, I see many people and organisations whose big dreams are not coming true — usually because of procrastination, confusion, overwhelm or self-sabotage.

Jenna came for coaching to help her get a novel written.

Me: “So how many chapters have you got so far?”

Jenna: (Silence)

Me: “Just say. Wherever you are is where we begin.”

Jenna: “None. Nothing. Nada. I've nothing I'd be prepared to show you.”

For two years this respected journalist, who met demanding deadlines almost daily, had been failing herself. She had a story she wanted to tell, she had proven ability, and she wanted to write this novel more than anything. So why was her dream forever turning to dust?

Jenna is not alone. According to market researchers Opinion Research Corp., 92% of us are carrying around aspirations that we've failed to fulfill, most often related to money (34%) body and health (38%); relationships (31%) and the highest category, self-improvement (47%).

The most common cause of this deluge of broken dreams, disillusionment and despair, I believe, is also one of the most overlooked — we are not taught how to create.

On the contrary, schools and society have, for various reasons, suppressed our creative intelligence in favour of more practical, analytical skills. Understanding how the creative process works is the first step to freeing us from the block and resistance brought about by this suppression.

And one of the first things we need to know about the creative process is that it has seven stages, each of which require different behaviours and actions, if we are to enjoy them and do them well.

These seven stages are: intention, incubation, investigation, composition, clarification, correction, completion. They do not operate in a linear way, independent of each other as laying them out in a row like this seems to imply. Rather, this gives us a way to catch hold of a process that is, by definition, spontaneous and free-flowing (and can sometimes feel chaotic, even overwhelming).

The 7 Stages of the Creative Process Defined

This is not a simplistic model imposed on human behaviour but a primal, unfolding process that is always happening, all around us. When we set the intention to write a novel, or any other creative intention that stretches us, we need to conscious connect with it.

If what we're making comes easy to us — family dinner, painting a room, or in Jenna's case, writing an article — we zip through those stages with ease, without even noticing. If what we're making is more of a stretch — conference catering for 300, making a million, writing a novel — understanding the differing behaviours and requirements of each stage becomes essential.

over and over again, in humans and in nature. We can see this creative unfolding reflected in the seven stages of life, and also in the seven psychological states, as follows:


First Law of Creation: Birth
Life Stage: Infancy (Impulse).

STAGE 2: INCUBATION (Germinating)

Second Law of Creation: Enchantment
Life Stage: Childhood: Magic.


Third Law of Creation: Revolution
Life Stage: Adolescence: Experiment.


Fourth Law of Creation: Involution
Life Stage: Adulthood: Logic.


Fifth Law of Creation: Selfhood
Life Stage: Early Midlife: Appraisal.

STAGE 6: CORRECTION (Revis[ion]ing)

Sixth Law of Creation: Evolution
Life Stage: Late Midlife: Adaptation.


(Finishing and Letting Go)
Seventh Law of Creation: Transformation
Life Stage: Aging: Release.


This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Nice write-up! Being able to write creatively is something not all of us are capable of. Count yourself blessed because you have a talent. Getting into the mood in writing does not have a set of rules to follow. ‘To each his own’ is what people say; however, a list of suggestions wouldn’t hurt.mood in writing

  2. I love to read novel books and I’ve enjoyed my free time with my book store. The Toreska Torres’s hugely popular novel Women’s Barracks conception and her some novel books is most knowledgeable to me. I am a writer and write my paper helps me a lot to write my books.

  3. After I edit my first draft, I upload it to Createspace and order some proofs. I carry my paperback around with me editing and proofreading it and usually give two other people a copy each so that they can do the same. That way I get the feel of what a reader sees in my book plus the input from two more readers.

    1. Jean, I do that – except I use Lulu because it works out even cheaper and the proofs come faster! But it’s a really good way to step away from the preconceptions about the book and see it without everything you remember, good or bad. – Roz

    2. It’s astonishing how different your words look between two covers. This is part of something we are trying to encourage writers to do, hold off the moment of publication until everything is as perfect as it’s possible to be. I reckon there is often a year between the day you think you’re finished and the day you’re actually finished. It’s something we indies need to talk about more.

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