The Craft of Writing

Stop Editing As You Write

Shannon Hale has a wonderful piece of advice for writers –

She’s right. I’ve thought a great deal about this over the last few weeks as I get ready to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting November 1.

I need to shovel the words and ideas onto the page or screen in order to do something with them much like you need to put sand in that sandbox before you can build a castle.

My thoughts brought me back to the large sandbox my father built for my sons.

When my boys were 4 months and 2 years old, we moved into a different, new-to-us house. My father, a wood-working hobbist, decided that the boys needed a sandbox. A 2×4 frame covered with 1/2″ to 1″ plywood, the primary color painted sandbox found its home in our backyard far enough out that the boys wouldn’t track sand into the house. The boys spent countless creative hours in that beach far from any body of water.

Writing a rough, first draft is a lot like playing with my boys in that sandbox. We had to fill that sandbox with sand – bags and bags of sand. My first draft needs to contain words, lots of words, that express all the ideas of the story. It needs to contain the non-specific words that first come to mind. It needs to include all the incomplete sentences, all the adjectives and adverbs that come to mind as I write. I also need to dump in all the back story rather than trying to edit it as I go. I have also been keeping a project notebook next to my computer as I work instead of taking time to go down the rabbit hole of research. Research, revision, and editing are like the shovel, the water, and the containers used to make the castle. Once you have the supplies in the box (the ideas of the project written down), you can use the tools to make the story interesting and understandable.

So, write the story down as fast as it comes to you. Write down everything because you can always remove it later.


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