Posted by Jean Matthew Hall
On Cecil Murphey’s blog post for March 26, 2010, he said, “Write the first draft and allow no distractions. Afterward you can make improvements.”
I find that extremely difficult to do. To let the story pour out of my fingertips without stopping to correct grammar, punctuation and mechanics is a challenge for me. Virtually every piece of advice I read from every published author agrees with Cecil.
Just sit there and type the story. Let all the words come out as they will. Ignore everything except the story itself until you’ve drained your imagination’s artesian well completely dry. That’s what they say.
Will I ever learn how to do that? Will I ever have the discipline needed to ignore misplaced commas and apostrophes? Will I ever have the gutsy determination to let adjectives and adverbs fly loosely around the page and land where they will until I get to the finale? Will I ever be able to throw those plot points down on paper and forget about the logical order they should follow?
Once again I find that the craft of writing for publication goes totally against my natural tendencies. I hate to admit this–but I’m dangerously close to being a perfectionist! I find solace in calling myself a semi-perfectionist. (As if there were such an animal!) But we all know the naked truth:
If it walks like a perfectionist and talks like a perfectionist–more than likely it IS a perfectionist.
So, tell me, writing friends who are not plagued with this dreaded tendency, what kind of writing exercises can help a self-confessed perfectionist like me? How am I going to retrain my brain to forge past those inevitable mistakes as I vomit (as Cecil says) the story out onto my computer screen?
Seriously. I could use some advice here. Leave a comment. Share some words of wisdom with me, please.
Maybe I need some silly writing prompts and a stop watch to force me to write 1000 words or so without correcting a thing. Ack! The thought makes my skin crawl.
But, then, the prompt itself can’t force me to type non-stop until the story ends.
No, I’m back to that discipline thing.
Maybe an accountability partner would do the trick.
“Hi, Jean, this is Madame X, your friendly accountability partner. How many words did you type today without stopping once to correct some minor grammatical error?”
“Come now, you can do better than that! I’ll be ringing your cell phone again tomorrow and that number had better jump to something in the three or four digit category!”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll try.”
“You’d better do more than try, Missy. I expect you to type at least 2700 words tomorrow without coming up for air!”
Would such an arrangement actually motivate me to dump the first draft onto paper? Or would it tempt me instead to lie–I mean, fib?
I think we’re back to that discipline thing again.
Discipline. Make my bottom rest on the chair. Easy.
Make my fingers click the keys non-stop. Almost easy.
Make my mind keep on keeping on with the story and the characters and the setting and the plot with no thought of syntax or spelling. Agony.
So, I keep starting each writing day with the best of intentions. I intend to get 2000 words slammed into a computer file. I remind myself that I can do this. Really, I can. I can make myself slide right past participles and gerunds. I can ignore two spaces after a period. I know I can. I KNOW I CAN!
Oooh! Chills just ran up and down my spine.[exhale slowly]
Maybe I should be dreaming of becoming a copy editor instead of an author. I could be like Lucille Ball in a chocolate factory and satisfy my lust for literary errors with guiltless abandon.
Or, like Lucy, get sick, actually vomit vomit instead of words, and never want to lay eyes on an adverb again.
No. God called me to be a writer and a writer I shall be. Even if it means giving that discipline thing one more “one-more-try”.
But I could still use a few good tips in your comments here.
BTW if you ARE loooking for some terrific writing exercises and prompts try these two books: Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That grips Readers From Start to Finish by James Scott Bell, and Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin.