Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Secret of Writing

It’s a mantra. Say it over and over again: Good books aren’t written, they’re edited. Good books aren’t written, they’re edited. Good books aren’t written, they’re (all together now) edited.

Confession: this post is mostly for myself. I’m in the middle of writing a first draft and all I can think is: “Hm. This isn’t as good as I’d like.” I’m not saying it’s terrible—I like the story or I wouldn’t be writing it down. But my writing feels forced. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. The first step towards resolution is admitting you have a problem. As to what to do about it…

That can’t be forced, either. Answers tend to come when you’re relaxed and imaginative. And since I’m in the middle of the first draft, I can’t focus on the big picture (one of the drawbacks of being a pantser, I presume). Right now, I have to work on these scenes individually, I have to get them down.

So, writers, remember to give yourself permission to skim (or skip) scenes, to focus only on dialogue and characters or to fudge the description because you just have to finish this chapter. It’s even okay to leave bad writing alone—for now. It’s not like it’s going anywhere. If it really bugs you, highlight it to come back to later (yes, I do that). There’s a reason editing takes longer than writing the actual book—there’s a lot more of it to do then there is actual novel. I’m not really sure why that is. It seems to contradict laws of nature. Anyway, the opportunity to correct each wrong inapt improper word will come up. Everything has its moment.


  1. Great reminder. I was sorta doing the same thing, and having a tangle of a time with my first 3 pages--until I gave myself permission to write yukky. ;o) It can ALWAYS be fixed up later!

  2. Hi, JE. Thanks for the reminder. I really try not to get too hung up on editing when writing that first draft. I feel that it's better to simply get the story on paper first. Later we can worry about cleaning it up.
    It really is a great time to hear this advice from you since I'm getting ready to start working on book 3 very soon.
    Take care.


  3. Words to live by as a writer, for sure! I always try to keep in mind that you can fix anything except a blank screen/page. I've also managed to find a creative way of dealing with my Inner Editor when she shows up too soon - I type the changes I'd like to make in a separate Word document for later! Best of luck with everything.

  4. I think that this is great advice. Thanks for the post.

  5. Gah! I so need that right now... thank you!!!

  6. Great post as I'm reading through my rough draft. Yikes. :)

  7. NaNoWriMo helped me to learn to write like this - put the first draft down, then come back to edit - because if you stop to edit, you'll never get it done in time :) I believe this to be the very purpose of NaNo, to teach you how to silence your inner editor. I also found that editing when the whole draft is finished, as opposed to editing bit by bit while I'm writing, makes my writing style more consistent.


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