Nanci asked: "How do you fight the temptation to reread and revise before finishing shitty first draft?"
Since I just finished writing the 1st draft of CORNERS and it was the first 1st draft of any of my novels which I actually didn't edit at all while I was writing it (I used to go back over what I wrote the day before to get myself into the mood, speed-editing), this seems like a very timely topic. Plus, NaNoWriMo is coming up. So yeah, how do you do it?
1. Write every day. And I mean, every bloody day.
This is something I did for the first time. I wrote through the weekends. You always hear writers telling you, "Write every day, write every day." You even heard it from me, too. Except on the weekends I would break from book writing and would write a blog post or two. Sometimes I wouldn't write anything for a whole day, because, you know, family. Gotta spend time together so they won't forget how my face looks. And it's only now that the truth of this statement hit me, what it really means. It means keeping the story fresh in your head. My hardest days of writing for me were Mondays. Always. It would take me an enormous effort to try and remember what the hell I wrote the week before, so I'd have to spend time going over previous writing. And guess what happened. Yes. I was very tempted to edit it. And I did. And I'd get sucked into it. And I'd feel guilty. And I'd still do it. And I'd feel even more guilty. And I'd watch the clock and start freaking out about spending time on editing and not writing, and down the dark spiral of self-doubt I would go. You know why? Because the 1st draft is not ready to be read immediately. You have to gain distance from it, and that it only possible after you're done with it and can take a 1-2 weeks break.
2. Resist taking notes. Hold in your head only what you remember.
This is the crucial part. Okay? Listen carefully. Don't make me blow tendrils of vodka fumes in your face to get your attention. I've always been a freak of taking copious notes. When I wrote my first trilogy, I had these extensive documents profiling entire histories of my characters: where they were born, who were their parents, what were their names. I also plotted tirelessly, writing out entire chapter summaries and rewriting them and polishing them until my brain achieved a state of blank docility. Oh, what a glorious waste of time it was. Now, plotters here, don't kill me, all right? I'm a pantser, so I totally get the legitimacy of plotting, it's just not for me. It doesn't work for me. So. Why, you wonder? Why resist taking notes? Because it distracts you from what's important. It took me writing 5 books to realize this. Most of the stuff I plotted and noted and researched, I ended up cutting out. It was extra weight on the story that wasn't needed. What you remember is what's important. That's why you remember it. With CORNERS I had such a blast. It took me only 2 weeks. I would wake up, holding a scene from yesterday in my head, and would start writing from that point on, knowing that what I remember is what's important.
3. Realize it's shit and be okay with it.
The goal of the first draft is not to be the polished final thing, so stop comparing it to the books you've read. Of course it's shitty. It's your first dump of thoughts on paper. Let yourself fail. Be okay with it reminding you of an endless stinky marshland — or mashup — of words you have to wade through. This is normal. Allow it to be sucky. Don't worry about someone reading it. You are mapping out your story. At this point you hardly have a clue about who your characters are and what they're doing. Your dialogue will be flat. Your people will be made of cardboard. Your descriptions will be either skeletal or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, overloaded with details. Let it be. Who the fuck cares? Wonder. Wander. Spew forth anything that comes to mind. Whatever you end up writing down will be the surface you will have to rip off, to get to the essence of the story in your second draft. It can be a trashy pitted alley awash with dung and waste and despondent inhabitants that have crawled right out of your nightmares. Let them be. You'll scrape off this filth later. Remember what Stephen King said, something along the lines of writing being akin to the process of uncovering a dinosaur's bones. At first you only see a tooth, and you dig and dig and dig, until the whole mammoth thing comes to light.
4. Don't hold back plot turns and revelations.
Your reader is not an idiot, and you're not an idiot either. What you're writing you are doing for your own pleasure. You are writing for YOU. YOU are the reader of your book. And if in the middle of writing a scene you suddenly discover that the snarling and shrieking pillock in the claws of that giant zombie hyena is actually the Prince of Mangosteen Monsters from the planet Mwuahaha, then tell the reader about it right away. Don't try playing games like "Oh, I will withhold it, and stretch the story out, and then, BAM, will drop it on their heads." This bullshit doesn't work. The reader will feel enraged. Trust your ability to come up with the next twist tomorrow, and the next twist tomorrow, and so on. Then your story will progress nicely. It will surprise both you and your readers. As long as you keep it fresh like this, you will keep writing at lightning speed, because every day you will wake up with this question on your mind, "Oh my God! What happens today??" A good example of this is found in Philip Pullman's trilogy HIS DARK MATERIALS which I'm reading right now. Read it. You'll see what I mean.
5. After you're done writing, read. Every bloody day.
Yes, throw aside the fears of populating your brain with someone else's ideas. You have to feed your creative beast. Simply cooking in your own story won't do. I mean, yes, you can write like this, but at some point you'll start spinning wheels and feel rusty and dry. Don't worry, okay? You will filter out this stuff when you sleep and wake up with your own ideas about what you have read the day before and what you will write today. It will keep you moving. It will inspire you. And it will alleviate your fears by showing you the many different ways a story can be written. It will help you be YOU. And when you write like YOU, you write fast.
This should do it. Can you feel it? CAN YOU FEEL IT???
You can write your 1st draft fast without the impulse of editing. I know you can. To all NaNoWriMo folks, good luck! To all non-NaNoWriMo folks, stop staring at this blog and go write me a Pulitzer.