If you’re an aspiring writer, I have found two excellent blog posts that you need to read, right now. Both are on Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (which every aspiring writer and writer ought to read regularly).
The first one I am going to talk about was written later (today) and concerns the issue of “sloppy first drafts.” There’s a myth in the writing world, Dean says, that the first draft you write of a work of fiction is bad, and then you go back later and fix it. What is the point of this, he asks.
But writing a sloppy first draft to just get something on the page has always puzzled me, right from the first time I heard that way of working in an English class.
Why not write it in the cleanest and best way you can the first time?
Why set up more work?
No need to write me on that with your passionate beliefs as to why you write sloppy to start. Trust me, I have heard all the reasons and still don’t understand. I believe that practice is trained into us by English teachers. It sure has nothing to do with the reality of creation of art.
I’m starting to think that the theory of a sloppy first draft is right there with the myths of needing an agent to sell a book and no one can make a living writing fiction. And clearly, the sloppy first draft myth plays hand-in-hand with the rewrite myth.
There’s more to the post and you definitely should read it. I love the post because it resonates with what I do. I’m not big on writing multiple drafts. I know I’m not a professional writer (yet!), but my drafts don’t change that much from start to finish. I correct typos, make sure everything flows (as in, make sure characters’ ages, physical appearance, etc. doesn’t change throughout the book), maybe reorder a couple of things—but that’s it. At the risk of sounding arrogant or pretentious, what comes out onto the page at first is pretty darn close to the finished product. This happened when I was in school, too. I rarely, if ever, revised anything. (And I earned top marks in all of my writing-related classes, just to let you know.)
The next post I want to draw your attention to is this one, which has a discussion on shifting projects. I am a chronic project-switcher, by which I mean I never finish anything. (Except until recently. I finally got my act together and am on track to finish my novel soon!) Dean has a few useful guidelines about project switching.
1) Never do it because you think a book sucks. I actually think what I wrote on Martian Lover is fine, if I had to make a judgment call, which I try not to do. And am often wrong with my own work.
If you stop at the 1/3 point, which is where most writers lose faith in a book and think it sucks, then you will always stop there with every book. Power on though and finish at that point.
2) Never look at switching projects as a failure. I switched out because I flat couldn’t get the Thunder Mountain universe out of my head and it was annoying me. And the book I was writing was humor and at the moment I don’t feel too damned funny. (grin)
3) Never switch out a book because you are bored. Change the damn book itself, make the book exciting to write. This happens the most often it seems when writers feel they need to outline. They have created the book in the outline, thus writing the book is boring after they get it started. If that happens, stop outlining and write into the dark.
4) If you switch out books very often, you more than likely have another issue you are not dealing with. I have written seventeen novels in the last 16 months or so. I have started and switched out of three others along the way. One out of every five or six feels decent to me.
5) Trust your subconscious to tell you what you are passionate about. Learn to listen to that little voice. I finished the other Thunder Mountain book a few days ago and figured I needed to write something else. That was my critical voice talking instead of listening to my creative voice which wanted to go on in the Thunder Mountain world. I finally listened.
If all that hasn’t convinced you that you should read Dean’s blog every day, I don’t know what will. 🙂