Do you spend hours tinkering with a single paragraph to get it just right? I used to do that too. When you’re not sure what to write next, do you go back and polish what you’ve already written? Same here. When I was writing my first novel, Perfect on Paper, I spent a lot of time tweaking every little thing. In fact, some days I wouldn’t write anything new because I’d spend all my time (and mental energy!) improving what was already there.
For a long while I thought this “always editing” approach was a productive use of my creative spirit. I finally realized it was the opposite of productive, that in fact, it was a crutch that I was using to avoid doing the hardest part of writing a novel, which is pushing the story forward.
In my opinion, coming up with an idea that is interesting enough for an entire book is the hardest part of being an author. (And on a more granular level, deciding what will happen chapter by chapter.) Once I determine what a scene is going to be, writing it is easy. I now realize that I can––and will––go back and tweak later, after I’ve finished the first draft.
Because of all the editing I did along the way, it took me 18 months to finish the first draft of Perfect on Paper, and I still ended up doing a ton of editing after the fact.
Since then I’ve written seven more novels––and none of the first drafts took me more than four months to write. It’s always tempting to go back and edit, especially when I’m having trouble thinking of what to write next, but I force myself to stay focused and press the story forward. Write now, edit later. The sooner you learn to do that, the sooner you’ll have a completed first draft!
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2017 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.