Rules o’ Ritin’

There’s lots of them, of course: punctuation, word choice, active versus passive voice and all that.

Here’s one I just figured out: When you’re writing the draft, write the draft.

The key point? DON’T EDIT!

Just write. Don’t look at the screen. Don’t re-read what you just wrote. Don’t “fix” anything. Just write.

Why, you may ask?

It’s pretty simple, actually: You’re gonna throw away some of what you’ve written. That might be because it’s unnecessary background material. Or it duplicates something you put elsewhere but said it better. Or maybe some character grabs the keyboard and heads off in God knows where.

In my case, I throw out about 25-30% of what I write. And from what I’ve heard from other writers, that just seems to be the way it is.

After many hundred thousands of words, I am resigned to that. Like it or not, that’s just how it comes out for me.

What I’ve learned–and am struggling to put into practice, more about that some other time–is that I shouldn’t compound the cost by editing “on the fly.”

If I write something and then throw it away, that’s 1x of my time. But if I write something, edit it, but then throw the result away, that’s 2x my time that got pitched. And, in practice, it’s really more like 3x the time because editing is slow work; it takes more time than the original writing. Much more, in fact.

So, I’ll say it again.

When you’re writing the draft, write the draft.

DON’T EDIT.

Eyes down, nose to grindstone, keep plugging forward and don’t look at the previous paragraph. Even if you know it’s bad, just hit the <ENTER> key a couple of times and keep plugging forward.

Don’t look back. Never look back. Leave the drek alone. Forward, always forward.

Because, who knows? Maybe what you’re about to write is gonna be gold. Or maybe it’s gonna be the crap. Either way, you won’t know until, weeks or months later, you go back and look at the whole thing. Only then will you know if you need it. If you do, fix it then. And if you don’t, pitch it.

But when you’re doing the writing, then write. Write. WRITE.

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