NaNoWriMo Preview: Don’t be afraid to write crap

If you’re writing for perfection, you’re writing to fail. Perfection is what editing is for.

While writing is a different process for every writer, my style seems to be to create first drafts that are more like skeletal remains (premains?) that finished works. They’re a lot like a T-101 from the movie the Terminator, a shiny mechanical skeleton devoid of form or personality, a caricature of what I want my story to be.

In other words, its crap, and it will need a lot of work before it becomes the story I intended.

Thomas Edison famously said both “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work” and that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Those same ideas apply to writing.

Sure, all of us writers want to experience the ecstasy of the moment of creation. I think, to a degree, that’s what we all strive at writing for, yet we cannot ignore that, in some way, writing is a job that we have accepted. Jobs are hard work, and work doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to, especially when the work is creative.

The secret to succeeding at writing is to just write it, knowing full well you’ll probably have to go back and write it again. And again. And again.

That’s OK. It happens to everyone.

Recently, a researcher discovered that Jane Austin’s work benefited as much from her creative efforts as it did from the efforts of a good editor, which is unfortunate because most people have believed the fiction perpetrated by her brother after her death that her novels sprang from her pen complete. Unfortunately, the fiction that good writers are somehow able to produce perfect, complete work without effort has infected writers continuously since those heady days where every artist was a great master.

The reality is something entirely different. Most writers have to craft their stories the same way potters or sculptors craft clay. Most writers write something, then add to it, take away from it, wad it up and throw it in the trash, then dig it out and add and take away some more. That’s the natural process of writing, and again, that’s OK.

What’s most important, especially if you’re just starting as a writer, is that you’re writing at all. Start with quantity first. The quality will eventually come.


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