Lesson One for Writers

Firstly allow me to say a very big thank you to all the people that have started to follow me so early on with my new blog site. Even though I’ve been writing for decades (on and off) it is always encouraging to have such early support.

Working with a new writer recently – and a frustrated one at that – I felt it might be useful to share the tidbit of guidance I offered her. She isn’t alone in her predicament, as I’ve offered this pointer to a hundred or so aspiring authors. After writers’ block, this rates as likely the biggest hurdle to actually finishing a manuscript.

Whether you are writing a short piece of prose or a full length novel, many find it hard not to ‘edit as they go along’. It takes discipline to write until you’re finished, but it is essential to start writing and not stop until you have reached the end. Yes, if we have breaks in our writing time (and certainly as we get deeper into the story) we need to review what we’ve written to keep the plot and characters on track, but DON’T DO ANY EDITS at this stage (apart from the obvious typos you spot as you read through). Time and again I have worked with new writers that have written about three chapters, and when we sit down to review where they are, they are busily rewriting chapter one!

What happened?

Usually, as they read back over what they had written to pick up their train of thought, a sentence or a paragraph didn’t gell, or didn’t read well. So, what do they do? They set about rewriting it. As they do this, new ideas come to them, and they make major alterations to the plot in chapter one. Obviously, this alters what happens in chapter two, and so on. Constantly cycling through the first three chapters creates frustration, and many end up just dropping the project, because it has changed from their original idea.

Guidance.

If you notice part of your work that you’d like to edit while you are still in the WRITING stage, at most, merely make a note or highlight the offending section, DO NOT on any account start making changes. Speed reading to get the ‘gist’ of what you’ve already written can help you avoid getting caught up in early editing distractions, as can having a clean plan and outline for writing your manuscript (and I’ll be posting about planning and structuring your writing schedule in another post).

As always, if you have any comments or wish to contact me, please shoot me an email or post your comment below.

Remember, writing can be a lonely pursuit, but the internet has allowed us to transcend physical barriers to communication and can greatly assist us stay motivated and motivate others. You are not alone!

 

Anthony Donnelly

adonnellywriter@yahoo.com

Writings

6 thoughts on “Lesson One for Writers

  1. It’s even harder when you are a trained journalist (an editor of 20-plus years) whose job it has been to edit, edit, edit everyone’s work from top to bottom very quickly, one story after another. Turning off my internal editor is my absolute biggest challenge. Hoping the more I read advice like yours it will someday set in and I’ll be able to start churning out copy without Mr. Editor going into action.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. I can see how that might be a big challenge for you. Probably my best guidance would be to have very tight structure to your book. Create mechanisms that deliberately stop you from editing as you go along. Keep writing, persistence pays off in the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I usually take my first chapter, throw darts at it and change whichever words I happen to hit. What do you think of this creative way of avoiding work.

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  3. Love this post! I think editing as you go is a form of panic or doubt about what you’ve written. For me that is definitely the case!

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