Writing Productivity Tip #4—DARE TO BE BAD (AT FIRST)…THEN FIX IT

A series of eleven tips to help you get more time for writing, and to produce more writing when you do have time.

This tip comes from prolific and bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith, and the more I’ve pondered it, I’ve come to believe it’s one of the most important pieces of advice any struggling writer can hear.

Repeat after me:  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.

It’s easier to FIX existing prose than it is to write perfect prose in the first place.  The crucial step is to get it down on paper!

Your draft words or descriptions might be redundant.  So what?  They can be fixed later. 

 You might make grammatical mistakes.  So what?  Promise yourself you’ll fix them later—after you’ve got the story written.

A few years ago, I wrote my award-winning, #1 bestselling X-Files novel Ground Zero in six weeks, start-to-finish:  300 published pages, 90,000 words.  The publisher had already scheduled it for a breakneck production pace, and everyone was counting on me to deliver the manuscript.  I could not be late.  I absolutely positively had to turn in an acceptable novel on time.  The only way I could do this was just to tell my story, get it down on the page, and trust my writing skills.

I managed to write 25–30 pages a day on that book, seven days a week, until the draft was finished.  Although this isn’t an exercise I recommend for most writers, the sheer, intense concentration did increase my writing speed and, I believe, my writing quality as well.  By writing straight through, one scene after another after another without wandering back to earlier chapters to tweak the prose, I built up a “story momentum” that propelled the book along at a breakneck pace.

As soon as the first draft was done, I had allocated as much time as possible to polish the words, editing the manuscript again and again until the last second.  (Keep reading—I’ll devote an entire upcoming tip to this subject.)  Surprisingly, when I went back to the initial pages, fully intending to spend weeks on major editing and rewriting, I found that the constant, intense practice had taught me to produce crisp, fast-paced writing as compelling as if I’d spent hours agonizing over each page. 
 Giving yourself permission to be “bad, then fix it” frees your mind just to create.  For the first draft, don’t worry about how good it is or how you can revise it.  Just do the writing.

This blog series is part of a lecture I’ll be presenting at the Superstars Writing Seminar in January 13–15 in Salt Lake City, a three-day intensive workshop focused on business and careers in writing.  Other instructors include Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, David Farland, Rebecca Moesta, and Eric Flint.  We hope to see you there.


Note that Early Bird pricing goes up on December 1.