Writing Tip of the Day: Hammer those words out!

The other day I wrote 2000 words of my ms. It was the first time I’d worked on my novel in about six months. I always had excuses. Exchange, work, family life, uni, etc. Really it was procrastination.

I’m one of those people who has always been a bit of a perfectionist. I have to write in a linear fashion and agonise on getting every passage right. Savvy internet novelist’s such as Kate Elliot, Isobelle Carmody and Jim Hines kept repeating how much a first draft was always crap. Always. No matter how talented one was or how published. How much you should just go, go, go without any consideration of the nicities.

I guess I never really believed them until author Judith Tarr started mentoring my own ms and I realised how much I was writing less of a complete novel on my first attempt and more of an extremely detailed chapter summary. It killed me to hear from Judith that this was the truth. “Oh my God, you mean even when I get to 80 000 plus words I’m not done yet,” I asked in my novel writing naivity.

The truth is, even when I write that first guaranteed to be terrible draft, I will have to fix things, I will have to fill in the gaps, show and not tell. I will have to write four or more drafts. At least. And that’s before I even get to editing.

So here’s a tip you’ll hear from many authors and I now realise is absolutely necessary to finishing something. Write the entire damn thing out. Don’t stop for anything. Just get it down on paper/in your computer.

Trust me on this one. I’ve learnt this the hard way.


About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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13 Responses to Writing Tip of the Day: Hammer those words out!

  1. jaymountney says:

    Hi! Got here… I am finding site navigation clunky to say the least and have not made any posts yet myself. However, it looks good, and I shall hopefully follow in your footsteps!

    I have always ‘just written’ – haven’t been able to help myself! – and then I have to do all the draft after draft stuff. But somehow, editing is easier when I have a basic 70K words upwards already there. If I tweaked as i went along I might never get anywhere. Of course, I pick up glaring typos etc. as I write but that’s about all. I’ll be posting about this topic – my version – soon.

    I think your tip is good – and Judith has clearly given you excellent advice.

    (I have subscribed to your blog – the first one I’ve subscribed to!)

    • InkAshlings says:

      Hi Jay! Good luck with your new blog!

      I think when you can’t help but write and write and write, that’s when you know writing stories isn’t just a fad, but a way of life that you should stick with. When I was younger, people thought it was a faze. Now, they accept writing is a part of me.

      I have two unfinished ms’s because of the compulsive need to edit things before I have a completed first draft. It’s a fault. My new year’s resolution for this year is to finish one… or at least get a substantial way to doing so (I have to complete an enormous study project this year so it may be an overly ambitious goal but I will try my best.)

      I am so grateful to Judith. She has made me realise that I have so far to go and that is so not a bad thing!

      • jaymountney says:

        You have plenty of time – your ms doesn’t have to be finished this year and if your academic work has to take temporary precedence so be it. Meanwhile, you will feel a lot of satisfaction when you do have a finished ms. – and then the redrafting starts. *g*

        You have inspired me – I posted my first introductiory post this morning! Come and see! I haven’t actually got as far as telling anyone else yet…

      • InkAshlings says:

        I know what you say is true but I would like to at least make some headway with my ms. One is 55 000 words so there is not much left to write, and another is 30 000. I’d like to get a couple more 1000 words drafted this year, even if I am prioritirising my enormous project.

        I actually like the idea of redrafting. I mean, at least the whole general plot is down by then.

        I came, I saw, I commented.

      • jaymountney says:

        Now all we have to do is find other WordPress people…

  2. coloursneverseen says:

    (the_silverdoe from LJ here. I had almost forgotten I had a WordPress account…)

    I’m going through the same thing with my ms. I get desperate when my writing is bad, and start editing, and then the chapters are never finished. I know I should go for the rough first draft and then edit, but between knowing it and managing to do it, there’s a whole world and even more.
    This year I’ve set myself the goal of 3,000 to 4,000 words a week, or a chapter every week and a half, more or less. I’d like to get the first draft for, say, three quarters of the book by the end of the year. It is true that editing when you have ‘something’ is far easier and more rewarding than polishing as you go along and getting nowhere. I also found that the experience of beta-ing fanfiction and being beta-ed on my own works helps when it comes to put myself in that state of mind.

    Anyway, congratulations on working on your ms again, and best of luck for your writing projects this year! Which ms is it, if I may ask? You told me once you were working on three different projects…

    Great couple of first blog posts, by the way. Now you’ve made me want to update my own blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Carol says:

    Hi! [Its Cianthecat from LJ]

    I always love the stuff you write. I wish mine could be as good! I go through stop and start phases, too. But I have the opposite problem where I just try get my stuff down, with the view to come back and edit it, but I don’t think what I write is any good. I think my plot and characters etc are okay, but I don’t have the style I would like to have. Sigh.

    I haven’t been to wordpress before this….

    • InkAshlings says:

      Carol, I believe that your work is amazing! I really do! You wouldn’t have stuck it out this long if you weren’t. Maybe it would help to find a beta reader for the editing stage to help you see that your story is worthwhile but just needs some extra work.

      Maybe you just need to keep rewriting the same story out in different styles and voices till you find the one you love and the one that works best for you.

      Everyone thinks their stuff is no good. But as Philip Pullman said, the public don’t know what they want till you give it to them. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

  4. Carol says:

    Thanks so much! It really makes me feel better hearing that from someone (especially someone who I think is a great writer!).

    I think what I would like to improve with, is to be more descriptive and prose-like. But will probably just concentrate in trying to spit the words out first! Then deal with it during the editing stages.

    • InkAshlings says:

      Carol you have so much faith in me! I don’t think I’ve ever inflicted my ms’s upon you.

      Finding a voice is such a hard thing to do and it is something I am still struggling with. I might make a post about it in the future and we can go into the issues in depth then. I think dealing with it in rewrites is a great idea however!

      ps: If you ever wanted me to take a look at your draft, I wouldn’t mind ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Carol says:

    I would love you to have a look! It won’t be for a very long time, but it would be great to have someone who understands fantasy (and loves fantasy and writing) to have a look.

    You know, this makes me feel great. Its like being one step further along in the process, having someone I can share my stuff with, and have discussions about writing with.

    The Perth Writers festival is next month, and for once I (think) am here for it. I’m going to try and make the best of it.

    • InkAshlings says:

      Don’t worry. No one will be seeing my ms’s for ages either! I think it’s important to have writing discussions and just knowing you’re not alone in what you’re trying to do. A novel, and imo, especially a fantasy novel is difficult.

      Writer’s Festival’s are usually great experiences. I’ve only made it to the Sydney Writer’s Festival once though myself in 2009.

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