Monday, June 28, 2010

Pre-Editing Problem

In going through my awesome stash of quotes the other day, I came across this one:

"People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently."

Anna Quindlen

I read that and thought "Oh yeah - that's my problem RIGHT THERE." Well, let's face it, I have many problems (ha!) but this is definitely one of them. I don't think I often have writer's block in the sense that I can't think of what to write. I have a definite overflow of ideas most of the time. But I think I have a hard time OVERTHINKING things. 
Instead of just sitting down and writing, I am constantly editing myself, before I've even put a single word on the page. I'll think of a line and instead of just getting it down, I think "Hmmm, that's not quite the right way to say that. What is the exact right way?"

And I end up with a whole lot of blank pages.

I'm putting the cart before the horse, I'm counting my chickens before they've hatched, I'm eating the cookie dough before it's cooked (oooo....cookie dough....)

I am editing BEFORE I write. And it is definitely something I need to quit doing. It's counterproductive. It's discouraging. And it is a ridiculously effective way of procrastinating LOL

Yeah, it's hard to turn off that internal editor. And yes, editing is a big part of writing. But I've gotta give myself something to write before I edit, instead of trying to get everything perfect on the paper the first time. Of course, knowing this and doing it are two totally different things :D But I can give it a good shot :)

How about you? Do you find yourself editing before you've even begun to write?


Vicki Rocho said...

You. Are. Not. Alone!

I go out of my way NOT to read anything I've written before because I KNOW it leads to editing. First it'll be a typo. "I'll just fix this" then it's word choice, "I don't like that, I'll just change that while I'm thinking about it" Next thing you know I've been sucked into full-blown edit mode and I never get to WRITE.


Jamie said...

Oh I'm right there with you, too! That is probably the single-most difficult thing I face in my writing...editing beforehand. It's so frustrating!

nomadshan said...

Yes, I'm currently guilty of this very thing. What helps me is to lower the screen of my laptop until I can't see anything but can still type, and to use only lower-case letters and periods for the first draft. At the end of a writing session, I go back and immediately fix any spelling errors and add punctuation. It's very freeing!

Matthew Rush said...

Interesting concept.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Oh, my god - YES. At least I used to do that a lot. But writer Lilith Saintcrow set me straight through one of her blog posts, where she doles out permission to SUCK on the first draft. This is part of what she wrote: "Don’t worry about whether the writing is any good. Right now that’s the least important f!cking thing on the planet. The MOST important thing is sitting down and getting the sh!t out, so that you can see where you are and correct your aim if you’re not where you want to be."

JEM said...

I haven't gotten that anal about my writing yet, thankfully, but I feel it coming round the bend. What happens more often than not is that I will think about a scene, and exactly how I want to describe it, before I even put fingers to a keyboard. Those scenes tend to come out better for me.

Stephanie McGee said...

Ha. This used to be me, in a sense. When I first set out to write a novel, I spent all sorts of time on world-building. Then I just jumped into the writing.

Eight years later, I finally finished because I forced myself not to edit until I had a completed manuscript in hand.

During those eight years, well, school took priority so I wasn't writing faithfully. But instead of writing new words, I'd edit and revise and revamp everything that had already been written.

With that project I had to sit there and start completely from scratch to get a finished draft. During that whole time I only allowed myself to do minor tweaks as I transcribed my handwritten manuscript to the computer. Change a word order, put that sentence there, take out that qualifier.

It helped the process go smoother. Now, with what turns out to be my third novel, only twice have I allowed myself any sort of edit before writing new words. There was this scene that I'd been writing and it wasn't going in the right direction. I cut about 350 words and moved forward with everything. A later scene needed some rearranging for more drama so I did that.

But for the most part, I've gained more confidence in my writing and am allowing myself to just be okay with what is being written in this first draft. I tell myself that it's okay to let it be less than perfect the first draft because editing will be easier when all the threads are there and can be stretched to where they need to be. It's harder to add threads after the tapestry is woven.

Sorry for the very long comment. Hope something I said makes sense.

Amanda J. said...

I used to do this, too! Whether I've actually managed to stop or it was just a one book thing, I'll find out sooner or later. I tend to just get caught up thinking about the things I want to change and having a hard time pushing forward because of it.

"I really don't like the way I said; there's got to be a better way. I could just go back. No. Keep going. Oh that's bad, really bad." *sigh* lol

And then Dory pops into my head and starts singing: "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming..." :)

Lydia Kang said...

I feel very much the same way. Anna's quote is perfect.

Sometimes, I'll just write something down, knowing it's crap, but just so later I can come back and know, "here's the point I'm trying to construe, now lets rework it and make it better."
But I hate that feeling of not being able to put something down that's quality!