November 10th, 2009
Before we get to this week’s tips, here’s a bit of inspiration from the author of more than a dozen books.
Exclusive TAC Quote of the Week
Teen Author Challenge
This week, I want to start tackling some common questions that writers have about writing a first draft. If you have questions about first drafts that you’d like to ask, please do! Ask them in the comments below, and I’ll try to include as many as I can.
Today’s question is a deceptively simple one:
Should I edit as I go?
It’s simple because it seems like an easy yes or no answer. It’s deceptive because there’s so much at play here below the surface.
The answer is, it depends on how you write.
Some authors cannot write a first draft without revising as they go. They will spend significant amounts of time finding just the right phrasing before moving on to the next sentence. Or they will read through and revise the previous day’s work before writing their new pages that day.
One of the biggest reasons authors may do this is because some authors don’t want to keep rehashing the same story over and over again. When they finish the book, they want to be DONE. They already know what happens! By revising as they go, they ensure they have a quality product ready to go when they reach The End.
The thing to remember about these folks is that they are often very skilled, very seasoned writers. They know what quality writing looks like AND they know they can trust themselves not to get hung up during the drafting process. They’ve proven to themselves that they can revise as they go and still keep moving forward at the same time. If they couldn’t do that, they’d never finish the book.
On the other hand, some authors absolutely detest revising during first draft mode. For them, it kills the spontaneity and momentum they need to plow through and get to The End. They don’t have any problem going back through and doing a full edit once the book is done and often will find new and better things to do with the story after letting it sit for a bit between first draft and edits.
Some of those authors also know that if they let themselves start tinkering with the story during first draft, they’ll get caught up in the minutae and never finish the book. (This is me, btw.) And they know that finishing the book is the single most important thing they can do for their careers.
So the answer to the question is, “How do you work best?” Editing is a part of the writing process, no doubt about it. If you don’t edit as you go, you’ll need to edit when you’re done. No author gets it absolutely right the first time they lay words on the page. But when you edit… and how… and for how long… is completely dependent on what works for you as a writer. There’s no right or wrong way to go as long as it leaves you with a complete, fully-polished manuscript when all is said and done.
Buzz Tip of the Week
Check out agent Kristin Nelson’s blog post about the pros and cons of hardcover vs. original trade paperback, prompted by a panel discussion during BEA 2008. If you’ve ever wondered why some books come out as one or the other, this gives you a little insight into why.
Your Weekly Challenge
How did you do on your writing last week? Comment below with your weekly results from last Tuesday through today so we can cheer your progress! And if you have questions about writing your first draft (or about productivity in general), ask away!
Go forth and be creative!
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