Thursday, March 6, 2014

Do you turn your internal editor off during first drafts?

Hey, it's Caitlin!

I am a big believer in turning off your internal editor during those first drafts. I may not always do it (as I’ve definitely caught myself fixing a spelling mistake, or, worse, rephrasing a sentence over and over), but my goal is to just fly through that first draft. I want to get down the actions and the gist of things before I start getting into the nitty gritty. I also enjoy the freedom that comes with knowing that no one will ever see that first draft. It’s just a document for me to splash around and have fun in.

That said, for the most part, these first drafts are not good drafts. They are nowhere near ready to go. In fact, I think writing the first draft probably only takes about 10-15% of the total time I spend writing a novel. I spend 85-90% rewriting, revising, and editing, which is exactly why it’s so important, for me at least, not to get too hung up on things like diction and grammar and clarity in that very first, rough go. After I’ve got everything down, I may realize six scenes have to be cut and six others need to be very different. But, even though I outline, I won’t know that till everything is down. It would be a waste of time to fine-tune and make things perfect before I had a stronger sense of the plot and pacing.

However, I know other writers who are great at writing amazing first drafts. They carefully consider each sentence before they write it and, when done, they have something close to completion. Yeah, it makes me a little jealous.

How about you? Are you a wild banshee while writing the first draft, or do you lay the words down carefully?

Karlie: I belong in the second category. I used to write first drafts without looking back, but it never worked out for me. I've found that my finished project is MUCH better when I edit as I go. I know a lot of people are exactly the opposite; they prefer to just get it down on paper, then rewrite as needed. But I  just do better the other way.

It's impossible for me to turn off my inner editor, (or at least extremely hard) but I've learned to put her to work in my favor. I would say I spend 60% of my time on the first draft and characters/plot, then 40% further developing the plot and characters and rewriting accordingly.

Lisa: Ah...Great question. *looks around for my soap box*

This goes back to the quote I just came across that really stuck in my craw. Many variations of the quote exist, "There are very few good writers. Most successful authors are just good editors." I don't exactly prescribe to it. I think (hope) there will come a day that writing comes easier and easier to writers as they gain more and more experience. I believe that editing can be a quick and nice experience, even entertaining because you wrote well in the first place and you're enjoying your book.

The reason I try to hone my craft is so I'll become a better writer, not a better editor. I want to write it better so that the correct way comes more and more fluent the first time. Even now, I have to do less and less editing. I don't have to go back and take out the telling and replace it with showing nearly as much as I used to; I don't have to remove so many ly adverbs anymore; I don't have to rework my description so much because I already wove it through activity.

Writing is already becoming easier to me. So, in my opinion, that saying up there only rips merit away from authors like me actively working at improving their writing craft. It devalues us. Like anyone could be a fiction author as long as they learn to edit (which is a hard thing by itself). There's nothing special about us. But there is!

With that said, I do leave myself room for later fixes such as research, the naming of a hospital, etc. If I know something might take time and I can easily fill in the blank at a later date, I don't stop and possibly hinder what might be an awesome creative flow to do research. And I also understand that with some writers, especially new ones, turning your inner editor off is the only way to get that book finished (NaNoWriMo is especially big on this), and I don't see anything wrong with it. Actually, I don't see anything wrong with anyone doing it. Just don't try telling me that I'm not that great of a writer - just a good editor, or I might bite your head off and spit it down your throat. *blink blink*

What are your thoughts on the matter? We want to know your opinion, so speak up!

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