Sunday 10 January 2021

Latent Processing


Latent processing was something I have always done when writing, but often felt guilty for doing it. As if I wasn't writing properly. It wasn't until I knew Imogen Cooper that she made me realise how important the latent process is. 

Latent processing is the time you spend thinking about your manuscript. It happens during the writing and editing process. It is an important part of it.. These photos were taken this morning on a walk. I have a new story I am working on and it has been going well, but then I felt a little stuck. I knew where I wanted it to go, however, I wasn't one hundred per cent sure how I was going to get there. I needed time away from it. The story takes part during midwinter and wandering through the countryside near my house, I was able to think how my characters would feel/think seeing a countryside covered in a hoarfrost. As you can see some of the left over seedheads look magical when covered in frost. It was foggy alright, but it gave me clarity. The next elements of the story started to fall in to place. 

Latent processing can happen at any time. It often works really well when you are doing something mindless like ironing, in the shower, driving, gardening or going for a walk. 

When you have written a full manuscript, it is important to put it away for a few weeks (I know most of us only managed a few days!). Inevitably even when we are not working on it, it is there at the back of our minds. Thoughts ticking away. Ideas flowing. 

I find it particularly important because I write cold , edit hot. What this means is I get the basic story down first, so I know there is a working structure. The editing process is where I add in all the colour, the details. I build the story up. It is a bit like doing embroidery. The basic story is the black outline and editing is where you fill in all the colour in order to make it a whole living picture. The details lift the narrative off the page. 

Latent processing can happen even before you start writing. It is as you mull over an idea, deciding whether it might 'have legs.' Whether it is something you want to actually write. I have many ideas that never get beyond this point. When a story idea does stick, the latent processing becomes really exciting as you start thinking about characters and settings. Building the narrative world in your head. 

When you reach the editing process, latent processing is still useful. You may have plot holes that need dealing with. The process is fabulous at filling holes or making you realise that your characters need bringing to life a bit more and how. 

As I said at the beginning, I used to feel guilty about doing latent processing. Wallowing in my writing. Now, though, I see it as a vital part of the process and relish it. I no longer feel the need to justify my processes to anyone, as I have a greater sense of what works for me. You will find your own way. Good luck with it all. 

I saw this video earlier this week. I confess it made me smile and the sentiments seemed appropriate in the world we are currently living in.


  1. Thanks, Ness. It's so true about latent processing (a friend said to me some years ago 'Writing doesn't always look like writing' and it's stuck with me and let me accept my own process more. And thanks for the video, too! It's cheered me up x

    1. I apologise Juliet, I missed this. It is so true writing isn't always about putting pen to paper. It can be sitting there staring out the window. However, it is difficult to explain that to a non-writer!!!! Glad you enjoyed the video

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