See? I am a nice editor and writing coach after all.
Moreover, instead of just posting the whole challenge in one straight shot like I usually do, I’m going to break this one up. That’s because the first line alone is worth highlighting, and I don’t want anyone to miss it for any reason whatsoever.
Writing Class 102 is now in session, and here’s your first takeaway:
Write down your story’s beginning. Then ignore it.
If that sounds odd, it really isn’t. It’s actually very, very, very sound, logical and necessary. This isn’t one of those writing challenges to take up if you have the time, inclination or, as with last week’s example, desire to drive yourself crazy.
It’s a challenge you need to take up if you ever want to finish your story.
It’s so intensely necessary that I resorted to underlining, bolding and italicizing part of it – which, in the editorial world, is practically a cardinal sin. Writers are supposed to be able to emphasize their messages using words alone, not tacky embellishments. And if writers can’t handle that task, then editors are supposed to be able to do it for them.
I could have my writing coach card revoked for ignoring that rule.
But this is such an important writing tip, and I genuinely care about your authorial journey so much, that I threw my editorial license and dignity to the wind.
New writers have a bad habit of writing out their first chapter, only to revise it before they write anything else. After taking that first important, amazing step of actually getting something down on paper, they’ll retrace their steps by reading back over it, only to recognize that it needs work.
So that’s exactly what they’ll do: They’ll work on it, then go back to read what they revised. In so doing, they’ll see other spots that can be strengthened. Or maybe they’ll have a brilliant idea for a later section that requires a full revamp.
Regardless, they’ll then work on what they revised, once again going back to read their revision and make sure it’s perfect before they continue.
Newsflash here though, oh, novice writer: It’s never going to be perfect. Perfection isn’t something to strive for in the writing world, especially the creative writing world, since there isn’t a perfect writer on the planet and there never will be.
What you want to strive for is to be a better writer. A stronger one. A storyteller who’s more clear and concise than he or she was the day before.
But you’re never going to become a superior storyteller if you never actually finish a story.
Now, it’s important to notice areas where you need improvement. It’s also important to go back and edit your words to make sure they come across as clearly as possible. In fact, I highly advise at least six rounds of edits for a novel.
However, that’s after you’ve completed your first draft, not during that initial stage.
Your one and only job in starting out your story is to continue your story. And the same writing rule applies if you’re working on non-fiction.
You wrote your first chapter? Awesome!
In that case, write the next one.
Done with the second chapter? Wonderful!
Move on to the third.
Then the fourth. Then the fifth… until you’ve got no more chapters to write.
Otherwise, if you stop at each smaller (but noteworthy) accomplishment in order to analyze it to pieces, you’re at grave risk of getting caught up in a perfectionist vortex that sucks you in and never lets you go.
If you get stuck somewhere or need to remind yourself of something, feel free to go back and read what you’ve got in order to inspire what you still need to get down. That’s it though: Just read, don’t edit. Or at least don’t edit a lot.
Just concentrate on finishing your first draft. After you have that finished, you can go back and revise that beginning of yours until your little writer’s heart is as content as possible.