Creative Writing Facts I’ve Learned from Blog Comments: Point of View, Second Drafts, and More

1422720_note_papier_collage_1This post is all about tips and strategies you guys have mentioned through various comments on my posts. Whether they’re about point of view, second drafts, or other things, I want to highlight your expertise: the tips you gave that make me question, is there even such a thing as a writing process?

Yesterday, I posted a reflection mainly on what I had learned about blogging from interacting with my followers on my blog. (It was a thank you, in its way, upon reaching 1000 followers through the WordPress reader.)

Those lessons were rather expansive in their coverage…. Today, I wanted to focus on more specialized things people have said in comments here over the last 14 months that have thrown me for a loop and really opened my eyes.

I figure, if I didn’t know these things, maybe other people don’t as well. So it would be cool to share them. Maybe someone will want to experiment a bit in his or her fiction 🙂

If you are responsible for any of this knowledge, I’m grateful, and I’m sorry I can’t give you personalized credit…. I don’t have the time to go back through the comments of hundreds of posts to see who posted what. I don’t remember where these comments are in the backlog…. I just remember what I learned from them.

Feel free to claim credit in the comments here if the lesson came courtesy of you and your writing experience.

  • You can write a first draft in a point of view other than the point of view you plan to keep. I would never have realized some people have success writing this way, but some writers apparently do. And I think that’s awesome. Hey, since first person lets you get deep in a character’s psyche, why not draft in first person and then change pronouns to make your novel third person?
  • You can rewrite a draft rather than edit it. What the WHAT? I was floored when I read people commenting that they start completely over after penning a first draft. I’ve always edited the first draft I end up with. I would give up entirely before I started again, from scratch, after I had a complete novel sitting before me. But hey, what works for you, works for you.
  • Editing can be a great way to build up your style. I have always considered editing a time to simplify, simplify, because first drafts, like our lives, are frittered away by detail (thanks, Thoreau). I simplify sentence and paragraph structure. I simplify lots of things…. Others who prefer a more ornate and flowing style, though, have said they use editing as a chance to embellish, combine, and adorn. How cool is that??? Different styles completely necessitating different approaches to an edit: I love it!
  • Daily word count goals can be helpful to some. I avoid daily word count goals because with them, I only focus on the word count and wind up with a lot of fluff and awful writing. (NaNoWriMo taught me this. The hard way. UGH.) Others, though, feel inspired and motivated by setting word count goals. I do set daily goals for myself: to finish a scene, or to plot out a scene, or to take care of this issue in an editing pass. I try not to throw attention on word count when I’m drafting, though.
  • Some writers do every edit on pen and paper. EVERY edit. It’s true that pen and paper has some benefits over editing on the screen, but I like how the screen allows me to make instant changes. I save the pen and paper edits for when I reach a proof-copy stage. Everything else is on screen.
  • Some people write so prolifically it makes me feel like a no good, horrible, terrible, very bad author. I mean thousands upon thousands of words a day. Three and four novels a year. I just can’t do that, and I don’t need to do that. If you can, and want to aspire to that, and can accomplish that without losing your mind and without producing nothing but swill, then go for it. How fast to write is an individual thing. Our personal goals will vary. Writing faster than someone else doesn’t make you superior; speed isn’t everything, and I do think it’s possible to write too fast. (Again, “too fast” will mean something different for everyone). I just never realized writing that fast is doable for a lot of people.

So, those are my reflections upon the most surprising things I’ve learned from you guys. Thanks for opening my eyes! I’ve even been able to reference some of these facts in my writer’s handbook, and I feel they really make the book more useful for and more inclusive of all writing styles.

Thanks for dropping by! And for your insights.

If you enjoyed this post, you can follow my blog my email so you don’t miss out on future posts. (Top right corner of the screen).

