Saturday, July 17, 2010

Writing Backwards is Bad for your Novel.

A while back I wrote a post on perfectionist writers.  I am one of them.  And one of the things I struggle with the most in my writing is... just writing.

As writers, we all have some vague idea of where we want our poem or novel or memoir or biography to go, but getting it there is a completely different story.  We may have a great idea, get excited, sit down and write a few chapters... but then we pause and, instead of continuing on as we should, we make the one fatal mistake that has often kept many amazing story ideas from becoming amazing published books:

We go back, re-read, and edit.

I like to call this "Writing Backwards" because I'm going back and writing over again, when I should be working on moving the novel forward and finally reaching its end.  I catch myself doing it all the time.  In my mind, I know what I want that scene to look like; I know what I want that character to do and how he should do it; I know what that artifact looks like and I want the reader to see it that way.  If a writer could just go back and do a quick edit, and then continue writing from where they left off, that's great.  I wish I could be like that.  But so often I find myself stuck on trying to figure out just the right combination of words to make the scene perfect.  And usually, while it seems like the editing is helping to perfect my story and make it the best that it possibly can be, it is actually hindering real progress.

So this post is basically to help me realize that I have to stop being so darn picky.  Especially with November looming closer and closer. (Because, for those of you who don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo.)  When November hits, I don't want to be a picky writer... I want to just write.  That's what Nanowrimo is for; for writers to type out the rough draft of a novel in 30 days and get it all out on paper before the idea is lost.  It goes against every perfectionist grain in my body, but perhaps that is good for me.  I can always go back and edit later.


Jake said...

I deeply sympathize with you--I used to struggle with this a lot. I've gotten a bit better (okay, maybe just a LITTLE) at this, but it likes to peep up poke me with a needle every once in a while. :P

Jaleh D said...

I'm right there with you. Some of my stories are easier to "just write" than others. My YA fantasy is the worst for going back over constantly. But I'm tabling it for now to work on something I can make significant progress on. Still hard right now since I'm working so many hours, but it's only for another month and a half. Then I'll be cranking up the writing burners.

Galadriel said...

I finished JulNoWriMo, and I know what you mean.