Others have said: Don’t sweat it. You can fix it later.

The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the 1st time unlike, say, brain surgery.

Robert Cormier

I’ve been creating stories since before I could write. At first I play-acted everything, but as I grew older, I started finding ways to put my thoughts onto a piece of paper.

The first time I tried to write something was a movie script that I started aged (about) eleven. By the time I was thirteen, I saw myself as seriously writing. I had started my first novel then.

One would think that I’d have a ton of finished manuscripts collecting dust beneath my bed. Terrible ones. Ones that make me cringe to think of. Ones that I aim at when I kick my shoes off.

But no. In the eight years from starting to write to Doorways, I didn’t finish a single manuscript. Not one. Now, this happened for a variety of reasons (that I posted about VERY early along when I started blogging), but as I came to the point of deciding that Doorways was to be the one that I finished, I decided to do some introspection.

What really stopped me from finishing before? Sure, the fact that my mother forgot to ask me before ripping the motherboard out of my writing computer (it happened) or the destroyed stiffy disk that contained the only copy of my draft (yes. stiffy. yes. It happened. After I rewrote the mother board ms), or the fact that I willingly burned a ms and everything connected to it (yes. Did that two years before I started the blog) had something to do with it.

But that wasn’t what stopped me. I mean, yes those put some significant delays on my writing. But eight years worth? Really?

The truth was no. The only person that held me back was me. See, although I don’t have a thing for rules, I was obsessed with getting everything I wrote up to my standards. Immediately.

So instead of worrying about getting done, I got mired in the early chapters of my WiPs, tinkering with every word I just wrote until it was exactly right.

In other words, I’d taken the soul out of what I’d written before it got a chance to settle into what it’s supposed to be.

When I realized what had happened, I’d decided to do a bit of a mind-shift. I didn’t have to get everything right immediately. In fact, there’s something to be said for working all the way through first before going back to measure what should be changed and what should stay the same.

Which is why I drafted Doorways by hand. If it’s written in pen, it can’t be change until I’m ready to go back to change it. And that is probably one reason why I got so far with it at all.

I gave Doorways a chance to prove to me that it was worth my time, instead of killing it before it was really born.

So what about you? Do you edit as you write or do you finish your drafts first?

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21 thoughts on “Others have said: Don’t sweat it. You can fix it later.

  1. I tend to edit as I write, and it works for me. If I ever thought it was slowing me down, though, I'd probably just force myself forward. It's just easier for me to move forward if I'm happy with what I've got so far. But–I never believe any piece of writing advice is universal, and I know this doesn't work for everyone! I'm glad you gave Doorways a chance!

  2. I do a bit of both – some editing along the way, but no major plot changes until I've got everything down.
    And WOW those are some drastic “delays” you had to your early writing career!

  3. I used to plow through it more than I'd edit–I might tweak things here and there. Now, I write chunks and then reread and edit and tweak, and then continue with the story. I write better that way, but it's so important to keep going with the story. I know how I write well enough to be okay with doing it like this, but if I get too caught up in that, I have to just plow onward and write.

  4. I edit a little bit as I write, but I'll only go over the scene once or twice as I'm writing and I never obsess. There's a lot of times that I say “I know this isn't completely right and x needs to be added or fixed or taken away, but I'll just file that into memory and fix it later.” I find this helps also, because then as I'm writing I might add things to my story that I can then remember to connect back when I start editing the problems from the beginning. …if that makes sense.

    Mega kudos for writing a whole first draft by hand. That takes commitment, man. Good for you. 🙂

    <3 Gina Blechman

  5. I think the perfectionist streak runs in a lot of us. 🙂 I know I had the same problem– I HAD to get it perfect right away. Luckily, I figured out that it didn't have to be immediately perfect (and that it wasn't anyway), and changed my ways, like you. I still do a bit of editing as I go, but now I at least have two finished books behind me!

  6. Misha, I did the very same exact thing when I was younger writing. I have tons of notebooks of half written things that I just got frustrated with because it wasn't immediately awesome and quit. It's a very blessed lesson to learn that it doesn't have to be perfect.

  7. A little bit of retrospection is good. Glad you made it to Doorways.

    Me and my Inner Editor, Inner Critic, Inner really-itchy-perfectionist have a hate/hate relationship. I hate her enough to kick her out. She hates me enough to stay. She makes it hard to just do a first draft…that is until NaNoWriMo. That was the first time I can recall writing 20k+ thousand words w/o my Inner Enemy attacking me.

    Right now, it attacks on the regular, but since NaNoWriMo, out hate/hate relationship isn't so deplorable. 🙂

  8. Ugh, I can totally relate to this. Whenever NaNoWriMo is going I'm usually able to put aside my inner editor, but when I don't have the deadline looming ahead of me, I get so picky about everything I write. I'm trying to train myself to be in the mindset of NaNo whenever I work on a first draft, not just in November. 🙂

  9. Great blog!! I do it two-fold I guess you could say. I read over and change a bit here and there daily, but I save the BIG changes for when the first draft is done. Now, if I realize a scene isn't working, I'll examine and do my best to make it right, but sometimes after I finish the story the scene clicks and my “aha!” moment comes along. Oh, and after betas, I often find myself re-writing chunks of story to smooth scenes or murder them all together with somethign new. So, yeah, it's a process for me.

  10. I'm a perfectionist, so until I have each chapter in some semblance of order, I don't move on. However, I don't get stuck thinking I can't move on if every i isn't dotted or every t crossed. Takes the fun out of things if I stay too long on one chapter anyway.

  11. I definitely edit as I write. It's my way of staying on track—if I'm reading over what I just got down and tweaking the things I didn't like, then continuing on, I know my head's in the same place as it was when I was writing initially. It helps me keep flow, and I'll notice faster if I'm veering in a weird direction that isn't going to help the story. =)

  12. I'd never seen the Cormier quote before and I love it. I can totally relate to what you are saying here. When I started my current MS, I couldn't get anywhere because I kept editing obsessively. Finally I forced myself to just keep writing and worry about the editing later, and now I'm almost done with the first draft. I know I have tons of editing to do, but it really feels like this was the right course of action for me. Great post!

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