Friday, March 26, 2010

Start to Finish (Part 5 of 10)

Write the first draft.

Vomit on the page because you can always mop up the yucky stuff and no one will know. Get the material written. Let it flow. That's the first draft.

Don’t worry about syntax, grammar, or consistency: just write. I recommend that you not edit yourself during the first draft. Novice writers often bog down because they try to make every sentence perfect before they can go on to the next. Resist that urge to make it perfect in the first draft. In this computer age, you can make changes easily, and no one else will know how much you edited.

In my early days of writing, I had to fight that urge to make each paragraph totally right and I realized how it choked my thoughts. I began to say to myself, "I write creatively; I edit analytically. That means I wrote, wrote, wrote. After I finished an article (or a book), I went back to repair the bad spots.

A few times my personal critic grumbled as I zoomed ahead. I started talking to that negative voice. "Relax. Let me write it. After that, you can tear it up as much as you want." That worked for me.

I've been at the craft a long time and my tactics have changed. I often do minor editing as I write. I can do that and stay at my task, but that's the kind of self-discipline most of us have to learn.

Write the first draft and allow no distractions. Afterward you can make improvements.


  1. It took me a while to learn this, too. And it still surprises me when the draft I considered horrible is much easier to fix than I anticipated.

    I remind myself and others that you can always improve a draft. But if you don't write it, you have nothing to improve.

  2. Thanks for the advice. I have been bogging down with editing as I go lately, which tends to lose the flow of creativity.

    As always, great information.

    Blessings to you!

  3. I battle to learn this too. I say "battle"in the present tense because each time I think I've learned the lesson, I find myself nit-picking over a paragraph in my first draft that doesn't sound the way I want it to in the final article. I need a member of the "Draft Police" on duty at all times.

    Thanks as always, Cec!

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  5. Thank you. What great advice. It relieves all the pressure which can hold me up sometimes ony novel.

  6. Great advice, but I have a question. How do I turn off my internal editor when typing that first draft? I find that even when I text message my kids I am automatically correcting spelling, wording and punctuation.

  7. Yeah, I tend to be a pain in the free-writing's butt and stop the natural flow of creativity. I gotta let myself "vomit on the page" (that was hilarious, lol) and clean the mess later.

    Thank you for the great advice and reminder, Cec.

  8. This is a lesson I'm only learning now. I do my best writing when I just power on and edit later. Besides, if I keep stopping to edit, the self-doubt has time to get it's claws in me.


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