Saturday, April 11, 2015

A to Z Challenge: Junk



If you're a new kid, this thing you need to know about writing will probably take you by surprise. Unless you've been hanging with us old hands for a while, you're probably buying into one of two myths. Or, if you're really warped, both.

The first myth:

Really good writers only ever write one draft. 

The second myth:

My words are perfect and anyone who tries to say otherwise is just plain wrong. 

Warped version:

Really good writers only ever write one draft. I'm a good writer, therefore my words are perfect and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong. 

I can see the old hands nodding. We all know the guy.

DO NOT BE THAT GUY. 

Oh, you are that guy? Sit down, kid, or your plot bunnies get it.

Yes, dear, I love your plot bunnies with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. *makes slurping sounds*

Ahem.

So here's the truth:

Your first draft will be junk. Your second draft will suck a little bit less. Once you've revised, your manuscript will look better. And it will keep looking better with every successive round of edits you put it through.

And then, when you've polished it until you're proud of your baby and you can see your reflection in it, you'll publish it.

And you, or someone else, will find a typo somewhere. 

In other words: You're human, and therefore, nothing you create will ever be completely perfect. If you think your story is, you're either delusional, or you've been editing so many times that you're no longer seeing your own errors.

This holds true for all writers. I know some people like to brag about how pretty they write and how easy it is, but this is like (to borrow from an interview I heard, but I can't remember the writer's name) the stunning looking Hollywood starlet who's prancing before the cameras and saying: "Oh... this? I just threw it on."

Or maybe, it's the fact that there are very few people who really can remember pain.

Really. I'm one of the lucky ones. I like editing. You might feel like it's stabbing yourself in the heart every time you have to delete something. In fact, if you're that guy it'll definitely feel that way.

Which is really the reason I'm telling you not to be that guy. Yes, they're annoying as hell. Especially when they ask old hands to critique but really only expect praise. But all and all, not being that guy is better for your emotional welfare.

So repeat after me:

Right now, I'm writing junk so I can edit it better later. It's all part of the process. 

And keep repeating it every time you open your rough draft. You'll thank me for it later. For so many more reasons than I can tell you here tonight.

Are you that guy? Were you that guy? What made you realize the truth? 

14 comments:

  1. Hello there.
    Adam and Eve were perfect and they still got it wrong! Thanks for sharing.

    Entrepreneurial Goddess

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  2. I was never that guy. I knew it wasn't great and I still don't think it's great.
    And yes, even after test readers, critique partners, me, my publisher's editors... there are still typos in my books.

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  3. That guy still exists???
    Sometimes you'll think your writing is perfect when you're writing it but if you step away from it for a few days you'll realize how wrong you are.

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  4. It's a strangely comforting thought for us beginners that the first few tries won't be stellar.

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  5. I was never the gal that thought my first drafts were perfect, but I was blinded to how horrible they really were. Nowadays, I'm fine with shabby first drafts as long as the story gets written. Everything else can be done in revisions!

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  6. Yep, about 9 years ago I was that 'girl' and got mad that someone told me my masterpiece needed work.

    Fast forward to now and a completely different WIP...I edit the hell out of things and have people help. I have two books in a series a small publisher has taken and will release so all that hard work paid off.

    I'm glad I found this while hopping around this A to Z Challenge. Thanks for putting this out there and telling everyone that writing is WORK!

    www.heathermcubbin.blogspot.com

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  7. Never quite had that confidence to think that way, except perhaps when writing my stories when I was about 7 or 8.

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  8. I don't write (well, except blogging). I try to remember “kill your darlings” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Kill+your+darlings , but it’s really hard.

    A2Z challenge. www.whenthecatisaway.com Participant number 1328

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  9. I still can't get past this whole first stage is junk bit. I've been writing and rewriting the same story for the last ten years and each time it sucks a little less in one place, and a little more in others, hehe.

    Another ten years and I might just get somewhere with it. Of course by then it'll need to be rewritten because it'll be historical fiction by then! ;-)

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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  10. I've heard of people who send their first draft off to their editor - maybe it's a system that works well if you have a good working relationship, but I'd be petrified. My first drafts are no where near good enough to show anyone, ever!

    Annalisa, writing A-Z vignettes, at Wake Up, Eat, Write, Sleep

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  11. Okay I am not that guy, and I believe writing is a progressive process, never get it right in the first go. The way you write is pretty interesting,
    I came to your blog from the #AtoZChallenge and I invite you to have a look at my blog http://life11.org . I am writing on the theme brand strories.

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  12. Guilty (hangs head in shame) ..

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  13. Thanks for stopping by, Goddess.

    Alex, finding a typo after a million edits is the worst.

    Sarah, so true.

    MRR, it is indeed.

    Preach it, Christine. ;-)

    Heather, it's great to read that you learned how to handle and use critique. Thanks for stopping by!

    Carole, we all have that confidence in our art when we're that young.

    Cat, it can be hard. Especially if you've spent months creating said darlings.

    Hahahaha Click. That's exactly why I only edit when my drafts are done.

    Annalisa, I have to admit I don't get how people do that I either.

    Thanks, Shelly. :-)

    Thanks, Somali.

    Well, Susan. Half the battle is won by admitting you have an issue. ;-P

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