Friday, February 23, 2007

Just Write

On the way home from the RWA chapter meeting Saturday, my critique partner and I were talking about writing the first draft of a manuscript. We're both unpublished, but have been writing for several years, and are traveling the road of contest entry and workshop participation together.

What struck me funny was the sudden knowledge we had both churned out our first drafts in about three weeks to a month. Now, we're both in the process of revision and she's stumped on a character's involvement at the conclusion of her novel and I've been rewriting the same chapters over and over again, unable to hit that note of excitement and tension I know I need to keep a reader wanting more.

Wasn't it nice in those early days of writing when you didn't know about active and passive voice, about the importance of POV, GMC and character arch's? You were free to just write. One thing Christina and I agreed on is you can't lose that desire to put your story on paper.

It's hard to write and not worry about the technical aspects of it. But if we can all get our thoughts out on paper, not worry about who's POV you're in or if you're telling or showing at that moment, then productivity will most likely flourish. Throw down as much substance as possible during that first draft to get the words on paper and the initial idea finished, worry about the technicality of writing on the revision.

Now I know there are a lot of structured folks out there who have to outline their chapter. They've got to plot every breath their character takes. I applaud those writers because when it comes time to turn in a synopsis for a contest or better, to an editor or agent, they're ready to go. I'm not going to tell you to give up what works best for you, but if you get stuck. . . take off that straightjacket your wearing and write by the seat of your pants. But don't look back.

Oooh. That's a hard one - not looking back at the chapter you just wrote. I know, I know, you need to get back into the groove of writing (I know ALL about that. I was foolish enough to think I'd have more time to write when I became a stay-at-home mother! How thick was the wool I had pulled down over my eyes?). Okay, if you have to look back, read it, get into your groove and don't you dare touch that keypad. Open up your next scene or chapter and get moving. Keep those characters moving!!!

And then, when you've got the first draft completed . . .


Yep, I said wait. I thought Stephen King was nuts when he advised in On Writing to put the manuscript down for weeks to months. Stick it in a drawer somewhere and forget about it. Well, he's right. And when I looked at all the stories Mr. King has had published, I realized he probably knows what he's talking about, that's why that's a writing book I've seen recommended many times.

I've tried to revise a story when its too close to me. I'm the type of person that you tell NOT to do something and I do it anyway. I'm stubborn, foolishly sometimes. But what everyone says is true. You can't see the changes that need to be made if you've just finished it. When you leave it alone for three months, or longer, you return with fresh eyes, you appreciate the work, and that's when you start revising. But don't get discouraged, because this is the hard part.

Let someone besides your mother read your work. (More than likely, she loves everything you do.)

If you aren't in a critique group or have a critique partner, find one! Let your critique partners read your story. Ask a friend in your writer's group who's judged contests before to peruse it. Or, if you know of someone who's published and have a close enough relationship to ask them, see if they'll read over your work. They're working close with the publishing world and they know what to look for that an editor won't like, etc.

Take what they say and use it, and with that said, don't be afraid to stick to your guns - if there's something you feel doesn't need to be removed, leave it there. After all, you're at the heart of your story.

Revise, revise, revise, even if you have to start over ten times. (I'm on number 8 and I think I may be on to something!)

Perfect your sentences, show as many elements as possible and watch the next layer of the manuscript come to life, because that's what a revision is.

And you'll find, if you're truly meant to write, you'll sweat through the revision, put your work out there, and welcome others opinion. After all, that opinion is going to be what carries your novel when you are finally published.


  1. Yep, you are definitely my long lost sister, Christy. I'm not sure the world is ready for two of us.

    You are so right about putting it away for a while. I remember poring over my work, trying to get everything just "perfect" for a contest entry. Sent it off and moved on to something else. Pulled out the contest entry a month later, before ever getting my entry back, and wondering, "Oh my. What was I thinking."

    I also have to say, especially for beginning writers, don't over expose your crit partner either. They can grow as close to the story as you do. That's why contests are great. A fresh set of eyes.

    Great post, Christy. Thanks.

  2. Hi Ya - SIS! LOL!

    It is so hard to put your work down and wait a while. After I wrote my first story, I got to work on query letters and sent about a dozen out. This was about 6 years ago. I'm thankful I got the rejections I did because that story WAS NOT ready for anyone else's eyes!!

  3. I agree about waiting. I started a story, then came back to it about a year later after finishing another story first. I had entered it in a contest, and the feedback was pretty rough to take. (It wasn't unkind, it just was's glowing like I had hoped!)

    Then when I came back and looked at it, I couldn't beleive how mean my heroine was! I had thought she was funny, and witty, but after being away from the story, I could see she was sharp, and unlikeable.

    So yes, step back a while. I know it's hard to wait once you finish that baby. But I remember in a workwhop a long time ago, an agent saying a mistake that writers make is to get in too big a hurry. I've tried to take that to heart.

    And yes, On Writing is an excellent book. Very inspiring. (Beware of some bad language. I had it as a book on CD and couldn't let my kids be in the car!)


  4. Well said Christy. One of the most important things about writing is not to lose your voice. I believe you can rewrite and rewrite your voice right out of a story.
    It was blissful being ignorant, wasn't it. Sounds like workshop material, Missy.

  5. Thanks Ladies... AND... Speaking of workshops, I'm looking forward to yours at the M&M conference ~ Lindi and Missy!