Joe Abercrombie on drafting

Brian G Turner

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A couple of Tweets from Joe Abercrombie I thought were worth highlighting here:

Joe Abercrombie on Twitter

Sometimes, when drafting, you feel great about what you're doing. Sometimes, you just have to say, 'this is sh*t, but it's good enough,' and move on. Moving on is, in my experience, the key.

Joe Abercrombie on Twitter

Don't wait for the muse to arrive before you start writing. Maybe she's waiting for you to get a first draft done, so she can help you edit the *******.
 
I won't move on if I think something is sh*t and prefer to rewrite/edit until I decide it's good enough to progress. It slows down the writing, but I'm always glad when it comes to the final edit.

I agree with the muse comment. I only write once a week, so no use wasting time.
 
If I don't like how something turned out, I'll rewrite it immediately. Often, though, I won't be able to decide on an acceptable edit, so I'll mark it and come back later.
 
If I don't like how something turned out, I'll rewrite it immediately.

I've struggled to get out of that habit, since it was not working for me personally. I'd rewrite it again and again, instead of moving on. I've learned recently that getting the whole story down before editing allows me to make changes/edits/rewrites a lot smoother.

That and a sense of progress has done wonders to my mindset.
 
I think there's a difference between sh*t and real sh*t.

With the former, I'll take a little bit of time tinkering, but will then move on, knowing that I'll go back and might well be more inspired when I return.

With the latter, I'll be gnawing at it for days until something passable appears...or I highlight and delete.
 
A lot of writers give the same advice - that particularly with early drafts, the key is to keep going and get the draft finished because you can't do anything with a blank page. I tend not to edit as I go because I think that you often have to finish a draft to know what a story is really about and only at that point can you go back and start fixing the things earlier on that are wrong. A writer friend of mine puts post its on her computer that say WRITE CRAP as a reminder to get her through early drafts. I don't have a muse because writing is my job, so I show up for work and I work.
 
I tend not to edit as I go because I think that you often have to finish a draft to know what a story is really about and only at that point can you go back and start fixing the things earlier on that are wrong.

This ^^^^

I can divide my writing attempts into the before 'worrying about editing' and after.

Before I worried about everything and tried to 'polish' everything that was on the page...and barely wrote anything, never mind finish even the shortest of stories. Always going back and changing or thinking that it was rubbish.

After I had discovered 'just move on', I completed shorts, drafts and all sorts of things.

Especially for us beginners, I feel it's great advice - you'll not realise at the time of making a first draft how much of your 200k first draft will be superfluous and actually just needs to be binned rather than edited. Why spend hours, days and weeks editing groups of words that will get culled anyway? (I'd suggest that this is even more relevant if you are more pantser than plotter.)

The (my!) hope is that as you get more experienced first drafts get better and more aligned to what the final draft should be, hence you should get more efficient.
 
I hate all this sort of 'advice' though. Just do what works for you. Some people can't do the 'just move on' thing. I'm one of them - even when I do NaNo, I can't help but fiddle as I go. I turn in clean first drafts (and the draft I sent to my publisher for WM and the one that got picked up straight away, was a first draft!)

If you edit as you go and end up with a clean first draft, then surely you end up doing the same amount of work as someone who does a messy first draft and edits it after to clean it up. Whatever way you do it, as long as you get there in the end why does the 'how' matter?
 
I hate all this sort of 'advice' though. Just do what works for you.

Well, one, because sometimes reading about how other people do things actually broadens your mind i.e. 'Ahh, I've never thought of doing it that way, maybe I should try'!

It's difficult trying to remember how you were thinking before successfully completing something, but I struggled for years to find my 'technique'. If I were to get a simple comment of only 'do what works for you' from someone in my barren years, I would find that of practical uselessness - I didn't know what worked :D (I know you are not offering that as advice, but I've seen it made as 'advice' in many instances :p).

Whatever way you do it, as long as you get there in the end why does the 'how' matter?

And two, you're an experienced writer with published books, and such advice is for another segment - the masses of people who love/want to write but have never completed anything (and want to finish something). There's many, many people in that position! It's brilliant that you figured it out and have become successful but if your someone who has not got to the end, then perhaps they should look at 'how' they are doing it?
 
