I’m trying some different techniques as I write Riding Herd, the sequel to Give the Lady a Ride. I’m not editing as I go, and I trying to outline the plot. This latter isn’t too unusual, but as a pantser, I’ve outlined far more extensively this time than ever before. Certain people I know will be pleased with that revelation.
Most pros at this craft will tell you to give yourself permission to write a lousy first draft. Just get the story down and worry about fixing it later. I’ve even said it myself. Generally, it’s a great suggestion. Allowing yourself to just write is supposed to be liberating, freeing your creative side to simply create.
I’ve read this advice in other writing books, and, like I said, I’ve given it myself, but I’ve never been able to actually do it. My internal editor has mastered the art of the high-pitched whine, and this wailing squeal won’t go away unless I do what she wants. The overpowering urge to quiet the screech is the primary reason why most of my manuscripts have wonderfully polished opening chapters. That’s the way I usually write: I read and edit what I wrote before, then continue with the next writing session. Often, I go back and reread the entire manuscript, editing as I go, before starting a new session. I add scenes, delete scenes, tamper with scenes; alter sentences, replace words, shift paragraphs from here to there; check spelling and punctuation–in other words, I give myself a complete edit before adding to the word count. Doing this doesn’t mean I don’t edit again once I’ve finished the manuscript–when you have critique partners, you always have something that needs fixin’–but it does mean that once I’ve finished the first draft, it’s in good enough shape to send to critique partners without totally wasting their time (at least, I hope that’s the result).
But this time, I’m putting my keyboard where the advice is: I’m not editing. Well, maybe a little tweak here and there, but otherwise, no. And believe me, the internal tyrant is on a rampage.
My first chapter stinks. I know it does. It’s hideous–and without a good first chapter, there’s no use in writing the rest of the book because no one’s going to get past the first few pages. And it’s not just the first chapter that’s making the maniac scream. There are things I’m going to have to go back and weave in, and I know it. I know what they are and where they’re supposed to go. But I’m not doing it. I’ve written myself a note, telling me what to do and where, and I’ve forced myself to keep going. Keep writing. Get in my daily word count.
This new-to-me technique, along with learning to outline more extensively, is making this writing experience a challenge. Is this way of writing really better than my way? Is the end result really going to top the books I’ve already published?
I doubt it, because whether I do it this way or my way, the first draft is never what makes it to the Amazon store. This way, I’ll have more work to do once I’ve finished writing and before I send to critique partners. My way, I’ll have more work to do after my critters have torn into it. Either way, I’ll have more work to do.
Is this way going to be faster? I don’t know, but that’s why I’m trying it. I want this book in my hands by June. That means written, edited, book-covered, and in print in four months. I’m not pitching this one to agents, not sending it through traditional avenues, so having it out in time relies entirely on me–well, me and how quickly my critique partners work. And the sooner I can get it to them, the sooner I’ll get it back.
So, fellow writers, we’ll see where I land after following this multi-layered experiment. At this point, I can tell you this:
- I miss editing as I write. That is totally making me nuts. Totally. Someday they’re going to find me huddled in a corner with my fingers in my ears trying to muffle my inner editor’s screeches.
- I do like outlining, at least to the extent I do it. I’ve been calling myself a hybrid for a while now (before the term got hijacked to mean both traditionally and self-published, though I fit that definition too). I still have strong seat-of-the-pants tendencies, but having direction is nice. I’ll give that to the outliners.
- I make my word county daily, so maybe this is faster, at least in terms of finishing the manuscript. We’ll see how quickly it goes from first word on a blank page to final product in hand.