I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My A-Z of Writing Tips: Finish the First Draft

(Source)
Finish the first draft before you begin revising.

Write first, edit later.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes...your first draft doesn't need to be perfect.

The only thing you can't edit is a blank page.

However you say it, in my opinion this is one of the most important pieces of advice around! When I write, I still find myself reading over the previous scene and tinkering with it a little before I move onto the new scene. But I've forbidden myself from going back to Chapter One and starting revisions UNTIL I've finished writing my last chapter. That way lies disaster for me - I can't count how many manuscripts I've given up on without finishing, simply because I got caught up in revisions and failed to finish the first draft.

And in my next novel, I have high hopes I'll even be able to resist tinkering. Wish me luck!

How about you: do you revise as you go? Do you follow this advice religiously? Or have you found another way to make things work?

38 comments:

Trisha said...

For me, the easiest way of resisting tinkering is writing the novel during NaNoWriMo :D

Kerrin said...

good luck! I think this is a wonderful piece of advice. I knew i had to change and add things in the beginning but i refused to go back until i'd typed TE!

Cally Jackson said...

I used to be a meticulous editor, not moving on till I was satisfied. Now, I've banned myself from editing until I've finished the first draft.

For me, I think I edited out of procrastination. After all, it's less scary to edit what's already written than face that 'blank page' waiting to be filled.

I've been making much better progress this way, but I am a little worried by what horrors await come edit-time! :)

mooderino said...

Good advice. I force myself to push on no matter what.
-mood
Moody Writing

Madeleine said...

Good advice. I'm a terrible tinkerer and I have stalled after 15 chapters, Oh dear! :O)

Carole Anne Carr said...

Right now it's just about beginning tha book at all! I'm re-reading the limited amount of history in Northumbria for 792 to 793 and there's not much recorded, so I'll have to slide the events a bit... oh, well...

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

great post!!

Unless I find a really glaring omission, I usually wait until the story is done to dive in. I do keep notes during the writing to remind myself to make changes at earlier points when I change the plot.

Kate said...

Some people like to edit as they go but I'm with you - I need to get that first draft down - and then tidy it up :-)

Charlotte Jane Ivory said...

I just finished the first draft of my latest WIP, Peering Up The Trouserleg of Giants. I admit there was some tinkering, but I reduced it by giving myself a deadline - finish before April 1st! Now I can't go and work on it until May 1st... Lucky I have several other projects up my sleeve :)

Sarah Mäkelä said...

I've tried to revise as I go, but it failed miserably. I'm firmly in the finish my first draft and then revise camp now.

You have a great blog!

annemhairisimpson said...

I think this is the only way I can actually finish a novel - it worked for my last book and it's working for this one. I'm on the editing stage now.

I did go back and read through the chapters as I wrote them and made minor adjustments, but that was because I was sending them off to my CP as I wrote them and I wanted to get rid of the major embarrassments like typos and grammatical errors that slip in when you're in the zone.

Not editing until you have an entire manuscript to edit is absolutely crucial, I think. Not least because if you edit before you're done writing, you then need to reset your brain for the writing mindset when it's been in editing mode for who knows how long? Best to only make the switch once.

Siv Maria said...

Good advice as usual. Good luck on your new adventure of non-tinkeling.

Catherine Lavoie said...

My first draft took ages to write because I kept going back and revising. I'm trying to change my ways for my second novel: write now, edit later. Great post! Thanks for the follow and good luck! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Can't edit a blank page - wise words.
I hand write my manuscripts, so after about 10-20 pages, I go back and enter it into the computer. Which means I do some editing in the process.

Crystal said...

OMG, I need to constantly remind myself of this - as one of my fave writers puts it: "Write out loud." Like you said, the only think you can't edit is a blank page, but it's hard for me to resist the temptation to just touch this up a little or change that word or add a little something... and before you know it, I'm so busy editing that the writing has stalled. To follow this advices is one of my major writing resolutions! :-)

GigglesandGuns said...

I try to never look back until I get it done once. hen I rewrite, no necessarily in order. Then go back and do it all again.
First draft is a very detailed outline -- almost a book. I work it like a puzzle, moving pieces until then fit.


MaryV

Cherie Reich said...

This is great advice. That's the best thing I love about NaNoWriMo. I can't edit when I have to finish the manuscript by November 30th. There's no time.

