Think Before You Write

Aspiring authors are bombarded by advice to just write, then fix what they’ve written during the revision stage.

This is nonsense.

Not total nonsense. There are good reasons not to edit as you write:

  • You’ll lose your forward momentum.
  • You’ll wordsmith material that you’ll end up cutting later.
  • You’ll focus on how much the writing sucks instead of creating that all-important first draft.

That doesn’t mean you should write blind.

Yesterday, I wrote a couple of scenes, then realized that the secondary characters had taken over the story. They were now driving the action, rather than the main characters.

This is wrong. Not just a little wrong—utterly wrong.

The solution is not for me to keep writing. The solution is for me to fix it, now, during the first draft. Because if I don’t, I could send the whole story careening off in the wrong direction.

Future scenes depend on these scenes. I need to decide now how much information the secondary characters will have about the current action, and how much will be hidden from them. Otherwise, the future scenes will end up wrong, too.

And the more work I have to do during revision, the less likely I am to do it. With a 15,000 word novella, it can be tempting to set the draft aside as an experiment gone wrong. But I care about this story and these characters. I don’t want to screw this up. So I’m going to rewrite these scenes until I end up with something that works for the first draft. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be polished, but it will tell the story I want to tell.

Note to sticklers: I realize I used careen where you would use career. I did so intentionally. Language is an organic thing, and it’s constantly changing. Careen sounds better, it’s more common, and Patricia T. O’Connor says it’s okay to use it this way.

2 responses to “Think Before You Write

  1. I see your point here. To avoid that problem, I have to go tghrough and do a sort of outline/storyboard, where I cover waht SHOULD happen ina scene or chapter. THEN I write straight through to the end.

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  2. Some writers swear by the method you describe—but outlining and storyboarding aren’t part of my process. I never know whether a scene is going to work until I write it. I learn about the story through how the characters interact with one another.

    I’ve also decided that I don’t like writing a first draft that’s a framework rather than a fully realized draft that goes deep into the POV of the characters. I want to reach into their souls and find all the stuff that’s creating barriers for them. That’s what erotic romance is all about for me.

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