Last week, I talked about a writing exercise that helps get my brain working faster when my pace has slowed to a crawl. After spewing out a lot of nonsense that way, I wanted to see if I could apply that high-output word vomit toward something a little more productive, and eventually gravitated toward my current approach of beginning with a hectically speed-written, gloriously sloppy version of each scene in The Book. A “Draft 0”, if you will.
The basics of zero-drafting are similar to the exercise, only the goal is to try to follow the points of your story-planning rather than letting your mind lead you at random. You still write as quickly as you can without stopping; the garbage can be cleaned out later. I started by only doing ten minutes at a time, taking a short break between stints, then moved on to doing a whole scene at once, and now I’ll do an entire chapter in a single go (usually about a two-hour endeavor). The immediate results are truly cringe-worthy, but that’s O.K. No one else has to look at this stuff (…for real, this time!). It gives you a basic framework to follow for the first legitimate draft; some passages will have to be tossed, but many might only need a little editing, and you may even find that the narrative took a few unplanned but ultimately beneficial turns because of the pressure and spontaneity – ideas that could have been missed if you had instead plodded carefully through the first run with an overfocused mind.
Because of my deep-seated need for precision and my perpetual worry of screwing things up, there’s always a build-up of anxiety before I start a draft 0, but once I get rolling with it, it’s extremely liberating. Regardless of how terrible it is when finished, it’s still a big step forward in the process of getting the book together, and it actually leaves me with a sense of accomplishment. That’s not something to take for granted; in a solitary activity like writing, self-encouragement is imperative to sticking with it.
In any event, the issue at core here is the subject of today’s Fish Tip.
Write First. Edit Second.
It has to be some sort of writing axiom. Things tend to go a lot more smoothly if you get your ideas down first, and then organize them afterward. If you edit first, and only write down a sentence after you’ve revised it several times mentally, then the process slows dramatically, and you leave yourself at the mercy of the slog (not to mention it will likely need to be edited again, anyway).
It’s a sentiment we’re all familiar with, I’m sure, but it’s something that certainly still gives me trouble. One of those things that’s easier said than done!