One of the best pieces of writing advice I can give to any writer–aspiring author or experienced novelist–is one that others might not agree with. And the cool thing is, no one’s wrong: it kind of boils down to stylistic preference and how you, personally, prefer to embark upon the writing process.
Some people have no problem slaving away for hours and coming out with only 300 words to show for it: 300 really good, solid words they know will more or less make the final cut in that form. If this works for you, and helps you to feel accomplished–not frustrated, not doubtful of your abilities–then that’s great. Go for it and keep on keeping on. What matters is that you feel like you got something done and feel empowered to keep going.
That description, however, isn’t me. It isn’t me at all. I’m a panster: I write by the seat of my pants, and if I tried to ensure that the bulk of what I was putting on the page on any given day would end up in a final draft, I’d never get anything written. So my advice to fellow wordsmiths today is:
DON’T worry about what you might have to cut “tomorrow,” during editing, when you’re writing today. Just don’t. Don’t spare a thought for it.
Writing and editing are different processes completely. And that’s how it should be. Especially if you’re new to writing: try not to worry about editing things and cutting things and moving things around while you’re composing a first draft.
First of all, there’s a chance you’ll overwhelm yourself, and if there’s anything counterproductive to creativity and productivity, that’s it. Secondly, even if you end up cutting something, it’s not a waste. Believe me, it isn’t.
THE GOOD THINGS ABOUT BAD PASSAGES
Maybe you have an inkling that the scene you’re writing, or the last one you wrote, isn’t great. You might not keep it. You might consolidate it. You might do all kinds of things to it. That’s all okay. Just keep writing (as Dory the fish’s writer alter ego would say). Remember:
- Every sentence you put on that page is valuable experience to develop your skills, whether you keep it or not.
- Maybe this “bad” scene, this “unnecessary” scene where the story’s concerned, is necessary for you. Maybe you need it to break through some walls and figure out what direction you truly need to go. Maybe some piece of it will inspire you to move toward something better.
Writing “throwaway” scenes can be a large part of the grunt work of writing a good novel. It can be frustrating, but hopefully it’ll be a bit less so when you realize it has a purpose. So when you feel like a scene you’re writing is going nowhere, don’t do this:
Keep at it. Remember, you can always improve or cut a scene that’s lacking. Above all, don’t let a scene that you feel is sub-par discourage you. Sure, you’ll have to do something about it. But you can do that, right? So you’re fine. Keep going, and just keep writing.
Every good novel starts with a horrible first draft. And if you stop writing because you’re judging the first-draft-in-progress to be horrible, you’ll never get a finished first draft you can do something with. (What makes a successful first draft? Find out here.)
So, I’m really, really curious to find out what you guys think! Do you agree with this or not? What’s your process? Feel free to comment!