What writing strategy do you follow? I keep reading and hearing about not editing as you go along, about rushing through your first draft and finishing it, absolutely finishing it, before you move on to the editing stage.
It isn’t in my DNA
It isn’t working for me. I don’t know whether I am not trying hard enough, or whether I just don’t have that kind of DNA: the don’t-edit-as-you-go-along kind.
Here’s why. After I have written a certain amount of words—usually in the hundreds—I lose intensity. I do have the larger picture in mind, meaning I know what I want to write and how I want to set about it, but that very fact makes me pause every now and then and go back over what I have written to make sure I have not gone off track. It’s a kind of compulsive need, and it forms the root of my writing strategy.
And when I do go back, I catch things that I could improve: typos, obviously, and all the normal little errors that plague writers: punctuation, spelling, repetitive favorite words…
What works for me
I do correct whatever errors I catch as I scan my words, but they are not my priority. I am quite happy to go back to work on them later, after I have done writing. What I do focus on are words, phrases, sentences and even paragraphs that I can delete, add to and amend, reducing verbosity and boosting dynamism. Polishing the article so it is more in tune with what I am actually trying to say.
As I scan, a new idea that will improve the flow of my narrative may strike me. I lose no time in putting it into words and ensuring it jells with the rest of the narrative. At another point, I may see a way to improve the manner in which I have presented an idea; I don’t hesitate in getting to work on that improvement. Elsewhere, I come upon a better way I can describe a character or a setting. I put that thought out of my mind by putting it down on paper. On another page, I notice that reversing the order of two paragraphs improves the continuity of flow. I reverse them.
I have no doubt one of my most creative times is when I am going over something I have just written. I also have no doubt that if I don’t write while the ink is flowing, from my fingers and in my mind, I may lose flow later.
I could, of course, note down everything that comes to mind as I scan on paper for working on later, but that would be rather stupid, wouldn’t it? I might as well take the time I use in making notes to actually make the changes I am making notes about. Am I making sense?
When I make mental notes, so that they won’t disturb my flow of writing, I lose big. After I am done writing, I try to remember the various notes I have filed away mentally, only to find that many of the files have corrupted, have been filed under some name I am never going to recollect, or have mysteriously been erased.
All said and done, I will continue to do what works best for me. I will continue to make efforts to see if I can switch over to a don’t-edit-while-you-write mode; a lot of “experts” say to do otherwise is actually a sign of procrastination, and obviously I don’t want to be guilty of that. At the least, I will make conscious efforts to change in one thing: keep my focus and write more before I go back. Instead of a few hundred works, maybe a thousand… maybe more.
Having said all that, I have this to add: I am not prescribing any one writing strategy for anyone. You find your own way. Experiment all you like, but settle as soon as possible on what maximizes your output. It is the best way for you. Listen to all the experts, learn from them, adapt what they preach when it is in synch with you, but never forget: you may be a freak, an exception with your own unique approach. Don’t fight it—it may be the biggest injustice you do yourself.
As far as I can see, the best way to set about writing is this: for the physical act of writing, you need to stick to a regimen. Every day, I will put in so many hours of writing (I am not in favor of word count tracking—it can become an obsession that nags, exerts undue pressure and detracts from free flow of writing). In your mental approach to writing, you need to be flexible. No outline is immutable, no plot line is sacrosanct, no event is unalterable, no character is cast in stone. Until you publish.
What is your style? If you ever followed a writing strategy that cramped you and changed something to set that right, you may want to tell us about it. That is what the comment section is for.