I was trawling around the webs recently and I came across another list of tips from published, and occasionally well known, authors. You know the ones; two dozen writers saying the same thing over and over.
Truth be told, we all know these rules, we just like to have them confirmed to us by people who look like they know what they’re doing.
Anyway, having got bored with most of the tips, I came across this one from Josh Shenk, author of Lincoln’s Melancholy:
Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.
And I thought, yes, of all the tips I’ve ever read, that is one of the best. I’ve read it in a number of places. I’ve even mentioned it myself as part of my story development technique.
The first draft of your story is vital if you’re going to have any idea what your story is about. You might think you know what it’s about, but until you’ve got through the first draft, you really don’t. In order to find out about your story you’ve got to write the damn thing.
Writing it is the easy part. What makes it difficult is editing as you go along.
If you edit as you go, you spend more time listening to your inner critic than is healthy. That little fecker will slow you down and delight in telling you that your story is awful, it makes no sense, it’s full of holes, you’ve forgotten to foreshadow important events, you’re characterisation is flat, you’re wasting your time, you’re wasting my time and you’re wasting everyone else’s time you stupid loser, you’ll never be a writer. Do you HEAR ME? NEVER!
The hardest thing you’ll ever do as a writer, is hunt down the source of that irritating little voice and ball-gag it. But it’ll be totally worth it because once you’ve shut him up you can get on with the writing.
I mean it, silencing your inner critic is really hard, especially if you think you need to edit as you go. You really don’t though. Get up a good head of steam, plough through the pain and get that first draft written and you’ll see what I mean.
Remember, the most important thing you can do as a writer is finish your story. So take an index card or a postcard or post-it note or something you can put in a place you’ll see when you’re creating, and write this on it: