Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Not Editing (At First)

The Elements of Style is an excellent resource, but don't use it at the wrong time.
Firstly, for those who are curious, my current NaNo word count as of Tuesday evening is 7,752.

Secondly, for those who were enjoying (or dreading) my parts of speech series, I will be putting them on a hiatus until November is over.  I apologize for the disappointment (or happily announce the reprieve) that will surely accompany this news.

I really amuse myself sometimes.

Anyway, as last week's post was all about the importance of knowing how to edit, the title of today's post might surprise you somewhat.  The topic might surprise you even more.

You shouldn't edit your work while you're writing it.

This is another of those lessons from NaNo that I'm experiencing firsthand. I always knew about this 'rule' of thumb, but now that I have to crank out so many words, it has completely hit home.

However, even before I really got started on NaNo, I was reminded of this fact by the lovely Sarah McCabe, author of the blog Falling into Mythopoesis. (Her blog is a wonderful resource for writers of fantasy.) She left a very thought-provoking comment on my post. She wrote:
Agreed. All writers should have editing skills. Though usually they shouldn't be employed at the same time as our creative skills. ;)
This reminded me of the important rule (if you can even call it a 'rule') of "You shouldn't edit your work while you're writing it." 

This is because, while it's fine to pay a little attention to your sentence structure and the like, and make sure that you're not making gross syntax errors, trying to edit your work while your write makes writing painfully slow and discouraging. You are better served by 'turning off' your internal editor and simply letting the words flow out of you.

Even if you happen to make those gross syntax errors.  I have been known to type so furiously (even in the past) that when I go back later, not only have I misspelled words (and I pride myself on my spelling skills) but sometimes the sentences make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

This is fine.  This is great, even.  It allows you to edit a little more creatively when you do go back to edit (don't edit while you're doing it, remember?). I do try to keep things at least a little orderly so that when I do go back, editing isn't so challenging, but it definitely slows my writing down.

I don't have time for that during NaNo. Actually, it was really funny yesterday.  As I was pounding out sentences like a maniac, I was sort of aware of the fact that every single two-independent-clause sentence was separated by a semicolon.

Every. Single. One.

No sentence structure variation is a pretty poor style choice.

Guess what?  Who flipping cares at this point?  I'm getting the story written. I am not going to waste my precious time going back to fix it.  After NaNo, I will edit this and make sure it is stylistically gorgeous. I'll probably even find dozens of misspelled words--perhaps a few homonym errors and the like--but who cares?

I think I'm going to do all of my creative writing like this at first from now on.  It'll easily double my output, and I can go back to edit it.

Grammatical and stylistic skills are crucial to have, but they don't mesh well with the creative spirit.  Learn all you can about grammar and style, but forget some of it when you're writing at first. Turn off that internal editor, that internal critic, and just write. 

Write on!

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