Monday, November 29, 2010
Monday's Writing Tip: Don't Look Back
Last Monday, I asked readers what the best piece of writing advice was that they'd ever received. There were lots of great responses, but today I thought I'd focus on one tip in particular, the importance of moving ahead when writing a manuscript.
As Satchel Paige says, "Don't look back." If we do, guess what's gaining on us? The possibility of not being able to complete that book!
Author Norma Beishir says, "Finish the first draft before attempting ANY changes of any kind. Otherwise, the manuscript will never get finished. I'd often give my agent or editor a first draft with the following note: 'Just tell me what's wrong with it.'"
A first draft is a first draft. Robert Masello says that amateur writers don't want to hear about drafts, because they believe that once something's written, it's done. Real writers (the ones who get published), he goes on to explain, know better. They know that the first draft is a working draft. And it won't be perfect. But that's alright, because real writers make it from start to finish.
One reason some don't complete their first draft is because they keep looking back. I was talking to someone working on a children's book. Although the story sounded awesome, and she'd thought it through from start to finish, she hadn't written that much.
She said she just couldn't get the first few pages to sound exactly like she wanted. I told her not to worry about that, and keep moving forward. "You can go back and revise once you've finished writing the story." I don't know if she took my advice, and even though she listened carefully to what I said, I don't think she liked the idea all that much!
If we keep looking back, it's as though we become stuck in the mud, obsessing over words and details. But if we move on, we see that there really is an end is in sight! The finished product might sound a little rough and sloppy, but that's when the hard work of revising starts, the smoothing and sanding and cutting and shaping of your story.
During revision, whole scenes may be cut and characters eliminated to keep the pace exciting and the story progressing. But the most important thing to remember is that from the rough cut of your first draft (and second, third or more), will emerge a smooth and polished manuscript.
Have you made the mistake of looking back? Are you currently revising a first (second or third) draft?
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