Let’s talk about something important. A writer’s ability to turn out words and “get shit done.” Writing habits are a necessity especially if you have a day job, kids, imprisoned dragons in the basement, or other daily rituals/responsibilities that make you a productive member of society.
I have a regular job, kids, pets, and a barrage of after school activities each child has elected to be a part of, and time to write is rather small especially now since the new routine has yet to be established in the new school year. I’m like some sort of parental road warrior racing from job to home to this location or that so everyone gets to where they need to be. Once all the running around is over what time left in the day is small and usually reserved for actually relaxing. Even with this going on I try my best to have something posted on one or both blogs once a week. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it does not. Yet, this isn’t really a writing habit. It’s a means to keep myself writing in one shape or form while I’m not writing fiction. I want to write fiction, but am not practicing the craft as I should and allowing the excuses to pile up. I’ve written a few books the past few years (one which needs a complete overhaul, and another that needs to be edited) and they continue to sit on the shelf, or in an envelope in my computer bag, waiting to be developed into the next phase of their life.
Writing the books was fun. So much fun I should be doing it all the time, or at least plotting the next idea so I can get back to writing on a more regular basis.
So quit your whining and do something about it, you might say.
To which I reply, “You’re right.” Stop whining, start writing, and get shit done.
So what needs to happen now?
I need an idea, good or bad it doesn’t matter. I think I can handle that. I have a section of my notes app on my phone under the title “Story Ideas.” There is surely something in there that can be explored or developed into a short story at the very least. And, while doing that I might have a whole new idea that blows the others out of the water.
I need a deadline. Writing for NaNoWriMo, or setting a challenge between a friend and myself to have content written on a certain date is a sure fire way to get stuff done. The challenge is great because it gives you a deadline. NaNoWriMo has a deadline as well, but what it really showed me is the importance of writing everyday.
Then there is the whole “How do you write,” question. I’m not talking about whether you are a plotter or a pantser. Both methods have their ups and downs and I’ve done both. What I am referring to is do you sit down and write it all out in one first draft before you go back and edit a word? or do you edit as you go? To that I say, It depends. I’ve certainly done both of these as well. Most, if not all, blogs with writing advice I have come across say to get the first draft done then go back and edit. My background as a journalist had me write and edit. Of course, books are a much longer format than filling in 12 or so column inches on a page, but I always felt that editing was part of the writing process. What I mean to say is as I wrote I edited my work honing the sentences to the best they could be while making progress on the news story I was writing. It may sound chaotic, but it made sense and proved to be effective when an assignment was given with only a few hours to deadline. Get it written and get it right as close to the first draft as possible. That first draft under normal circumstances would probably equal to the 12 draft by the time it was ready to print from the extensive back and forth of trading hats as editor to writer as time ticked down. Then someone would read it, make a few suggestions, I’d make corrections, turn it in and move onto the next emergency assignment.
Editing as you go does slow down the process when it comes to writing a book, especially if there is a word count per day goal in mind. How does one gage what is considered added word count when editing the previous day’s words, adding content, deleting content, and so on all before new words are written for the next scene? Writing out the first draft (especially if you have a regular writing habit) before editing a word is definitely a good means of getting the story out of your system and onto paper. There it is. That’s the story. Now let’s fix the problems. Editing as you go would have allowed you to fix said problems back when you wrote them, but what I found while doing this was the editing caused a lot of my story to change forcing me to rethink certain plot points that were supposed to happen in the upcoming, unwritten, scenes. This isn’t a bad thing, but I did struggle with certain aspects of the edit as you go practice. By having what I thought was about to happen in scenes not yet written change made me think outside the box as to how my characters would react, but the next days edits would result in further little changes that would affect aspects of other parts of my story that had yet to be written. By the time I finished the book I had at least two pages of notes single spaced at 10 point type. This was so I could keep up with what was supposed to happen as a result of what was changed while editing. And, these notes were edited as I went as well.
This might be a bit extreme and only shows how editing as I go only makes me slightly insane, so I normally try to go along the lines of being a plotter with an outline of the story I’m working on. If something changes as I write, not a problem. Make an adjustment here or there to the outline and move on.
I haven’t done much of the editing as I go anymore. Getting the first draft done and the story out of the system definitely feels more cathartic. If there are problems then I deal with them after. But, the story is there and the draft is done. That’s not to say I don’t cheat every once in a while.