It’s time to come clean.
I spend a lot of time writing about the writing process and method. I have spent a lot of time teaching students and educating myself. For all that I have learned and all that I have taught . . .
I don’t always practice what I preach. So here are my confessions:
I publish the first draft.
This is particularly true on social media. Oh, how I have lamented the inability to go back and edit a tweet, when a little bit of forethought and re-reading before hitting send would have corrected what I wrote. Even on social platforms where I have more space and can edit, it’s usually the first draft that I send.
Even here, on my blog, where posts are often scheduled days in advance. Yes, even here, what you see is usually the first thing I wrote. Several times I’ve scheduled a blog post and thought nothing more of it until it publishes. Then I happen to check it over and find some egregious grammatical error. Sure, I can edit that error out, but how many people have already seen it? And me here trying to advertise my editing services.
Sometimes . . . Sometimes, when pressed by deadlines, I have even submitted first drafts to publishers.
Yes, I feel the shame of it most keenly.
I am horrible at editing my own work.
This is true of every writer. No matter how talented the editor they may be when faced with someone else’s drafts, they will miss problems in their own. The very same errors and mistakes that would make my inner English Major cringe in horror in someone else’s work somehow completely slip my attention when I am reading my own. This is why, when at all possible, I will have someone else do some proof-reading too. It is inevitable that even an untrained eye will spot a problem that I would never have seen.
But that second (or third) eye is not always available. Sometimes I have to submit work that hasn’t seen a look-over from someone else, even though I know that my ability to edit my own work is less than stellar.
I don’t plan.
I am a veteran Pantser. I have tried outlining, even very rough outlines of the most basic sort, listing only my major plot beats. And every time I have tried to plan out a story before writing it, it just didn’t get written. For me, writing is akin to uncovering a mystery. Even if I know how the story will end, uncovering the path there is what I find most intriguing. Planning doesn’t work for me. As I tell others, a first draft unwritten can never become anything, so my goal then becomes to get that first draft written.
In baking pies, a baker fears the Soggy Bottom. In my writing, I end up with a lot of soggy middles. I know where I started, and I know where I’m going, but the pathway tends to meander a bit more than it should. This is where Planners have a leg up on Pantsers – their path forward may not be straight, but it is clearly marked and clean. For Pantsers like me, well, we have to go into the jungle with a machete and clear the way ourselves.
Unfortunately, for me, planning has a tendency to become Plancrastinating, in which nothing of substance ever gets done. (The exception to this tends to be my catch-all-things-in-one-notebook bullet journal.) So I admit: I don’t plan, I don’t outline. Nor will I ever start.
Thank Goddess for good beta readers and editors.
I don’t have good writing discipline.
I did, for a while, have a habit of getting in at least 1000 words a day, on some project, somewhere. It didn’t have to be something intended for publication, but I always tried to get that 1000 words in, no matter what. Repeated annual attempts at NaNoWriMo reinforced this habit.
Life, unfortunately, got in the way, along with an extended bout of depression. I have lost that habit. I am working on re-establishing it, but I’m not there yet. As much as I always say that writing is my career, it is often a career that is difficult to balance with a full time job and being a caregiver. Time just slips away. Writing first drafts long-hand has helped – I can carry a notebook and pen to places my laptop can’t go, and snatch moments to write in between other things. But I’m not back to my 1000 words a day yet. Right now, it’s more a matter of “I wrote something today” – doesn’t matter how much. If I wrote, it is a victory.