If you’re hoping to up your word count, write a first draft faster, and improve your writing prowess, it behooves you to learn to write badly.
I want to stress that writing badly does not mean you are a bad writer.
Obviously, we want to write our stories the best way we can. We want our words to sing and our prose to shine. But first drafts are hardly ever shiny, they are clunky, awkward, and riddled with more holes than a piece of swiss.
What is writing badly?
Writing badly is writing without the nagging voice of your inner critic. It isn’t necessarily pretty or poetic, but it gets words on the page.
Think of writing a book like a piece of art
A brilliant painting often starts as a pencil sketch. A marble sculpture starts as a blocky representation of the final form.
Your story is a piece of art. It requires tenacity and care, but it won’t be a masterpiece as a first draft. This preliminary “sketch” is required to shape something remarkable.
Tune out your inner editor
Yet, it’s easy to pick up a finished work by your favorite author and want to write as finely as they do. But remember that every book goes through multiple revisions before it hits publication. Many writers bank on the fact that their first draft will be a big steaming mess.
If you strive for perfection in a first draft, you’ll constantly battle with yourself. When that happens, it’s a lose/lose. Put down the gloves and save the editing for your revision drafts.
Forget all you know about writing craft!
Yup, I said it!
I’m someone who has a stack of beloved craft books, who avidly listens to writing craft pod casts, who started this blog because of a love for writing craft. However, I fully recognize that approaching a first draft with a mountain of writing rules and best practices can be paralyzing.
I’d have a whole extra novel if I kept all the words that I wrote and then hit backspace on.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to study writing craft, but throw out the rule book when writing your first draft. Allow for clunky prose and revel in its mediocrity.
Strike a writing rhythm
Writing badly means accepting that you might not have the best word choice at that moment. You might start every sentence with a pronoun. You might be using passive voice. And all of that is okay!
Your story is living tucked away in your subconscious. Writing badly can help weaken the barrier between your mind and the page and allow for those thoughts to take off on a rhythm.
If you stop distracting your writing flow with mechanics of “good writing” the words will more likely pour out. It might surprise you that what you thought was aimless and pitiful might not be half bad.
Wait to fill in the blanks
Let me set the scene for you…
You’re seated with your manuscript. You’re plucking away hoping that the scene you have in your head starts to take form on the page. You reach a point where you…
A) forgot a piece of your world building
B) hit a point where you need do additional research.
C) have a description, a line of dialogue, or something else that you just can’t think of at the moment.
Before you click out of your document or stare at the screen for half an hour, put a pin on it! Leave yourself a little note [WRITE IT IN ALL CAPS AND INSIDE BRACKETS SO THAT IT STANDS OUT]. Try not to interrupt your writing flow. You can always go back in and add those details later.
Don’t re-read what you’ve written
I struggle with this so much that I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. There are pros and cons to rereading what you write prior to starting a writing session.
What you (might) gain:
- A fresh reminder of key plot points and character thoughts and motivations
- A chance to edit as you move through your manuscript
What you lose:
- Time! Going back and rereading is a time suck.
- If you wait to edit at the end, you will have a better understanding of the big picture and can tackle the novel on a collective lens
- Your time to write during a writing session is valuable (especially if you only have a small chunk that you’re lucky to have set aside).
- You want to make the most of that writing time, and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of rereading as your writing time dwindles like sands in an hour glass.
Remember: you are a talented writer!
Self-doubt creeps in when writing a first draft, even if you fully accept the art of writing badly.
Give yourself a little pep-talk when going into a writing session or read the one I have provided below to yourself:
I am a writer. And a dang good one, too! My ideas are exciting and inventive. My imagination knows no bounds. With every word I put on the page, I get better. Writing is a process of re-writing. It is a challenge. But fortunately, I accept the challenge. Bring it on!
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