The art of writing crap in a first draft.

After being an indie author for three years, I learned a lot while working with Alloy Entertainment on the City of Legends trilogy. In the last nine months of working with my editor, I’ve probably learned more about writing, editing, and telling a story than I learned in the last five years I’ve been writing.

One wonderful lesson I’ve taken away from this experience is the art, or skill, of allowing yourself to write crap. Some things matter when writing a first draft:

  • the characters
  • the story
  • the plot
And even those are negotiable. 

You know what doesn’t matter? How many times your character smiles. Or shrugs. Or compares a turkey sandwich to a candlestick. So what if the metaphors are lame? If you’ve used the phrase “She flashes me a smile” too many times? When it comes down to it, polishing a book is a lot easier than writing a so-called “perfect” first draft.

You don’t even know which scenes will remain in a book once the editing begins, so why bother stressing over writing the perfect character action the first time? YOU CAN FIX IT LATER.

That’s the beauty of editing! And I LOVE editing. I would way rather edit books than write them. Editing is when you get to dive into the story that’s been in your head for so many months and pull out the parts that matter the most, transforming and shaping them into something that makes the story the best it can be. Editing is where the magic happens. Writing a first draft is just the part of the job that puts the ideas in your head into real, tangible words. (Well, as tangible as computer files can get.)

In fact, when it comes to being an author, my favorite parts of the job are, in order:

  1. Starting at my pretty book cover
  2. Scribbling new ideas into a notebook when inspiration strikes
  3. Jumping up and down because a book is finished
  4. Daydreaming about my characters
  5. Talking about my book to my friends, even when their eyes glaze over
  6. Drinking lots of coffee and calling it “brainstorming”
  7. Editing
  8. Writing
One thing to take from this: Breathe! Allow yourself to write crap. If the book is worth publishing, then it won’t matter how much it sucks in the first draft. You’ll get it all polished up later. As a new writer, I always wanted to make each sentence as great as possible, and now that I’ve been at this a while, I realize that I work better once there’s a draft to fix. I’m a fixer, not a magician. Books don’t flow out of your fingertips perfectly the first time. And that’s okay!
Now go write!

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