Thursday, February 5, 2009

Permission to write crap

Until this week, I was an editor. I worked for 12 years in the publishing industry as a project editor and a freelance copyeditor, mostly in educational publishing. While this taught me a lot about publishing and writing, it's also turned out to be a hindrance. I can't turn off my inner editor.

When a writer is asked how one becomes a writer, a frequent answer (certainly the one I'd give) is that to become a writer you have to write. Write lots. And get something finished. Many an aspiring writer has a "bottom drawer" (i.e. computer folder) full of first chapters, myself included. You have to write something, finish it and then polish it.

Bear with me - these two thoughts are related: I have trouble finishing that first draft because I edit as I go. I hate leaving behind a sentence until I'm happy with it. I can't move on from a shoddy paragraph until its been edited to death. Rewriting a chapter until it satisfies me and moving on to the next is a major milestone. What this means is that even though I can write thousands of words in a day, my word count might rise only a few hundred or even go backwards.

I'm learning to overcome this. I have given myself permission to write crap. The important thing is to get that story transferred from my head to the Word file. No one else reads my first draft, ever. I wouldn't show it to my husband, let alone my critique group.

What made me think of this is that instead of writing my sequel, I spent the day re-reading the first book (fiddling as I went, of course - just a little) and remembering the long process of mashing that manuscript into shape from its pathetic first draft. A shape that scored me an agent, so it must have something going for it.

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