Monday, March 8, 2010

Freaking Myself Out


So y’all know my philosophy toward writing a first draft—get the thing thrown on paper. Don’t stop to edit. Don’t stop to research. Don’t stop to think up last names for these characters, just mark them *** to make later. Just get the first draft done.

So five or six weeks into the process, I have a first draft.

And boy, does it need revising!

I’m now revising my first draft of the Memphis Barbeque series book two. And I’m reading along, thinking that actually, it’s pretty clean. Wow. Maybe, considering this is my 5th book, I’ve gotten this process more down-pat.

Then I read a scene from my WIP and I’m like, “Wait. Didn’t I have this scene ten pages back?”

And I did. Same scene, different words, same concept. Ten pages back.


How could this happen? I’m guessing that when I picked up my writing one day (picking up from where I thought I’d left off), I thought I’d brainstormed the concept for the scene instead of actually writing it. But no, I’d already written it.

Just one of the hundred things you catch during the second draft.

I immediately turned on myself. I had been happy with this manuscript and suddenly I was feeling 180 degrees opposite.

Ways to Get Back on Track (and Forget the Screw-ups):

Treat our own writing with some emotional distance. This is hard, but I’ve made it work before. Pretend that what you’re reading is something you’re reviewing for a critique group. Don’t take the errors personally—just fix them.

Reading published books in our genre with a critical eye, highlighter, and red pen. Treat it like English class, keep an emotional distance from it.

Know when enough’s enough. Have you picked your manuscript to death? You’ll know it’s been picked to death if you read through a few passages you’ve just edited and the whole soul of the story is missing. The spark has been edited out. Maybe at this point it’s time to give the manuscript to someone else to look over for you.

Remind yourself that you’re your own worst critic. So many of us are hardest on ourselves than any editor or agent could ever be.

Remember we’re all in this boat together. Are there authors who don’t have a rigorous editing process? If there are any, I don’t know them! We all look at the first draft with some anxiety or disgust. The first draft is what it is…it’s the bones of the story. The most important thing is getting it down on paper.

I do my best revision writing when I’m not picking on myself for whatever mistake I’ve made. By keeping positive and keeping some distance from the manuscript, I’ll make the editing process go a lot smoother.

How do you keep your mistakes in perspective?