And two, you're an experienced writer with published books, and such advice is for another segment - the masses of people who love/want to write but have never completed anything (and want to finish something). There's many, many people in that position! It's brilliant that you figured it out and have become successful but if your someone who has not got to the end, then perhaps they should look at 'how' they are doing it?

I don't think I'm particularly 'experienced' and I'm sure as hell not successful. If I'd been told as a complete beginner that I had to just keep moving forward and not fiddle then I would never have finished anything. Saying someone has to do something one way, whether it's move on or edit as you go, is daft. Hence why I'm saying people should do what works for them (and if somebody had told me that, I would've probably got on a lot better instead of worrying that I wasn't doing it the 'right' way).

:rolleyes:
 
I don't think I'm particularly 'experienced' and I'm sure as hell not successful. If I'd been told as a complete beginner that I had to just keep moving forward and not fiddle then I would never have finished anything. Saying someone has to do something one way, whether it's move on or edit as you go, is daft. Hence why I'm saying people should do what works for them (and if somebody had told me that, I would've probably got on a lot better instead of worrying that I wasn't doing it the 'right' way).

:rolleyes:

I agree. There is no right or wrong. There are plenty of hints and tips though :)
 
The only advice (as an unpublished hack) I would give to fellow beginners is: take it easy on yourself.

Don't be too hard on yourself - critters will do that for you :D (from a place of love, of course.)

And, if you keep questioning your story, maybe you're not ready for it yet.

v
 
Good advice in this thread. I am still resisting the temtation to go back and start reading from the beginning of a 70K+ scifi story I have written without any planning. The ending does not seem to come to me so far, but it feels like it is around the corner. It has been quite quite easy up to this point. I suspect that wanting it to end soon might have disrupted that flow a little.

I feel like the ending might be hinted at in the story somehow, so going back and refreshing the memory (not editing) might be a solution. It's hard for me not to edit though, so it holds another challenge within it. But, as others have mentioned, finding your technique takes time and this is my second novel. I still regard it all as an exercise.
 
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I don't think I'm particularly 'experienced' and I'm sure as hell not successful. If I'd been told as a complete beginner that I had to just keep moving forward and not fiddle then I would never have finished anything. Saying someone has to do something one way, whether it's move on or edit as you go, is daft. Hence why I'm saying people should do what works for them (and if somebody had told me that, I would've probably got on a lot better instead of worrying that I wasn't doing it the 'right' way).

:rolleyes:
Oh you are a negative nelly. :p You have published books right? And worked with publishers? And sold some?

Compare that with me...

<driftwood tumbles by>

So sorry, don't believe you :D

Anyway back OT. Very rarely are these (innumerable) essays on 'How to write' about what you *must* do. And even if you could read them that way and ignore all the qualifiers like 'in my experience' or 'the way that works best for me' I've seen even less people take them fully to heart - as a bona fide rigid templates :)

Now that I have something that works I do the sensible thing and not read 'em. :p:D
 
If you edit as you go and end up with a clean first draft, then surely you end up doing the same amount of work as someone who does a messy first draft and edits it after to clean it up. Whatever way you do it, as long as you get there in the end why does the 'how' matter?

I can only speak from my own experience, but I think the advice about moving on is to prevent the possible cycle of eternal rewrites. The pit of despair that some of us fall into because we are never happy with chapter 1, etc. Months pass with nothing to show for the effort except multiple drafts of the same scene.

You're not wrong, though. Do what works best. But for those of us that are stomping around in the pit, moving on and allowing yourself to be okay with writing messy is something we need to hear.
 
I do all of the above when and where required. I wrote 51000 for Nanowrimo, some edited as I went,( badly ) some not.
The reason, for me at least, is that I write a little and then read it back, then write a little more. If what's been written doesn't flow then it stops me from feeling my own story. That, in turn, takes me out of flow and stops me from being able to write more. Once corrected I feel the story again and write some more.
I would never correct everything perfectly though, only because I'm not quick, as a dyslexic it takes too long. If I were a quick editor I would probably clear up as I went allowing continuity of flow.
 

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