There seem to be two types of writers:
- Those of us who can slap something down and keep moving toward a first draft no matter how bad our initial attempt is. Sometimes something truly horrid will bring us to a halt, but for the most part we keep going until we have a draft that we will then have to revise.
- Then there are the tinkerers. Before they start work on chapter 2, they rewrite chapter 1. Multiple times. They add a new first chapter and then tinker with that too. Even if they’ve been working on it for months, they can’t seem to move beyond a certain page number because they are writing and cutting faster then they are writing new pages.
There are benefits to each approach:
- You know you are going to have to rewrite so getting a first draft down is do-able.
- When a tinkerer finishes a draft, things that needed to be set up in chapter 1 are most likely set up. They don’t have a manuscript full of notes to themselves: GO BACK AND PLANT CLUES IN CHAPTER 1 AND 2. WORK THIS THEME INTO THE FIRST 5 CHAPTERS.
There are also drawbacks to each approach:
- Because you know you are going to rewrite, you don’t always plan as well as you might. This means more rewriting than would take place with just a bit more planning. Also, since you are so comfortable with your rough efforts, you sometimes forget that other writers may be more anxious about their early efforts. This is something I have to keep in mind when I lead critiques. Tell me whatever you want — I knew it wasn’t perfect and you aren’t going to freak me out. But other writers are less comfortable receiving criticism because by the time they show a manuscript it is polished.
- If you’re a tinkerer, you have troubles finishing a manuscript because you are constantly fixing what you already have down instead of writing through to the end. Even when you do get a final draft, you can’t leave it alone. When you think it is ready and the best it can be, you are probably right. But a lot of tinkerers never declare a ms finished. They tinker it well past wonderful, right into overworked.
It probably comes as no surprise but I’m in the first category. I’ve been known to take a first draft to critique group if I want to make sure the concept has any merit before I polish the piece. I never outline a picture book before I write and most nonfiction comes together in the first draft. Or the fifth, the point being that I don’t outline that either.
Which category do you fall into?