Updated: May 15, 2020
You’ve got a great story idea. It’s the next big thing, and you just know it’s going to be amazing. Literary fever has officially hit your creative brain, with the symptoms showing loud and clear.
Your mind is racing with the next line to write.
Your fingers are clacking away on your keyboard.
You’re unable to focus on anything anyone says, hallucinating every time a nonfiction person tries to talk to you. You keep thinking they’re flies buzzing around your head to the point where you even hit some unfortunate soul.
Under that kind of highly focused – dare we even say manic? – pace, you finish your first few pages in no time at all. They're done, and you’re ready to move on to chapter number two.
Except that, first, you’d really like to go back and read what you wrote.
No harm in that, right? Not when you’re on such a roll…
So said so many other poor, naïve little writers. Right before their amazing story plans crashed and ultimately burned around them.
I understand the mentality expressed above. But there really is a whole lot of harm in unnecessarily stopping short your creative writing momentum. If you don’t have to jog your memory or jump-start your motivation, then just keep going.
Otherwise, you might never finish another chapter ever again.
Don’t get stuck on your story’s beginning.
A critical mistake that far too many writers make is that they start out their stories, then never move past that first phase, forever stuck on “perfecting” their introductory segments. This turns their literary efforts into nonfiction tragedies, where the “guy” is forever fated to not get the “girl” (i.e., the writer doesn’t get the publishing deal).
If you want to have a much happier ending to the individual adventure you’ve committed to, then write out your story’s beginning and move right along to the next stage of your to-be-published journey. Don’t. Get. Stuck.
While there is a chance you might be an exception to the rule – someone who’s perfectly capable of going back and forth between editorial mode and writing mode – why take that risk?
Here’s why writers should try to stay in writing mode as much as possible while working on a first draft. It’s because writing mode results in writing. Whereas editing mode results in editing.
It’s as simple as that.
When you’re writing a first draft – something we’ll discuss later on in the year – your main and arguably only goal should be to finish that first draft. And in order to do this, you need to:
Begin and finish chapter 1
Begin and finish chapter 2
Begin and finish chapter 3…
And so on until the end.
If you break that trend, deciding to go back and edit chapters, you’re completely switching your mentality from creative to objective. Which is potentially problematic for two reasons.
No. 1, it’s not always easy to switch between the two. And No. 2, editorial inspiration or writing fear can set in, which can then keep you editing that first chapter on repeat instead of moving forward.
Whether it’s the belief that you can make your introductory segment perfect or concern that people will judge you if you don’t make it perfect, you get fixated, forever forgetting that first drafts are for writing.
Trust me when I say there will be plenty of time for editing down the road. But that's not until after you’ve written the beginning, the middle and the end.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on "Starting Your Story" here.