I was talking to a friend on Facebook today and he mentioned that he is working on an old project and having a hard time fighting the editing-while-writing syndrome. He said it’s really slowing him down. I know exactly what he means because I do the same thing.
Write a paragraph. Read it. Read it again. Tweak. Read it again. Finally move onto the next.Write a page. Go back to that paragraph up above. Edit it some more. Then edit the page.
Soon, three hours have passed and all I’ve written is a freaking page. Waste of time? Maybe. I know many writers have said that if you write like this you end up with better drafts – meaning less revisions in the long run. This means that your writing time ends up being about the same either way. This is true for me, at least. I’ve tried to fight editing while writing, but what do I end up with? Stifled creativity.
It so happens that if I follow my instincts and edit while I write new material that I actually get more inspiration. I realize things I wouldn’t have realized if I had plowed on through. This is how MY brain works. Some famous authors (I won’t name any names) say this is a WRONG way to write.
Last time I checked, there was no RIGHT way to write for every single author. There is only a right way to write for you. And to figure out that right way means you need to do a lot of writing. A lot of revising. A lot of reading. I get a lot of people asking me what my advice is to new writers. Well, that’s my advice, right there. Stop fighting your instincts. Instead, let them flourish. Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop trying to follow rules that feel completely wrong for your style.
Rules are not bad. All these little lists that authors and agents keep throwing up on their blogs (and I’ve done it, too) with rules about what makes good fiction good and what YOU should be doing to fix your fiction drive me kind of batty (hence the saying on my blog header). But that’s only because I have my rules figured out right now. Sometimes I throw one out and replace it with another. Sometimes I forget all of them and just do whatever the hell I want to do and amazing things happen. Sometimes I desperately need them. But they are my rules – the ones I’ve tried and absorbed into my instincts because they work for me. Most of them I made up on my own.
So rules aren’t bad, but I do want to stress that the greatest rule is to figure out what works best for you and follow your own instincts. Pay attention to what works elsewhere, what other people suggest, but do not let any of that rule you or your writing. Ever.