switching gears

My writer’s group critiqued my work for the first time last night.

I spent most of last week preparing the short (~1000 word) chapter I was submitting for review: writing, editing, rewriting, running through Autocrit, and editing until it was as perfect as I could make it. This is pretty standard procedure for me (every post you see on this blog has gone through a dozen iterations, including this one).

I have always worked this way because most of my shared writing has been episodic role-playing and fan fiction: once a chapter is out in the world I can’t take it back or edit it, so I aim for a finished product every time.

By the submission deadline I still wasn’t pleased with what I had. I wasn’t getting across the mood and clarity I wanted and feared my chapter would be seen as lazy writing, or just plain crap.

It turned out that nobody expected a completed work. Everyone could tell it was a first draft and liked it very much for what it was, offering some excellent tips how to fix some of my clunkier phrasing and ideas for giving it the emotional punch it lacks (more show, less tell – but that’s another post).

They also advised me against “over-polishing” because it hinders progress on longer (novel-length) works. Plot developments in later chapters mean I might have to rewrite those “finished” pieces or simply cut them, translating to hours of work down the drain. Besides, sometimes it’s good to get the blueprint on the page and then let it sit for a fresh look later.

It’s going to take a hell of an effort for me to write something and leave it in draft form – it goes against all my prior work habits and grates on my misguided perfectionism besides! But in the name of efficiency I’ll write my next chapter give it a once over, and then…stop.

It’ll be easy to stop typing. Stopping my mental editor when I should be working on the next thing will be the real trick.

On the upside, they liked my ideas and general plot. It’s heartening to know that I’m not the only person in the world who thinks a mixture of espionage, magic, alchemy, and madness would be a good read!

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3 thoughts on “switching gears

  1. robakers says:

    I write like this as well. I can blow through a few thousand words in a blur but then I feel the need to start editing. For me, I have found that the scene continues to play in my head over and over. I think this is because my subconscious knows the passage needs more work. Only when I have it right can I move forward.

    I don’t know if the revised passage still counts as a first draft but that is what I tell people. Just today, I had a scene that I originally wrote over three years ago that has been playing over and over in my mind. Even though I am 10,000 words past this passage, I went back and worked it over again until I added the extra few lines and got the scene better crafted.

    Hope this helps quantify your experiences. Thank you for the post.

  2. A. Thurman says:

    Thanks for commenting!

    You echo my thought processes 🙂 It’s that feeling of leaving something incomplete or “wrong” that I need to let go of! There’s the additional factor that I just find the story itself so interesting that I want to dwell and not move on. Neither impulse is productive, but at least when it does come time to edit I’ll dive right in!

  3. […] promote without a completed book; there’s not even anything to edit without a first draft (my tendency to tail-chase notwithstanding). And I do tend to wallow in the research because it’s comfortingly familiar […]

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