I do try to adhere to it when novel writing, but I must admit I edit as I go on short stories.

I still think even if you edit/revise/rewrite while writing the first draft that the draft isn't ready to go when you type in "The End." That's the mistake I see the most of people who edit as they go. You have to put that manuscript away and go back to it at a later date.

Bish Denham said...

I thought I was revising as I went, but really I was just getting that first draft out.

AlexOngNYC said...

"The Only Thing You Can't Edit is a Blank Page", that should be on a t-shirt.

Alex from Breakfast Every Hour was here.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I tend to edit as I write but I try never to go back to the beginning. You're absolutely right. Finish first before diving back into heavy edits.

Elena Solodow said...

I usually tinker as well. I often read back the manuscript while I'm working to make sure I stay on track - small edits are usually easy to make. Anything large I want to change I write down separately and incorporate in the next draft.

Carrie said...

Great advice. I try to finish the first draft and then revise. I don't tinker as I go. I think if I did that I would end up with one or two awesome chapters but now awesome books.

Jess said...

YES, YES, YES!! I'm struggling with this with my current WIP, because I keep getting ideas on how to improve the previous scenes, but I must push through or I'll never finish! I must, I must, I must! Thanks for the reminder :)

Michelle Merrill said...

This is great advice! I just finished another WIP and even though it's probably horrible, it's finished and now I can go back and revise...well in a couple of weeks after is sits :) Thanks Rach.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

I'm in the middle of my first draft and it's HARD to not go back and edit! But I'm forcing myself not to so I can move foward and finish the draft. What I'm writing isn't always great but you're right in that it can be edited once it's done. :)

Kristine Asselin said...

Oh, I totally self-edit while I write. Not sure I could train myself out of it. :)

Vicki Tremper said...

Exactly my kind of advice! I love writing the first draft and feel such a sense of accomplishment when I finish it - bigger than at any other point in that book's journey (so far).

Sarah Allen said...

This is so important for me :) I'm such a neurotic I have to remember to just keep going to get anything down. I force myself to wait until the draft is finished before I go back and edit, which I think is making the difference. Thanks for the great post!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

TL Conway said...

I agree with those who mentioned using NaNoWriMo as a means of getting through your story without being sidetracked by the edits! While it helps push me through the story and edit later, one unintended side effect is that once I hit 50K words, I stall. This means my endings are usually missing. Oops. :)

Ann said...

So do you wait until you have finished the first draft and edited it before you get a critique?

Brooke R. Busse said...

I love reading over my first drafts simply because I like seeing what creative ideas my brain came up with in that short time span. Sure there are areas where I made mistakes (and a lot of them) but I enjoy looking at the good much more.

And then that moment is over and I have to think about revisions and edits. XD

Lynda R Young said...

When I first started writing, I'd revise as I went. I soon discovered tht it was a waste of time because by the end I needed to delete scenes I'd spent extra time on. Now I just write up a fast first draft, make sure the structure is solid, THEN I revise.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Good luck, Rach.

I only revise the page or two where I left off before continuing on the story. I always need a feeling of what's happening to get me into the grove.

But I always finish the first draft before major editing.

erica and christy said...

I do both. I write without worry, but then the next day I tend to reread and edit before starting up again. It does slow me down as I get further into my novel. There's so much more to reread and it changes every time. Someday I'll master my process and it will go so much more quickly and smoothly! ;0) (I can hope, can't I?) christy

The Blogger Girlz said...

My first draft is pure fun and done only for me, so I never edit while writing the first draft. However, later I'm stuck doing the mother of all overhauls.
- Aaron

Janina said...

Great post. I am addicted to editing and it's taking me forever to complete my manuscript. I think the next time I sit down to work on it; I will try my hardest to keep from revising.

Adina West said...

I do tend to read over my previous session's work and tweak just a little to get me in the mood for that day's writing...but I really don't do more than tweak!

That way disaster lies...

Paul Joseph said...

This has been the hardest concept for me to grasp. I know I should finish the first draft before making changes. I always told my classes this same piece of advice, knowing I was the biggest hypocrite because I don't do it myself. I'm working on it. I'm trying to let the words dump out and go back to revise and edit later. I'm not where I need to be, but I'm better than I was.

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