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Trying too hard

I wrote yesterday. To be more precise – I wrote, I deleted, I wrote, I deleted, I wrote, I saved a few sentences and deleted the rest, and then I wrote again.

At some point in the day I wondered just how many times I was going to begin and then delete the second scene of the story I am working on. It’s only a first draft. I don’t normally delete this much/often in a first draft.

And then it hit me that because I am increasingly aware of my bad habits as a writer (telling, not showing. Using a passive voice. Scenes which don’t move the story forward much/could be blended with other scenes. Other little things), I’m working harder not to include them in the first draft. Wouldn’t it be lovely not to have to correct those things?

One day, I’m sure I’ll get to that point, but for now I really need to find a balance between making changes to the way I initially write and ACTUALLY GETTING THE WRITING DONE.ย Once again it comes back to that good old ‘you can only edit words you’ve written’ thing.

So, today I’m just going to write. I’m going to pick ONE thing to stay conscious of and keep that in mind as I write, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself. I can’t keep learning if I’m not actually writing. And I need to get this draft finished. It’s just the first draft, regardless of whether I eliminate all my bad habits in it or not, it’s still going to need work.

Is this why some people get writers block? They are so worried about making the same mistakes again, so conscious of trying to put out their best work on the first round that they simple don’t/can’t make any progress at all? It’s the first time I’ve considered that this might be why – though for the life of me I still can’t understand why it would stop the words from happening for longer than a day or so. You sit down, you write. You can make it better later on.

I think focusing on one issue at a time will work better for me, otherwise I might find myself ‘blocked’ too.

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12 thoughts on “Trying too hard”

  1. I am totally with you. Sometimes the inner editor is a complete pain in the arse.

    This is why I tend to write only first drafts for months on end, then have a huge edit-storm for a couple of weeks. Then I can put that cow back in her box and go back to writing.

    1. I can see me working in cycles like that myself – and perhaps the reason my editor is so darned obvious right now is because I’ve been doing so much rewriting/editing lately! I need to set it aside and get back to basics for now.

      Right now, in fact. While the baby sleeps!

  2. I think it’s important to let go of the inner editor during first drafts, and trust that your continued practice and diligence will reduce (not eliminate entirely) those elementary mistakes over time. I’ve certainly noticed that my first drafts now are better than my 2nd drafts three years ago, and my 2nd drafts are now better than my early 3rd drafts. Have faith in yourself!

    1. Thanks Ruzkin! I’ve definitely noticed an improvement as well – even from stories I wrote just six months ago. It’s always so nice when you can SEE that improvement.

      I’m doing my best to shut the inner editor up! She’s parroting on at me a little though – by the end of the week I should have shut her down ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. It is all about just writing; working out those habits by trial and error, in that if nothing gets written, no improvement will be made. And yes, I do think that’s why writers dry up, expecting too much out of the initial draft. One of the best parts of NANO is the just write attitude, and being weaned on that was probably the best means of learning to write.

    To just do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yeah it definitely helps to have that nano background! it’s been a long time since I did one myself, but it really helped me to just get on with the writing minus the obsessing!

  4. It is . . . the over-correcting and worrying too much about editing as you go. Fear of failure, in a nutshell! Iโ€™m suffering this same complex in writing my thesis, except while worrying about how productively Iโ€™m telling the story, Iโ€™m also freaking out about unwittingly inserting a gross historical inaccuracy. I have this whole book with great quotes about getting past this being-too-hard-on-ourselves thing; and when I get enough energy to get it off the shelf, Iโ€™ll send a few your way. Good luck!

    1. Good luck with your thesis writing too – I bet there is a lot of pressure to get it just right! And thank you for stopping by, would be great to hear some of those quotes when you do get the time ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Hmm, sounds like someone is having trouble remembering the NaNo style of writing. Say it with me: you can’t edit what hasn’t been written. Although it’s important to work towards getting a tight, cohesive first draft, it’s far more important to actually get the words down on the page. You can worry about showing versus telling, passive voice, and all that other crap later on.

    Just as an example, now that I’ve started the second draft of TEC, it amazes me how much better my writing is than what it was. I think the first chapter is a lot better, but it will still need work. There are already areas I recognize – places where I slipped into brief telling as opposed to showing and things like that. But I didn’t stop to correct them, cause I’ve already wasted enough time trying to get the “perfect” opening line down. Eventually I just had to start and realize I needed to leave that worry for later.

    1. I did say that it comes back to getting the words down and that you can only edit what you’ve written. Some days it just takes more of a reminder than others. My head is so in the rewriting/editing/polishing phase that getting back to hard and fast first drafts does take some time ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. This is just what I needed to hear. I did the same thing yesterday, and this morning, and felt all grimy with the words I’d deleted. Time to move forward!

    As I was reading your post, I got a good idea on where I need to go with the scene I have, and how to further the story. First drafts don’t have to be perfect, I just need to keep reminding myself of that.

    1. First drafts are very rarely perfect, though some are better than others. I’m glad the post helped, and that you’ve got a better idea of where to take the scene you were working on ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely a good time to move forward.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting ๐Ÿ™‚

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