Formula One Writing
By Peggy Bechko
February, 2005, 11:45
Yep, thatís what I said. Donít stop, donít hesitate; donít second guess yourself.
Fast writing is the best advice I can give any writer whether starting out, or caught in the writing bind. You know, the blood-will-dot-my-forehead-before-I-get-words-down-on-paper bind.
Thereís no guarantee it will work for every writer, but it works for writers like Stephen King and John Grisham. It works for me and probably it will work for you. Give it a try. Whip out that first draft. Sit down to write with an idea in your head and just let loose.
Focus on your idea. Then write. Write fast. Allow your thoughts to carry you forward. Momentum is a marvelous thing. Donít rethink every thought. Donít worry about grammar and punctuation. Yes, youíll have to worry about it later. No, itís not the editorís job to do all that. But for the moment itís not your primary concern. You want the meat of the matter on the page before you start. Everything else comes later. And here comes the clichť of the week: you have to begin something to finish it!
Create a deadline. If what youíre writing is an article of 500 words I suggest 45 minutes (not including research time if research was necessary). If youíve done research you already have a type of momentum going. If youíre embarking on a full length novel your time-table might be more like three months. Be aggressive and fill the blank screen or pages with what you are passionately writing about.
The result will be your rough draft. Your work at that point has a beginning, a middle, and an end. All the requirements for a finished work. Donít kid yourself though, now comes the hard part. The real work is about to begin: (eerie music rising in the background) rewrite.
But that isnít so scary either, so quell scary music above.
Since youíre reading this column I presume youíre literate at least in the basic sense and I suspect much more than that. Okay, so hereís the drill. Hopefully youíve had straightforward English and Literature classes in school. If you were lucky you had a really cool teacher who didnít have you dissecting (or was that diagramming?) sentences all over the place and actually helped you to learn the language and to appreciate good writing.
If not, you probably got at least the rudiments, and no doubt can diagram a sentence, but didnít have a heck of a lot of fun along the way. Nonetheless, presuming youíve mastered the rudiments, and assuming youíre comfortable with the language, you have a feel for how things work.
Part of that feel will, over time, become your style. Should your grammar be good? Yes. Should you make extensive use of your spell check? Yes. Should you double-check your writing for things the spell check will miss such as using "for" in place of "four", "to" instead of "too?" Yes.
That said, now is the time to realize that as you develop your own writing style, there will be times when you bend the rules. Heck, sometimes youíll stomp them to death. The key is to take joy in each step of the writing process, each draft you produce. Thatís where good writing really comes from: passion -- passion for your work and passion for the subject youíre writing about.
So, when you first put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard, free yourself from fear and perfectionism. Write fast. Write from the heart. Or, if you canít get quite that passionate yet, write from the mind, be robotic; crank it out. Knock a couple of pages out in a few minutes. Then take a breather and see what you think.
Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworks' fantasies (Ebook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating with a producer on a animated series. http://www.peggybechko.50megs.com/
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