Knowing When to Stop: How Much Editing is Too Much?

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The idea of writing the first draft of a book – when it’s still in your mind, when you haven’t done it yet – seems like such a large mountain to climb. So when you finally reach the top of that goal, you celebrate. Hard. If it’s your first book, that’s because you don’t realise it’s a false hill, that you aren’t at the top at all. If it’s not your first book, it’s because you know the really tough work is just starting and celebrating each and every achievement is one of the keys to not letting writing drive you insane.

Unless you’re a first draft genius (and nobody is a first draft genius), the amount of time it takes to rewrite and edit your book to publishable standard will be lengthy. For some it will be longer than it took to write the first draft. There’ll be a second draft and a third draft and a fourth draft and on and on it goes.

So how do we know when it’s time to stop editing? Continue reading

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How to Know If You’re a Bad Writer

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Earlier this year, I posted a discussion on what to do when you’re a bad writer with a good story. PopCultureGrinch read the piece and asked a follow up: how do you know when you’re a bad writer?

I responded wittily, “There’s a reasonably famous quote that says there’s no such thing as a bad writer, only bad writing but maybe that’s just to make us all feel better about ourselves.” It’s a little ironic because in that moment, I was a bad writer. There is no such quote, at least not a famous one. I guess it’s my quote now. The quote I was actually referring to is by Oscar Wilde, who said, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”

Which just goes to show that being a bad writer isn’t a static state. Someone who has previously been a bad writer can become a good writer. And someone who has previously been a good writer can lapse into moments (hopefully not too many) of being a bad writer. (I hope that it’s not something I suffer from all the time and is more closely related to my laziness in confirming that the quote existed anywhere outside of my mind rather than my general ability to write.) Continue reading

The Writer’s Commandments

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Remember when you were a kid? A large part of the learning process was accomplished by doing. And then being screamed at by an adult to never do it again. Like putting your hand under the running hot tap. Like running out onto a road to collect a ball without checking for oncoming cars. Like riding a mini motorbike into a barbed wire fence (okay, so maybe this one was only me).

It would have been so much easier if someone had told me before I did any or all of these things not to do them instead of waiting until after I’d done them and then shouting at me. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference. But we’ll never know because nobody thought to try the learning process in a different order.

Even for older children these days, a common refrain is, “But nobody told me not to do it.” So here’s a few commandments for writers out there. You probably shouldn’t have to be and don’t need to be told these things. But just in case, here they are so that you can never say, “But nobody told me not to do it.” Continue reading