Perfectionist writers never finish writing…
… They just get locked into an endless cycle of revisions! The longer you spend agonising over every little word and every last detail is time you could spend spewing out more content.
Yes, I’m sticking with ‘spewing’. I could have stopped to edit that, but instead, I’ve carried on writing, and it’s allowed my train of thought to continue unabated. Editing your work is, of course, essential, but try to wait until you’ve exhausted everything you want to say before you correct anything.
If you want to make the most of the muse, don’t be a perfectionist writer
The muse is a treacherous fish, and it can slip away from you while you’re busily engaged in refining what you’ve already got. It’s far better to keep writing – imperfectly – and see where it takes you.
Polishing and refining every sentence you write while you write it works for some people, but it’s a really disjointed way of working. I know what it’s like when you look at a screen filled with red squiggles. The urge to correct them all is almost irresistible. But every time you do, you stop your writing momentum.
To prove the point I’ve just gone against everything I’ve suggested you don’t do, and gone back and tidied up what I wrote above. Now I’ve completely forgotten what I was going to say next. (It was probably something really important. Argh.)
Without wanting to get too precious about it, writing is a ‘flow state’. (I hate myself for even saying that.) But the point is that ideas very often generate more ideas, and it is this rapid stream-of-consciousness way of working that will help you generate more content, more quickly.
To help you make the most of your muse, here are six more practical things you can do to enable you to write more freely:
- Try and keep the formal planning and free writing processes separate. Make a list of the points you want to cover in your writing, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. The glorious thing about ideas is that they often come along in a hurry and you need to be able to get them down on the screen before they disappear. You can’t do that if you’re worrying about what you were supposed to be writing next. Having a list of main points to guide you means you’ll never lose your place, no matter how off-piste you get.
- Don’t sweat over every decision you make. It’s easy to agonise over these things, but if you get too hung up on every word, or the rhythm of every sentence, you’ll only kill your creativity. Use a placeholder word if you can’t think of the right one. Sometimes, I start writing sentence, realise I don’t quite know where I’m going with it, and leave a whole line space so I can go back and fill it in later. Whatever happens just keep writing.
- Don’t worry about the order that ideas come to you. Your writing does not have to follow a strict chronology. Just get it down. Then rearrange the building blocks later.
- If ideas are coming so thick and fast you can’t keep pace with them, get your phone out and record them on a Dictaphone app or voice recorder, then transcribe them later.
- Ideas don’t always come out fully-formed, so if you get the faintest germ of one, just write down what you can. That might be as simple as jotting down: talk about that thing with the canned soup, or why that period of my life was like that film, or whatever big idea is going to take too much time to refine and articulate in the moment.
- Leave it to the edit! Without a doubt, the edit is where the raw stuff of a manuscript gets polished into a publication-worthy book.
It’s all in the edit
The greatest benefit of working with an editor is that you can leave so much of the very necessary work of refining your work to them. That’s part and parcel of their job, after all. And, as I’m bound to say, it really helps to have somebody truly objective to help you.
So, don’t be a perfectionist writer, and don’t ever be reluctant to share your work with an editor. Like doctors, they really have seen it all before. Your dangling modifiers will not faze them.
In fact, I would suggest that if you want to write your book quickly, it pays to get a good editor or ghostwriter on board who can work with you, no matter how polished (or unpolished) your manuscript is!
If you’ve got a manuscript that’s crying out for some nips, tucks, and tweaks, get in touch for book editing help.
Or, if you want my help in writing your book, call for ghostwriting support.