Last month marked my first time taking part in Camp NaNoWrimo. I set a goal to write 35,000 words in my current work-in-progress, but failed pretty miserably – coming in at about 10,000 words total written through the month. Part of it could be blamed on the fact that it’s summer, and there are responsibilities and vacations etc, but even when I did sit down to write, I tended to write considerably less than I had planned to in those sessions.
Now, a few weeks into August, I’m back at it again – trying to push my way through this first draft. I’ve taken research trips, I’ve written out the basics of where the story goes – pretty much the entire rest of the book is noted down and figured out – but when it comes to actually writing the thing, I’m still finding myself failing miserably.
The other day, while I was at the coffee shop, I think I figured out the problem. While I was there, I noticed that I kept stopping mid-sentence to try to find the perfect word. Or I’d find myself going back and rewriting parts that didn’t sound quite right. Or even moving paragraphs around. Once I realized what I was doing, I figured out the problem: I was editing while I was writing, and I was trying to write a final draft the first time through. All my searching for the perfect words, forcing myself to watch voice, not repeat phrases, or to sound cliche was getting in the way of what really needs to be done with a first draft: just tell the damn story.
So, I decided to not worry about if my descriptions were overly long or short, or if I used the same clever word three times in a paragraph. Those finer points of literature can be dealt with later. What’s most important now is to get the story out, on paper, in a somewhat coherent way. I already know I have parts written quite a bit earlier than need major editing, and I have an entire side-story that needs WAY more fleshing out for it to have the emotional impact as part of the greater work that it is supposed to have. But those things can wait.
What I have now is about 50,000 words written – and I’m closing in on 2/3rds of the story told (it might even just be halfway). I’ve been writing this particular book for going on eight years now and it’s time I finish telling the story. Getting it to a point where the story has been told is key, and making it into a good book is another part altogether, better served at another time.
So when people tell you that as a writer you should just write remember they don’t mean it to simply say you’ll be a better writer the more you write (although that is definitely true), but I think they also mean that as a writer, telling the story is the absolute most-important part.
And that’s what I’m going to do. The perfectionist in me hates it, but I’m going to stop worrying about writing the perfect words, and instead just write. Editing and rewrites are going to be hell anyway. Adding a little more disarray to the mess to be dealt with later really won’t be that big of a deal – and in the meantime, I’ll finish my fourth book.