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37 responses to “Creative Writing Facts I’ve Learned from Blog Comments: Point of View, Second Drafts, and More

  1. Awesome tips! I too had never considered most of them. Thanks for condensing the wisdom of your readers so concisely for the rest of us 🙂

  2. Yep, good tips.

    In regards to your last point: I recently did a yearly word count from June of last year to last week – the rough estimate was around 150,000 words. Now, that may SEEM prolific, but I don’t count it as such. What I have is three unfinished novel first drafts and more short fiction than I can shake a stick at. It’s all become very confusing and any moment I’m going to loose control of it all and become a disorganized mess.

    • oh no! best of luck keeping it together!!! i try to get a project in shape before i move on to another one just so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Usually then I have project in advanced editing and one in drafting. Take a bunch of deep breaths and handle one thing at a time, is what I would do in your case. You can get a handle on things, for sure! 🙂 Just think how awesome it is to have that much raw material!

  3. I tried to put myself on a word count to stimulate the writing, but found the same thing! I’m glad I’m not the only one. I felt like focusing only on word count made it seem like things such as editing and outlining, or just thinking over my next scene, didn’t count towards my ‘work’ as an author. But they do.

    It’s all in your head.

    • it’s ALL in your head. fantastic point. Authors are always working, hahaha! I’m almost never not thinking about something work related: the blog, a novel I’m working on, marketing strategies, job hunts and interview prep…. only when I’m out with friends do I feel away from it all. And even then we end up talking about the job hunt! haha! 🙂

  4. Great tips. As one of those prolific authors, I have to say that I feel bad when others compare themselves to me. I’ve been in writing classes where people have quit because they were intimidated that I wrote a novel. From what I can tell, there are less prolific authors than one would think. It just happens that the prolific ones make the most announcements about progress and tend to be the loudest.

    • I had NO idea that being prolific would make others feel bad. And now I feel bad for posting anything about it. I kind of chalk that up to speedy typing and a LOT of time to actually sit down and write.

      Some of those things were definitely interesting though. Changing POV after an initial draft? I never would’ve thought of it.

      • It really does come down to time and typing speed. I think less confident writers mistake it as some mutant ability that is required to be a serious author. They seem to forget that everyone goes at their own pace and style.

      • There’s no need to feel bad about announcing your milestones and success and marking your progress 🙂 none at all, unless you’re shouting “I’m better than you!” as you do it, which I’m sure you’re not.

        If someone wants to make life a competition that’s their problem and their chosen outlook. It really isn’t and doesn’t need to be viewed that way.

    • that’s true for some reason. don’t know why…. nothing inherently connected in writing fast and announcing that you write fast. if it helps you feel better your blog has never intimidated me. You never come off as “I’m better than you” or anything like that. And our styles are so inherently different I’m not tempted to compare. I feel it’s apples and oranges, if that makes sense 🙂

      • Thanks. I think the writing fast/announcing fast connection is more because they finish quicker, so the progress reports come out at a faster rate. Take me posting about 2 chapters done in a week and somebody posting about 2 chapters done in a month. People jump to conclusions based on completion speed for some reason.

  5. I was certainly told that you ought to completely rewrite your first draft.

    Although it’s not something I would consider doing in the future, I think for my first novel, To Be A Magician, it might be my only option. I’ve done a lot of editing, but because it was only my second attempt at writing something, it simply isn’t as good as it needs to be.

    I look at the sequel I’m beginning to write, (which will be my main project at NaNoWriMo this July) and I love it. I wouldn’t be ashamed to show it to anyone. TBAM just doesn’t have the same elegance.

    • If you feel that way then rewriting from scratch might make perfect sense for you! In fact, it sounds like it might really propel you to get the story and the writing where you need them to be. And the best thing would be you’re so familiar with the story by now you can probably rewrite it fairly quickly if you sat down to it.

      • The idea of it just kills me though! I guess I’m just being lazy. I think maybe it would be pointless though, because I don’t think my work will ever be good enough to get published.

