Today, you folks are in for a treat. I’m going to share something with you that is a huge secret in the writing community. This is an insider look, if you will, and I could get in a lot of trouble for saying it.
First drafts can’t be perfect.
Repeat it ten or twenty times. Let it become your mantra that helps keep you sane as you read this post.
It is the absolute truth. First drafts can’t be perfect. It’s why every author needs a first draft, needs to re-write, and needs an editor (before you bring it up, Anne Rice doesn’t count).
If you could write perfectly the first time, you would have to be a computer program. Oh, wait. Those programs have to be coded, bug tested, and corrected. So no, you wouldn’t. You’d be an anomaly – a freak of nature.
There exists nothing in the scientific world that can be created perfectly the first time. Why should your writing be any different?
Writing PDQ – What Does it Mean?
PDQ is “nice talk” for Pretty Damn Quick. It can also mean the same as ASAP (As Soon as Possible). To me, it is the art of acknowledging something is impossible to do fast, but doing it anyway because you have no other choice.
As a Working Writer (usually one with a life), you may only have minutes each day that you can spend on actually writing. Have you ever found yourself drafting character sketches on restaurant napkins while out with clients, jotting plot notes on important reports, or feeling guilty – again – about using company-purchased sticky notes to leave yourself notes for that awesome idea you got while on that conference call?
If you answered yes, think about that feeling – that rush – of knowing you are being creative even when you don’t have time. That’s what writing PDQ is all about. If you answered no, you should really give it a shot. The ideas you get while doing the mundane can be really something special.
So How Does One Write PDQ?
Writing PDQ is all about the pre-planning. No, pantsers, I’m not talking about actually plotting your story. I’m talking about prepping your subconscious to be efficient.
Start your day by asking your subconscious to either solve an issue with your plot, character, or conflict, or just generally where the story is going. Do this as you are making breakfast, brushing your teeth, or getting the kids out the door. Ask out loud, keep it running in your head, or write it down. Phrase the question in a way that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no, and in a way that lends to creative right-brained thinking instead of organized left-brained thinking.
- Who is my main character and why should anyone care about them?
- How can I make the sexual tension between Bob and Renee more compelling?
- Yesterday I wrote about Karen being in the hospital – where does the story go from there?
Your questions should be engaging. You should want to answer these questions, and not just for the sake of your story.
During the day, as you get ideas, write them down. Follow what I said before, and jot notes on napkins, reports, and sticky notes. They don’t need to be full-born ideas, but you should be able to recognize when you’ve got a fish and when you’ve got a shoe. Roll the idea around on your mental tongue before you spit it out. Is it everything you could want? Can it be expanded on? Don’t feel bad for tossing an idea back into your subconscious if you aren’t 100% happy with it.
The Actual Writing
When you finally get to your time for the day – even if it’s only fifteen minutes – you’ve already spent a chunk of time thinking and planning. You did it while you answered the phone, went to meetings, and worked on reports. You did it while answering email and joking with coworkers. You’ve been preparing to write all day.
Now you just need to spit it out.
When you get to your writing time of the day, use the thoughts, plans, and notes your subconscious gave you and just write.
Write as quickly as you can, within the time frame you can. Get those words into complete sentences. Make those sentences into paragraphs. Those paragraphs should be filling pages.
When you are done with your writing time of the day, don’t re-read what you wrote. Don’t edit, don’t delete, don’t censor. Just accept that it will be dealt with later (as my husband says, “a problem for future me”) and go back to your life. You can (and will!) fix those errors later, so you shouldn’t worry about them now.
First drafts can’t be perfect, and so you shouldn’t hold yours up to perfection it can never reach. Learn from the writers of National Novel Writing Month (by the way – Camp NaNoWriMo starts in June!) and just write.
Not writing makes us not writers. Don’t get caught up in the perfect.
On Thursday, I am going to address how a Working Writer can learn to acknowledge Burn Out and the things you can do to mitigate it.
Until then, have you tried my technique for writing PDQ? If so, what have your results been?