        • ah, that pesky inner edtior!!!! that’s not the case. have you considered letting beta readers/edtiors look at the novel before you rewrite? That might help you avoid rewriting or at least give you confidence to know your project has sufficient potential

        • I’m trying desperately to get Beta-readers, but hardly anyone has the time to read a full length novel.

          I have friends who start and never finish, and I suspect that says something about the novel itself.

        • 😦 I wish I could help you out but I have a beta reading assignment I am sorely not pulling my weight on (I feel awful) and I need to find a job before I add anything else to my plate. I wish you all the best of luck!!!

  6. This was helpful. 🙂

    I tend to give myself a word count goal (as what NaNoWriMo taught me); however it works for me. Even if it is a piece of crap when I finish, I have the satisfaction of ripping it a part in the editing process. When I have a lot of red marks I feel very accomplished.

  7. Great tips! I’m a word count goal person, but also a prolific writer person, which goes hand in hand, I guess. I always see everything as a project, and projects have to get done all at once and fast. Add that to fast typing and a bit of obsessiveness, and you have prolific. But I absolutely cannot do the “slow and steady” approach… I lose the whole storyline if I have to stretch it out. So, as Charles says, you have to do what works for you!

    • exactly! and there’s no point comparing you and your progress and set-up to someone else’s. everyone works differently and everyone’s process has its benefits and its downsides.

  8. Victoria, I’m one of those people who rewrites the first draft. It gets worse… I stopped half way through my second draft and started over on a third draft. The third draft contains all the same characters as my initial 20,000 word outline, which I wrote before the first draft, but a lot of how the story progresses is different. By writing the story multiple times, I came to understand my characters so much better.

    I just finished the third draft this week. I’m now ready to start editing it.

    As far as word count, since September of last year I’ve written roughly 250,000 words, all on this novel, though the third draft is coming in at only about 80,000. Some of those 250,000 words were copied and pasted between drafts, but they’re surprisingly few. So I’ve written a lot of words that are all throwaway. In that respect, any sort of word count goal is a bit meaningless. In fact, I go for days or even weeks without checking my word count. I just write what I can write. When I do check the word count, it is a huge ego boost to see the word count jump so dramatically. The few times when I check it on a more frequent basis, especially if I check it on a daily basis, I feel depressed that I haven’t accomplished more. I have what time I have to write and I’m not going to rush myself during that time for the sake of a number.

    As for being prolific, writing 250,000 words in 10 months would seem like enough to write 3 novels in that time. But it will only be one novel, and it’s not even edited yet. So to me that’s just another reason not to pay any attention to word counts. The time to pay attention to word count is when you’re thinking of hiring professional help and will be paying them based on word count.

    On the topic of building up one’s style through editing, my writing seems so flat to me before I edit. Editing is my chance to add the shine.

    I always struggle in the beginning with what POV I’ll use and whether to use first or third person. I had considered using first person in my current WIP, and wrote a few chapters that way, but it wasn’t working for me so I switched back to third person before going very far. But I can see writing an entire draft in first or third person and then switching to the other in a second or later draft. For me, since I rewrite drafts in their entirety, switching between first and third person from one draft to the next wouldn’t be a big deal.

    • congrats on finishing your third draft!!! that’s so exciting! I can definitely understand how writing multiple drafts helps you to get to know your characters better. That makes TONS of sense. It has to be one of the biggest benefits of your writing process, I’d think. Best of luck as you start “adding the shine!” That’s a sensible and healthy way to look at editing. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 06-27-2013 | The Author Chronicles

  10. I am a sloooow writer (not slow typer, there is a diff.) because I write a chunk, go back and edit/rewrite as I go. And then I start over and re-edit/rewrite when the book is done. I refuse to pay attention to word counts because I won’t settle for anything less than my best and trying to keep up with word count goals may force my hand and cause me to cut corners. Cheers!

    • I don’t keep up word count goals either, Cheryl 🙂 I do try to avoid editing as I write and suggest that to people as a general rule, but hey, if the system works for you and doesn’t leave you feeling frustrated at being a slow writer that’s all that matters 🙂

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